‘Rise of The Governor’ is the story of the Blake brothers, Philip and Brian who are making their way to Atlanta with Philip’s daughter, Penny. Seventy~two hours after the dead began to come back to life, Philip, his daughter Penny, his friends, Bobby and Nick, and Philip’s older brother, Brian, the weaker of the two brothers leave their home town and head towards to Atlanta where there are rumours of a rescue centre. The story follows the group as they face the unknown and try to understand what has happened to the world around them.
“Nick looks into Brians hollow gaze. “That’s what’s going on here brian. The devil’s figured out a way to keep peoples souls trapped here on earth.”
― Robert Kirkman,
The 3 star rating of “It’s okay” is apt for this story. Plenty will rave about how good a zombie tale this is, and whilst there are some good sections, overall it failed to be the enjoyable read I hoped.
“It’s never-ever going to be okay, never-ever-ever-ever-ever.”
Having watched The Walking Dead TV series, and being an avid zombie/apocalypse fan, I assumed this would be a quality story. Not an unreasonable expectation considering the title and how it relates to the rest of The Walking Dead franchise.
The style of writing felt quite jarring on many occasions. It seemed hurried, almost like an unpolished draft. The characters were okay, though they lacked something I can’t quite put my finger on. I didn’t feel sympathy for them or root for them either, well, for the most part. Without giving away any spoilers it wasn’t until the last dozen pages that the pace, flow and quality of writing really started to shine.
Many scenes lacked punch. Near the start for example, when the band of survivors are heading through the city, the narrator leads the reader along, builds up their hopes and excitement, and then fails to reveal why the characters react they way they do. They look. They seem frightened. But the reader isn’t told why, not all the time.
Assuming the reader can use their imagination to fill in the blanks is all when and good but sometimes they need more than a meagre hint. The characters had little motivation, flitting from one situation to another without an aim or purpose. At times it felt like the narrator had written a list of bullet points for various high and low points then connected the dots.
I found that where I wanted more information to fuel my imagination there wasn’t enough. And yet in contrast there’s a lot of irrelevant details that don’t help the plot and push the story on, pointless facts the reader doesn’t need to know in order to enjoy the story. Often there’s a lot of repetition, the reader doesn’t need to be reminded that Brian is a loser, or that Philip is a strong, hardened, resourceful type of guy. And it’s never explained why Philip starts to lose his mind. I wanted to find a reason why he is fascinated with the dead, and thinking back it seemed like those moments were poor plot mechanics for his actions after the attack on the farm house.
I’d say the first half of the story is pretty poor – plot, characters, narrative style, dialogue and so on. I couldn’t drop the feeling that the writer was rushing to get to the second half. I’d say when they find the farm out in the country, after leaving the city and the apartment, is where the story seems to improve. It finds it’s feet somewhat and the pace is better.
Like I said I really enjoyed the last few chapters, it’s a shame the lead up to them lacked the same punch and drive. I am tempted to give the follow up a chance because maybe Jay Bonansinga was simply finding his feet with this story and the next one will be better.
For die hard zombie fans I’d suggest you come to this story without much expectation, and enjoy the romp through zombie land. Those looking for a well written, well thought out apocalyptic story with a reason and a purpose, should look elsewhere. I suggest Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, Outpost by Adam Baker or Day By Day Armageddon by J.L Bourne.