Reading at the Speed of Sound: The Walking Dead: Rise of The Governor

Philip Blake had no plans to become a sadistic tyrant when the world changed into a feeding ground for the undead. In fact, before the outbreak of the zombie plague, Philip is just a good ol’ boy from Georgia with some anger management issues and a seven-year-old daughter whom he adores.

When folks begin turning into “biters,” Philip rounds up a couple of friends, his older brother, Brian, and Penny, his precious daughter. Together they head out toward Atlanta, a rumored safe-haven against the ever-growing zombie horde.

Those who can’t get enough Walking Dead from the television show and/or the comic series will truly appreciate this imaginative exploration of how The Governor came to be. Co-authors Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, along with narrator Fred Berman, immerse listeners in a physically and psychologically horrifying landscape of violence perpetrated by humans and non-humans alike. The result is a dark, mesmerizing journey which transforms Philip Blake into what will become The Governor.

This is the first in a planned trilogy of books, The Governor Trilogy. As the first title, it comes bursting out of the gate with plenty of action, but also has more character development and carefully crafted descriptive elements within the story than I was expecting.

Sure, there’s more than enough blood and body parts to go around, and I never knew there were so many ways to describe mortally wounding a zombie’s head (about the only way to kill these monsters). The fact that I did a lot of listening during lunch breaks may not have been such a great idea, either. But let’s face it, you expect a certain amount of gruesomeness and gore in a zombie story.

Balancing out the violence are times when the characters’ personalities and motivations are gradually revealed as they change or don’t change, in response to their circumstances.  Some scenes in this post-apocalyptic world are stunning, as are the reactions of the characters to what they see. There’s also a clever twist near the end that is a real jaw dropper. I sure didn’t see that one coming.

It’s not necessary to have previous knowledge of The Walking Dead universe in order to appreciate this story, but those who are familiar with either the comic or the TV series will definitely enjoy giving it a listen. Berman’s vocal handling of the text is simply stellar. It’s not so much a narration as a performance.

As I sign off, let me leave you with an example of how Berman’s voice draws the listener in, providing a sense of immediacy that raises the level of involvement with the characters. In the audio clip below, the group’s car becomes mired in the mud and, as they try to push the car out, the travelers attract unwanted attention.

Hoping to spread the word about audiobooks, Susan’s latest project is to collect, index and link to audiobook reviews on the Web. At 5,000 reviews and counting, check out the progress at Audiobook Jukebox.


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