Book Review: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman

I largely feel indifferent to novelisations and TV / film tie in books. It is not very often that my disappointment with this type of book is challenged though. I think I said as much when I reviewed the Bioshock tie in last month. I bought this one several years ago, probably around the time this character was on The Walking Dead. Could this book prove my prejudices wrong?

Who is The Governor? Who was he before? Where did he come from and how did he become such a psychopath? Did Woodbury make him that way or was he always like it? How did he get to Woodbury? If these are the questions you want answered about one of The Walking Dead’s most iconic villains then you have come to the right place. This is the first in a trilogy of books about the character, and featuring new characters and some who will be familiar to you.

It starts fairly early into the apocalypse, but we don’t see the beginning of the outbreak here. It has already happened and the group of survivors of which The Governor is a part make their way through the landscape, meeting other survivors on the way. In that, it is a fairly conventional post apocalyptic survival horror novel with some familiar characters. Nothing really to set it apart.

For the most part, the book rambles – and too often. I keep wanting and expecting something to happen. Very little does happen for the first half of the book, and this is a real shame as it feels like a missed opportunity at times. Nevertheless, the three main characters are easy to emphasise with (most of the time) even if not particularly likeable. However, the lack of development carries on until Philip does something very bad indeed. From there, we watch the slow descent of a man into madness and his companions struggle to come to terms with it.

The style of the book is easy on the eye, it’s easy to read and in its favour, it’s accessible for people who may never have seen The Walking Dead. You need no prior knowledge of the character as we see him develop here into the character he will become at Woodbury. If anything, not having that prior knowledge may even enhance the experience.

Most of this would have been enough for me to give the book a solid but uninspiring 3/5, but in the last 20% or so, Kirkman suddenly realises that is time to draw the story to an end and did something about it. More happens in that last 20% than in everything that had come before it. Our group arrive at Woodbury, the iconic settlement of the character, and there is a major incident followed by an enormous piece of misdirection that I will not reveal here.

For this explosive ending and WTF moment, I will bump my grade up to 3.5/5. I will probably read the other two, but I’m in no rush.

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