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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Robert Kirkman & Jay Bonansinga: "The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part Two"

Title:  The Fall of the Governor: Part Two        
Plot Type:  Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Horror  
Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books (hardback, e-book, and audiobook, 3/2014) (paperback, 10/2014)  

     This novel is the fourth book in a lopsided "trilogy." Click HERE to read my review of The Road to Woodbury. Click HERE to read my review of The Rise of the Governor. Click HERE to read my review of The Fall of the Governor: Part One. 

     Although this novel is entitled The Fall of the Governor, it could be subtitled, The Slow and Painful Rise of Lilly Caul and Bob Stookey. When we last saw the Governor (aka Philip Blake), he had been sliced and diced (and burned and beaten) to within an inch of his life by a vengeful Michonne. As this final chapter in his life begins, two Woodbury residents step up and prove their loyalty to him and his cause. First, Bob sobers up and takes over the Governor's medical care, nursing him back to health (in a post-apocalyptic sort of 
way)quite an achievement for an alcoholic with only a few weeks of experience as an Army medic. Then, Lilly finds herself moving into a temporary leadership position, making decisions and keeping Woodbury running while the Governor is incommunicado.

     For the first week after being attacked, the Governor is completely unconscious, so Lilly, with Austin at her side, makes sure that the walls are protected and that rumors are kept under control so that people remain calm. Unfortunately for Lilly and the rest of the mostly doomed citizens of Woodbury, the Governor eventually wakes up from his coma brimming with an inner rage that will not be quelled until everyone in Rick Grimes' prison is dead, dead, dead.

     Most of the story follows the Governor's slow recovery and Lilly's transformation into one of his most loyal supporters. Even when she occasionally has fleeting moments of fear and doubt, she listens to and goes along with every brutal command and desperate lie that the Governor tells about the prison people. In the end, she goes off to battle filled with her own rage, believing the Governor's warning that those monsters who attacked him will be coming for the rest of them.

The Governor and the tank: in the
graphic novel and on the TV show
     This is the third time that I've gone through the prison showdown scene: once in the graphic novel, once on the TV show, and now here in this novel, and each time it somehow seems even more stomach-churningly horrific. The worst, for me, was the graphic novel cell that showed Lori and the baby getting shot through and through, but in this book, that scene is stretched out to encompass the deep horror and regret that overwhelm Lilly's emotions when she realizes that she has allowed the Governor to manipulate her into performing a series of terrible, mind-searing acts that will haunt her forever. That scene is made even more poignant by the fact that we learned at the end of the previous book that Lilly is pregnant.

     Unlike the previous book, which meandered along several plot lines, most of the story lines in this novel are directly connected to the assault on the prisonand its tragic aftereffects. Mostly, we watch the downfall of Philip Blake and the ascent of Lilly Caul, each journey filled with emotion, pain, and heartbreak (and in Philip's case, insanity). it's also nice to watch Bob regain some dignity as he remains sober throughout the story and finally seems to have gotten a grip on his life after so many booze-filled months.

     Throughout most of the book (just as in the previous novels), the authors repeatedly pad the story with repetitive graphic depictions of the grisly, gory deaths of various Woodbury citizens as well as a series of equally repetitive graphic descriptions of assorted walkers in all their gruesome glory. Here's just one very brief example: "His arms and torso…appear completely scourged, eviscerated to shreds by many sets of rotting teeth. Cords of bloody gristle and sinew dangle from his gashed midsection. A slimy white bone fragment pokes through his tattered pant leg." (p. 72) Yes, yes, we are quite familiar with the fact that zombies are rotting, stinking, blackened corpses who moan a lot and snap their jaws constantly. How many times do we need to be reminded?not this many!

     After the constant zombie battles and the suspense and drama of the prison confrontation, the final chapters feel like a relaxing vacation as the survivors pick up the pieces and begin to build a new Woodbury. These chapters take Lilly's story beyond the scope of the graphic novel, allowing us to get a brief look at her new role in Woodbury as the survivors take a deep breath and begin to create a very different town.

     If you are a fan of the graphic novels and/or if you enjoyed the first three novels of this "trilogy," you won't want to miss reading this final (?) adventure. Warning to TV fans: The books and graphic novels do not follow the same story lines as the TV show. Also, characters meet different fates and some of the TV characters don't even exist in the print world of The Walking Dead.

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