Book Review: The Fall of the Governor Part One by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

This is a spin off from the comic book series The Walking Dead, and the fourth in a series written which sheds a little light on some supporting characters. Mainly the villainous Governor of Woodbury, who is one of the series’ main antagonists.

In the comics we meet him from the perspective of the heroes, outsiders who arrive at Woodbury and quickly discover the leader to be a sadistic, psychotic individual. The rest of Woodbury’s residents are either thuggish goons or survivors caught up in the ensuing war, their feelings on the Governor never fully explored until he goes too far.

In this book one of the main characters is Lilly, a Woodbury resident who has her own issues with the Governor and how he runs his little kingdom. There are mentions of earlier clashes but she does begin to wonder if maybe they are safer with the Governor, perhaps they need a tough, vicious leader in a tough, vicious world.

As with the comic books and the show, the zombies (known here as walkers or biters) are an ever present threat, lurking beyond defences or hiding in the trees and ruins. But the real threat to the human survivors are each other and their fight for resources.

As I’ve read the comics many of the events here don’t come as a surprise, with all the major beats repeates. But what makes it interesting to see these from a different view. To see the actions of Rick and his allies not as heroic but as the actions of an outside, possibly malevolent, group.

Lilly’s story is interesting as she struggles to deal with the horrors she’s witnessed and starts a tentative romance with another survivor. She’s an everywoman character in many ways, who has learnt to survive and for safety has to join a group she doesn’t fully trust. Yet despite her misgivings she has no real choice, as leaving the relative safety of Woodbury would see her left outside alone, scraping around for food and constantly at risk of zombie attack.

Circumstances then make her situation harder as Woodbury teeters on going to war with Rick’s group.

This is quite a gripping, tense read with some solid character works but I had forgotten just how dark and unpleasant the Governor was as a character and there are some violent sequences which are tough going.

I’m also not sure why this was split in two parts as this is a fairly short book and might have worked better as one longer story.

Verdict: As a spin off that occurs alongside events from the comics there are very few surprises. However, seeing the same events play out from a different angle is quite interesting and I found the character of Lilly relatable and likeable. I’m keen to read more, hopefully as the darkest, most unpleasant parts of the story is done now. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Book Review: In the Arms of Family by Chris Philbrook

Part six of Philbrook’s Adrian’s Undead Diary series picks up after the previous instalment’s revelation that one of Adrian’s allies had been under the sway of evil forces. Here we see our hero and his allies dealing with this and also fresh challenges.

There are new, shady types about in town and some of their allies are brought down by a man on the inside. Now those survivors are living with Adran but he knows one is not to be trusted. But which one.

By witholding the identity of this traitor Philbrook ratchets up the tension and leaves the reader unsure and uneasy at the prospect of their next move. Similarly, aside from vague allusions, the new group of enemy survivors are kept hidden. It leaves Adrian worried about what to do next and leaves the reader on the hook.

Elsewhere Philbrook does very well in slowly, steadily building the good vs evil story in the background and bringing the players together. It’s great writing and provides a deeper meaning for the zombies.

As ever Adrian’s diary is at times crude and vulgar, but it works for the character and makes it feel more real. And despite writing from this perspective for much of the book Philbrook is fleshing out some of the supporting cast nicely.

This book doesn’t have as many interludes as before which is a shame as each one so far has served to expand the world Philbrook is building and introduce fresh characters and events. They also provide more tension for the reader than the diary entry format does.

And as with every book so far it left me craving more.

Verdict: Another solid entry in the series which adds more threats and deepens the storyline. Well written and utterly gripping. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Wrath by Chris Philbrook

After a few nonfiction books I figured it was about time to travel to the land of make believe. And so I returned to Philbrook’s Adrian’s Undead Diary series.

The fifth instalment follows the same structure, with the story told through the journal entries of Adrian, a foul mouthed, ex-soldier who leads a small group of survivors against the undead. These are broken up by sections which follow supporting characters and sketch in more details of the post apocalyptic world.

The series, thanks to Adrian’s funny, profane narration has been a winner from the jump, but Philbrook has slowly added more meat to the story. Supernatural elements have been added and the setting up of a good vs evil game afoot is handled well, and explains certain characters’ actions.

There’s plenty of twists and action, and one revealation about a long standing character is a gut punch, but written well.

A series which grows in terms of depth and scope, this continues to be a very entertaining read.

Verdict: The story continues to develop and Philbrook keeps the reader hooked. Left me keen for part 6. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Cats and Zombies

2AM. Saturday morning.

I have only a few hours until I have to get up for work, but I’m wide awake. And sleep isn’t going to come easily.

Why aren’t I asleep?

Because I’ve just had a nightmare.

Yes, like a little kid, a bad dream has jolted me awake and now I’m lying in the dark, every noise transformed into something ominous by fear.

The dream started off well enough, with me as a cowboy. There was a shoot out between James Stewart and Audie Murphy, which left both dead. And then undead Audie got to his feet. Yes, Walking Dead style, it didn’t take a bite, but I blame George A. Romero as I’d been thinking about his movies a lot in the last week and eager to watch Dawn of the Dead again. Perhaps this was my subconscious’ tribute to the director?

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I managed to cuff Jimmy before he revived, but Audie bit another person. Having dropped the most decorated zombie in Hollywood, I saw the other zombie pursuing my cat, Midnight. Out of bullets (isn’t that always the way?), I hastily ran and shoved the zombie into a side room and grabbed Midnight.

Unfortunately the living dead opened the door and seized me from behind. It went to bite my neck.

At this point I awoke, but still gripped by the fading terror of the nightmare, I actually awoke in the process of throwing my elbow in defence.

Luckily the biter had come from the right and I was elbowing thin air. On the left and I would have clocked MWF in the face and probably sporting a shiner. And I suspect that her coworkers would have heard “my boyfriend elbowed me in the face while asleep because of a nightmare” and assumed it was a flimsy excuse, a slightly more inventive version of “I walked into a door”.

Luckily, Pumpkin, who in the dream was sensible enough to avoid the walkers, jumped into the bed and huddled in by my arm. Stroking him calmed me down and eventually I fell back asleep. And this time, without any nightmares.

Thank the gods for cats.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Failed Coward by Chris Philbrook 

Having really enjoyed the third part of the Adrian’s Undead Diary series I added this to my Kindle and couldn’t resist cracking on with the fourth instalment.

With new allies and fresh sources of supplies, life should be good for Adrian and his little group of survivors, zombies aside. However, the undead are acting strangely and there are a few new faces in town who he can’t trust yet.

Philbrook does a great job of building and developing his undead apocalypse more and more with every book. Having introduced a supernatural background in part three it lends events here a new dimension of creepiness and raises questions for the reader and our narrator. What has raised the dead and why?

We get glimpses of life elsewhere, a group of besieged soldiers in the UK, a flashback to two dimwitted stoners as the world went to hell. There’s also a crazed loner, who revels in the apocalypse, selfishly and callously surviving, his ranting becoming increasingly unhinged and adding a fresh tension when his house is mentioned as a potential target for Adrian and his scavenging friends.

With winter coming to an end, Adrian faces fresh challenges and with human survivors returning to the town must wrestle with whether his scavenging and looting is defensible. 

A cracking read with some unsettling touches and some dark, crude humour, this series continues to be a treat.

Verdict: Philbrook expands his universe and also finds new ways to keep the story fresh, creating an uneasy feeling and a gripping story. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Midnight by Chris Philbrook

Back to the zombies with the third instalment of Philbrook’s Adrian’s Undead Diary series. As with the others this is told largely in the diaries of Adrian, an ex soldier holed up at a private school as the dead rise.

The second book ended with Adrian discovering that he wasn’t alone and welcoming people into his home. There’s also a threat from another group of survivors. Over the course of this book this feud comes to a head and other survivors are encountered.

It’s a quality read with the story developing nicely and there being a few nice twists and turns along the way. Adrian is also a great character with fragility, humour and fear creeping into his foul mouthed diaries. The action is quite gripping and while the diary format robs some of the tension, it still works as Philbrook is smart to use gaps between entries and short, angry or upset entries to give the impression things have gone wrong and put the reader on edge.

Philbrook also has rounded Adrian out and ensures the reader is engaged and invested in what happens to him.

There are also inserted chapters that take place elsewhere, which gives us different perspectives and fills in the gaps that Adrian can’t. One of these explains the cause of the zombie apocalypse and this is done well, different from other zombies stories. It also gives Philbrook routes to follow and feels fresh. This increases the creepy factor and creates an unsettling vibe and leaves more questions unansweed.

Looking forward to going back to Adrian’s world soon.

Verdict: The series goes from strength to strength. This part expands the world the story takes place in and ups the stakes. New characters and a few nice twists keep it fresh and hooked me in throughout. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO. 


Book Review: Alone No More by Chris Philbrook

My new year resolution may have been to broaden my reading, but here we are back with the zombies. The second part in the Adrian’s Undead Diary series this picks up where the first left off. Our narrator, Adrian, is an ex-soldier who after the dead start walking and biting has holes up at the remote, elite boarding school where he worked.

Alone he tries to gather supplies, fortify his home and build a new life, all while dodging the undead who hunger for flesh. His only comforts being his cat, Otis, and the journal he writes.
The book is told in these foul-mouthed entries as he details his exploits and vents on his fears, theories and regrets. The journal format works as the missing days usually mean something has happened and the insight into Adrian’s mind set is well done. While a laddish, vulgar narrator at times Adrian is likeable enough and relatable, showing flashes of dark, self deprecating humour.

Philbrook changes it up with short chapters from the perspective of other character’s caught up in the apocalypse. Often people who have crossed over with Adrian’s story. In the first book these often ended badly but here there are a few that hint that life endures elsewhere.

As the story implies Adrian meets living people once again and these sections are quite moving as behind the bluster you can tell it means a lot to the frazzled hero to have company.

It builds to a strong ending and number 3 is on my wish list now. I’ll just have to fit some different books in between.

Verdict: Improves on the original and Philbrook impresses with his ability to capture his characters. The changing world works well and the arrival of more characters is a nice touch. A solid, entertaining zombie book. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Underground

Inspired by a Daily Post prompt.

And I should warn you right here, this is a bit of a grim blog. So consider yourself warned.

I’m not a very brave guy. I have a lot of fears. Off the top of my head- clowns, spiders, zombies, heights and that I’m actually allergic to nuts but have been brainwashed into forgetting this and am one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup away from death.

But high on the list? 

Being buried alive.

A few years ago I went and saw Ryan Reynolds in Buried and left the cinema shaking, and I can’t think of a film that has left me so shaken. if you haven’t seen it, it’s a cracking thriller from what I remember.

Shout out to the “groundbreaking” pun

I can’t remember when I first heard about people being buried alive, I think it came from being told people used to get bricked into walls back in medieval times or something. But it chilled me then.

I’m claustrophobic and as a kid had problems with the dark, so it makes sense that this would mess with me, but unlike a lot of fears this one gets worse the older you get. 

And knowledge is not power here.

As a kid I thought it would suck. As an adult I realised that was a massive understatement.

Not just the enclosed space but the just knowing it was all over. That would be the worst part. If you have a terminal illness you can say goodbye to your loved ones, but just knowing you were trapped?

Forget Kill Bill in the real world you ain’t getting out. And that’s what terrifies me. You hear those “they thought they were dead” stories and they usually have a happy ending, I mean the person was alive after all, and probably headed for a big pay out from the doctor who dropped the ball.

But I can’t be alone in thinking what about the folks who woke up after the burial? How many coffins have scratch marks on the inside?

This has to be the most morbid entry I’ve ever written. Blame bingeing on The Walking Dead and being tired, I guess. Although I suppose it is kinda reassuring that if there ever are zombies a lot of them will be trapped six feet under.

I am painfully aware that should I ever become a masked crime fighter I have just told my enemies how to get rid of me in the worst way.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Dark Recollections by Chris Philbrook 

I got this book cheap for my Kindle and decided to crack on with it this week. The first part in a series this is a zombie apocalypse novel told through the diaries of a survivor.

Our narrator is Adrian a former soldier who witnesses the dead rise. The story picks him up holed up inside a private school campus and over the entries he explains how he got there and what he’s doing.

For zombie fans this is familiar territory and for me the diary format always robs a bit of tension. We know our hero is still alive as they’re still writing and so the jeopardy is lessened.

That’s not to say that the book isn’t gripping as it’s written in a fast, no frills style and Philbrook reveals more of Adrian’s character as the story unfolds. Adrian is an often profane and laddish narrator, but there are signs of fragility and the writing is done so that while flawed he is oddly likeable.

The action is well done, stripped back and gritty. It’s a nice quick read and for a zombie fan like me ticks a lot of boxes. It will be interesting to see where he takes the story in future instalments. 

Verdict: Quick and easy to read with a believable and flawed narrator, Philbrook kicks off the series well and leaves the reader wanting more. The diary style weakens the peril but it is still an involving read. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do.  BETEO. 


Book Review: Ex-Isle by Peter Clines 

Clines’ hugely entertaining superheroes vs zombies series continues here. The superheroes of Los Angeles continue to protect their survivors and Zzap is checking in on survivors when he finds a collection of ships forming into a man made island in the Pacific.

St. George, Zzap and Corpse Girl head off to investigate and extend the hand of friendship, but discover a highly paranoid, insular group which is very different from the world they are trying to build.

Meanwhile, in the city Cerberus and several of the super soldiers oversee the new garden which will feed the survivors. But there is growing unease between the different factions and Cerberus must deal with her own fears.

This is a series that gets better as it goes on, and this is a cracking addition, which expands the world and introduces new players. It also benefits from dividing focus between two fronts with both being involving stories. Clines’ characterisation and dialogue is solid, with likeable heroes and hateable villains. One of the villain’s flashback is the darkest part of the series so far, and shows an ability to change tone which suits Clines’ style of switching between the past and present , and different characters’ perspectives.

What makes it the strongest installment is that there is plenty of good ideas and there are some nice twists along the way.

Verdict: A very entertaining yarn which grips throughout and shows that Clines continues to develop. The story unfolds at a good pace and there are enough twists to keep you guessing. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.