The road to Woodbury * Robert Kirkman – The Walking Dead

The first book explained how the Governor was created; this thrilling sequel to The New York Times bestseller further reveals his ruthless, inhuman conquest of Woodbury

The zombie plague unleashes its horrors on the suburbs of Atlanta without warning, pitting the living against the dead. Caught in the mass exodus, Lilly Caul struggles to survive in a series of ragtag encampments and improvised shelters. But the Walkers are multiplying. Dogged by their feral hunger for flesh and crippled by fear, Lilly relies on the protection of good Samaritans by seeking refuge in a walled-in town once known as Woodbury, Georgia.

At first, Woodbury seems like a perfect sanctuary. Squatters barter services for food, people have roofs over their heads, and the barricade expands, growing stronger every day. Best of all, a mysterious self-proclaimed leader named Philip Blake keeps the citizens in line. But Lilly begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. . . . Blake, who has recently begun to call himself The Governor, has disturbing ideas about law and order.

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Ultimately, Lilly and a band of rebels open up a Pandora’s box of mayhem and destruction when they challenge The Governor’s reign . . . and the road to Woodbury becomes the highway to hell in this riveting follow-up to Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga’s New York Times bestselling The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor.

dead2.jpgThe Governor. There is perhaps no more infamous villain in modern comics. So great his evil, Philip/Brian Blake is one of few comic book characters to transcend the series that gave him birth; even people who have never read The Walking Dead have heard of the Governor. Despite his short time in the series, the Governor’s presence is felt in every issue since his death, his legacy carved upon Rick Grimes’ body.

TheWalkingDead_127-1The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury is told through the eyes of Lilly Caul.  Astute readers of The Walking Dead will recognize Lilly as one of the Governor’s henchmen, responsible for one of the most heinous acts in comic book history, one that destroys the Grimes family. But the Lilly we meet at the beginning of the novel is not the same woman who committed such brutal acts at the prison.

This Lilly is a coward,  who’s spent her entire life running from everything, before and after the apocalypse.

The Road to Woodbury is not simply Lilly’s journey to the town, but the hand she plays making Woodbury the town we recognize, the Governor into the man we fear, how her fears change her from coward to murderer.

Characters are two-dimensional. Perhaps the most egregious is that of Josh Lee Hamilton, Lilly’s ill-fated love-interest, who is nothing more than the stereotype of the African-American gentle giant. One cannot help but to imagine him as a more intelligent version of Michael Clarke Duncan’s, John Coffey. He falls for Lily and while she is grateful to him for saving her life on multiple occasions and has no qualms about sharing his bed, she is not in love with him. She wants to have “the talk” with him when they discover that the foundations that Woodbury was built on is nothing more than rotting flesh.

The motivations and actions of characters are often inexplicable. Potheads (Megan and Scotty) spend their time getting high and copulating in the back of a warehouse, despite the constant danger to their lives. Bob Stookie is nearly always drunk and pining for Megan (who I think is a whore in the truest sense). Megan ends up walking on the balconies of Woodbury, dressed in skimpy negligees, stoned out of her mind – with the author putting out the idea that in a population where 80% are male, this is a position of influence.

This isn’t to say The Road to Woodbury is without its merits. The descriptions are vivid and often, fittingly, grotesque. No zombie is simply a zombie; each is described in great detail, so you know the horror the characters are facing. The action sequences are face-paced and exciting.

“an elderly camper realizes, with heart-skipping dismay, that during his afternoon bowel movement, he is unwittingly shitting on a zombie.”

There are some amazing descriptions in there though, like diamonds in the rough, such as zombies crawling out of cars ‘like a malformed fetus being born.’ The narration is written in third person present tense, which is a bit awkward.

What I really liked is the list of items that can be collected in case of a pandemic: Pain killers, sleeping pills, wake up pills, insulin, anti-inflammatory and other medication you would not normally think of. I also liked how they were chatting about food and what you can eat – they are shown having nettle soup and bark – which is bitter but nutritious.

While they were camped out in the big circus tent, they almost had a good starting point for a colony but they were too disparate: they didn’t work together like the survivors in Terry Nations’ book. They were bound to fail and upon reaching Woodbury they quickly disbanded. And Scotty disappeared (which I assume is another way of saying he became fodder for the Governor’s dead girl.)

Kudos to the audiobook people for making Bob Stookey sound like a proper southern 60-year old boozie that he was (nothing like the TV show). His alchoolism began when his wife, Brenda Stookey, was killed and turned into a zombie. Bob was unable to put her down and instead fled to Tent City in his truck and descended into his permanent red-nose issue.

david-morrissey-governor-penny-walking-dead-season-3-amc.jpgWoodbury’s leader – The Governor – took a special interest in Bob and made him his confidante, revealing many secrets such as the fact he keeps his zombified daughter, Penny, locked up in his house and that he killed all the National Guard soldiers and in return Bob tells The Governor about his affections for Megan. The Governor would even bounce ideas off Bob who at this point was nearly always too drunk to understand. Bob manages to have a one-night stand with Megan, but the next morning she kills herself and Bob has to kill her zombified form, this causes Bob to drink even more as he grows depressed.

“This is the way the world ends: not with a bang – with a walker”

My Take on it

Throughout the novel is this, perhaps inadvertent, theme on slut-shaming. Meagan’s promiscuity is discussed as a great evil time and again. Girls are captured by groups of men and pinned down regularly. Men coerce women into prostitution. There are vague threats of sexual assault. There is violent sex. And yet, and yet the author skirts around the word ‘rape’ very carefully and purposefully, especially considering the narrator is a woman.

I felt like this in general was both unrealistic—and yes, even in a zombie apocalypse novel I expect some logical responses from characters—and damaging to women. Women are treated as sex objects, vilified for voluntary sex, and forcible sex is never addressed even when it is threatened at every turn. I found that a bit insulting. Comparing this to the treatment of Andrea or Michonne from the comics heightens the difference.

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