Friday, July 11, 2014

The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury review

    The Road to Woodbury starts off really strong then stumbles before falling down completely.

    The second in a series of novels written as supplementary material for The Walking Dead comic books (and probably marketed to fans of the television show), The Road to Woodbury follows Lilly Caul as she goes from being a self-described coward to the hardened survivor described in the comics.

    I was already inclined to dislike this work because of the retcon to the Walking Dead Expanded Universe. Telltale Games expanded on the character of Lilly for the first season of the video game, creating a character tortured by various events as well as extremely tough. Telltale's Lilly was a tragic heroine who does an unthinkable act, driven by events beyond her control.

     TRTW's Lilly, by contrast, just isn't that interesting. Lilly has a few moments of heroism and interest like when she saves some children from a horrifying attack early in the book, her initial display of cowardice, and her attempts to comfort a grieving father which go horribly wrong but--mostly, she's just really-really unlikable. Lilly judges the sexual promiscuity of her friend Megan, she gives mixed signals to her friend Josh, and her transition nobody to badass is abrupt. The fact her change requires the death of more interesting characters doesn't help matters.

    The characters of Josh, Megan, and Bob are, by contrast, much more entertaining. Josh is a little too much of a moral paragon, which probably stems from the fact he's only meant to be a supporting character, but I still found myself entertained by his adventures.

    Certainly, more so than the star's own.

    Despite the book's attempt to beat us over the head with Megan's "unlikable" nature, I found her to be charming and more concerned with the well-being of others than Lilly ever proved to be. Bob, creepy voyeurism aside, could have carried the book on his own.

    The book takes a good long time to get to Woodbury proper and, for most of the book, we're just following a typical band of survivors. I didn't mind this as it's the best part of the book. Woodbury, itself, is portrayed as just short of a hellhole and you have to wonder why anyone would want to live there even during a zombie apocalypse. While perhaps more believable than the TV show's Mayberry-esque depiction, I found this less interesting.

    The Governor, one of the best villains in comics, is  more or less  reduced to a cameo in his own series. Lilly develops hateful feelings towards him more or less because she must have evil-sensing powers, Bob befriends him despite the fact he acts like a psychopath around him (but no one else), and he reveals his crimes very causally. The character's split-personality is also played up when I found it to be the least interesting element of previous books.

     Then there's the climax which, bluntly, just makes no sense.

    In short, The Road to Woodbury is a very uneven book.  There's some great stuff in the beginning but the second half is just confusing. Lilly's character development makes sense and better characters are sacrificed on the altar of her being the star. I would not recommend this book unless you were a big Walking Dead fan and, even then, the audio book version because the voice-acting adds some extra entertainment value.


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