The Fangs for the Fantasy crew are all large fans of the graphic novels and AMC show The Walking Dead. We were thrilled when we learned about The Rise of the Governor and raced to read it. I must say from the very beginning that the novel did not disappoint though the fact that it was written in the first person did at times grate on the nerves.
We all know that when Rick, Michonne and Glenn arrive at Woodbury, after following the trail of a crashed helicopter and its survivors, the governor is very much in charge of the town. The governor is easily the most evil character in the series today. He tortures and rapes Michonne as well as takes the prison away from Rick's crew of survivors in vengeance. The question The Rise of the Governor seeks to answer is what could make a man lose touch with his humanity this way.
When we first meet the governor, he is traveling with three men, and a little girl. They travel to Atlanta and find that it is over run with The Walking Dead but they are saved from death by the Chalmers family. Holed up in a building, with plenty of access to supplies and space for each person to have their own apartment if they so choose, this seems like the best place to hide out until a government can be re-established, but due to circumstances beyond his control, they are forced to leave with no weapons, and no food.
Their next respite, is an old plantation style home which is luxuriously furnished. They are surrounded by plants that are still bearing fruit, a larder with many caned preservers but importantly, the house has a fireplace which means that they can burn wood to keep them warn. Instead of continuing to travel South in the hope of outrunning winter they decide to stay. As they begin to settle into a comfortable routine, the house is taken from them and in the aftermath, Penny is killed.
Whatever little hold these men had on sanity is directly related to their love for Penny, and watching her turn into the very thing that they are running from, drains them of their tenuous grip on sanity. By the time they arrive in Woodbury they are nothing like the men that they once were. They are haunted by loss, the things that they have done, and the constant threat of death around every corner. The question quickly becomes will they annihilate each other, or can they regain some semblance of normality long enough to plant roots and begin to build a society in which they can flourish?
The Rise of the Governor is a psychological thriller from beginning to end. It is not until the very end of the book that the identity of the governor is revealed, and this is why I have kept the description of the story as generic as possible. We know from The Walking Dead comics that the governor is guilty of the most inhumane acts, but when all social rules are erased and every day is about survival is there really such a thing as right and wrong anymore? Most importantly for me, it begs the question of where Rick and his motley crew of survivors are headed. What separates Rick from the Governor, and is there a point at which life simply becomes so awful that we would all fall victim to our most basic instincts?
Lying in our safe homes, and our safe beds at night, it is easy to pass judgement on anyone. Before I read this book, I simply saw the governor as a completely evil being but having seen his evolution as a man, I am not so certain that everything is as black and white as I once thought. Ultimately, the grey is what I believe this entire series is about. If everything that you knew to be true, were to be ripped away from you in one sudden moment, who would you be, and what would you do to survive?