Friday, October 21, 2016

Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Invasion (The Governor Series #6) by Jay Bonansinga

Woodbury was left in ruins forcing Lilly Caul and the rest of her allies to flee underground. For now, they have a safe place to live and plenty of supplies but living underground isn't good for the children or the elderly.  Lilly dreams of a day when they can take over Woodbury again but to Bob, and all the rest, it seems like a pipe dream because Woodbury is overrun with walkers.  The reverend managed to escape the slew of walkers he unleashed on Woodbury but with only two followers left in his flock, the odds of survival don't look great for him.  The reverend is however still bent upon his apocalyptic vision, certain that he is living through the rapture.  No matter how many miles he drives away from Woodbury, and the catastrophe he unleashed, all he can think about is returning there some day and dealing with Lilly, who had the nerve to throw a wrench in his plans.

I am so over the Governor series. Yes, Bonansinga is covering new ground by writing about Lilly and her group but it's not particularly compelling, even with the threat of zombies looming.  It's hard to have any sympathy for Lilly, and her desire to return to Woodbury, given how easily she handed over the running of the town to the preacher in the first place.  This is a problem entirely of Lilly's creation and a responsibility she refuses to own, even as she tries to encourage the group to think about the benefits of living above ground.  You would think that having already made an epic mistake losing Woodbury that Lilly would be more on the ball but you'd be wrong.  After repeatedly telling herself to be aware of the point of no return, she promptly runs out of gas, thus risking her life and that of her travelling companion. Lilly actually gets so caught up in conversation that she doesn't notice the gas gauge. This is the woman btw who thinks she should be in a leadership position. Clearly, Lilly needs all the plot armor she can get because she's too stupid to live.

The antagonist in this book is the Reverend Jeremiah and as villains go, he might as well have been twirling a mustache and laughing maniacally.  Even if it makes sense for Jeremiah to think that he was living through the rapture, the fact is, the evil preacher thing has been done to death.  His supposed divine revelations adding nothing to the story and segues into his abusive childhood didn't add any nuance to the character.  It's clear that Bonansinga tried to make Jeremiah three dimensional but he greatly missed the mark. I can only be thankful that with Jeremiah dead, we'll have a new antagonist in the next book. Even though this series is well past its expiry date.

Invasion is 304 pages long and 100 of those pages could easily have been cut out. In fact, I think that had this been a novella instead of a book, it would have made for more exciting reading.  From the very beginning it was clear that Jeremiah would return to Woodbury to cause havoc thus leading to a huge showdown with Lilly.  Everything else in the middle was mindless filler and given its slow torturous pace, hard to read. I found that my eyes repeatedly drifted from the page and the call of Facebook to relieve my boredom almost impossible to ignore at times.

The one thing this universe has never really done well is its inclusion of marginalised people.  Naturally, Invasion follows along this path.  First off, there are not GLBT characters which is probably a blessing given the writing. In this novel, we are introduced to two new characters of colour, Norma and Miles.  Norma is described as a "portly African-American gal in a filthy gingham mourning dress, ancient tennis shoes, and a hairnet".  We go on to learn that Norma was "born poor and fatherless in the Pleasant Hill area of South Macon, the youngest in a family of six kids, she quit school her sophomore year in order to support her family after her mama passed".  Norma has no survival skills whatsoever; however, because she has been around so many bad men, she's quick to see the Reverend Jeremiah for what he is while others just follow along.  Norma essentially is the racist Mammy stereotype writ large on the page. 

Miles isn't much better. Miles is a "twenty-three year old former meth-head from Atlanta- a convicted car thief who had gotten clean in rehab and gotten right with the Lord at Calvary Baptist."  Miles catches on to the Reverend Jeremiah because being in and out of jail for petty crimes, "he knows a con man when he hears one." Lilly doesn't say much of anything to Miles throughout the book but when he drives with her in pursuit of the Reverend, how he hunches over the wheel while wearing a hoodie is enough for her to determine that his behaviour is a hold over from his criminal days.  

I suppose that Norma and Miles are a replacement for Bob (given how much this universe loves the T Dog train) but they're a poor replacement. Bob has been a character since the first novel in the series and though he's had his issues with alcohol, at least he's a well developed character. I was actually pretty sad to see Bob go, given that he's been consistently rationale in a way that Lilly just hasn't been. 

At this point, I'm only reading this series because we follow the comics, both television shows and have reviewed the games.  If it were any other series, I would have DNF'd this book and not looked back.  They are sucking this universe dry with these books.  Invasion, in particular is too long and is outright boring. Not even the showdown between Lilly and the Reverend Jeremiah at the end held my interest.  With Bob, the last interesting and nuanced character gone, there's even less reason to continue reading this.  If you must read this book because you are following the series, do yourself a favor and borrow a copy from the library.  You'll live in regret forever if you spend even five cents on this poorly written attempt to cash in on The Walking Dead fame.  This series has gone long past the point of adding nuance and backstory and instead just drags along like a cockroach scrambling out of the rubble refusing to die.