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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Zombies and Such

I just recently finished The Walking Dead #9 and I haven't done a proper review of any of the previous graphic novels in the series, so today we're going to talk about zombies!
I usually try to keep my reviews concise, but I might have spend a little more time talking about The Walking Dead. I had this graphic novel series recommended to my by an uncle who's really into graphic novels. I checked out the first one to see if I'd like it. That was oh, June. It's been less than two months later, and I've completely gobbled up the next eight books in the series. For me that's really fast, especially considering I have to go to a different library to get these graphic novels.

The important thing to know about me is that prior to blogging, I didn't read graphic novels, nor did I read zombie novels. This one is both. And I love it. At first, I thought it might pale in comparison to World War Z, which is like the magnum opus of zombie novels (my review here). Both are about zombies, yes, but World War Z is a big, all-encompassing novel that spans the globe. The Walking Dead zooms in on a few characters and really develops them, so that I became really engrossed in the story of how they survive in a world over-run by zombies.

Rick is the main character. He's a cop, and while on duty one day he gets shot and winds up in the hospital. When he wakes up from a coma, he finds himself all alone. Then he tries opening the door to the cafeteria, and finds... living corpses. Surviving that, he discovers that he is all alone. His family has presumably fled, there's no government, TV, radio, and so he finally hits on the idea of heading to the nearest big city in hopes that he'll find his wife and son.

Rick eventually finds a group of people and because of his take-charge attitude, ends up becoming the de-facto leader of the group. He comes up with the survival plans. He ventures into a zombie-infested city to find weapons and teaches everyone how to shoot guns. He organizes everyone so that they are keeping watches, hunting for food, and, when living in the countryside becomes too dangerous, he convinces everyone to look for a more permanent home. Eventually, the group does find what they hope will be their new permanent home, and things start to look up. They have to clear out the zombies living there, but supplies are plentiful and there's a nice sturdy fence.

It's at that point that the series takes a decidedly dark turn. Rick has spent most of the time racing after one important thing after another without even taking the time to tell anyone where he's going. He's always sure of himself, and so far, his hunches and his dangerous missions have tended to end up well, but his tendency to play cowboy finally catches up to him. In the fourth novel (The Heart's Desire), the group spots a helicopter land nearby, and Rick sets off searching for it, hoping to find a hint that civilization has returned. He and two others from the group end up blundering into another encampment of survivors, similar to their own. While Rick has made some tough choices for his group, he's always managed to hold onto his moral compass. The leader of this other encampment, who calls himself the Governor, is the type of person who tends to rise to the top in crises. Strong, smart, sadistic, with the singular goal of survival, he calmly does whatever it takes to keep control of his people. Murder, rape, torture, and the complete destruction of Rick's group if it means he can take their resources. Books 5-8 deal with the fallout from Rick's encounter with the Governor.

The world of The Walking Dead is an unforgiving one. People die. Zombie attacks, fighting with other survivors, gun battles, freak accidents. Throughout the series, though, the biggest danger comes from other survivors. The zombies are an ever-present threat, but they're slow, stupid, and predictable. Humans are the ones who will kill you over a couple of supplies, or pretend to need help and shoot you in the back.

Despite the bleak tone, however, I couldn't help but notice that over all, the novel is optimistic (especially at first) about the capacity of people to work together for the greater good. Rick and his ragtag group do their best to help other survivors who find their way to their camp, and among the core group, there is surprisingly little competition for control. Loved ones are reunited. Babies are brought into the world. People find love again and get married. Friendships are made.

This is definitely an action-packed series, and it seems like every novel ends on a cliff-hanger that makes it impossible for me to not get the next novel. But what really makes this series worthwhile are the characters. I haven't gone into too much detail about them, but there are really quite a few supporting characters who all have different story arcs. Michonne, for example, is one of my favorites. She is a serious badass, fighting zombies with a sword. When she's being tortured by the Governor for information on their camp, she spends her time plotting revenge. Okay, so I wouldn't want to get on her bad side, but in the zombie apocalypse, she's the one I'd want in my group.

There's others: Andrea, once a blonde coed, now the group's best sharp-shooter; Tyrese, the former NFL star; Glen and Maggie, who manage to find love despite the desperate situation they're in, and many others. There's actually so many, I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters at first, but by the end, they all felt like familiar friends.

I'm at a point in the series where I am very nearly caught up with all of the books published so far, and I really don't know how I'm going to wait for more. I hope you will like this one as much as I do! (Oh, and P.S.: do not read these before bed. Heart-stopping action+zombies =/= good, restful sleep.

Novels in the series:

#1 Days Gone Bye
#2 Miles Behind Us
#3 Safety Behind Bars
#4 The Heart's Desire
#5 The Best Defense
#6 This Sorrowful Life
#7 The Calm Before
#8 Made to Suffer
#9 Here We Remain

From Bold. Blue. Adventure.

From Bold. Blue. Adventure.


Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness said...

I read through the first four of this series last summer because a friend had them, but wasn't motivated enough to get the others because I wasn't that into them.

I think what bothered me was that the characters seemed to consistently make the worst decisions -- split the group up, go into dark basements, light fires in the woods... classic mistakes in any horror movie :)

But, your review makes the series sound really interesting. I might have to give it another try.

Kim L said...

Kim-when you mention it, there is plenty of that, but to be honest I was so hooked, I didn't even notice the horror-movie stereotypes. I just kind of got lost in the action.

And yeah, they do get more intense after the first four novels. If you do read more, I'll look forward to seeing if you liked them any better!