The Walking Dead’s favorite psychopath now has a backstory! This slim volume shows us Negan before the zombie apocalypse and in the days following, and we learn what shaped him into the charismatic villain that we love to hate.
When I bought the book it was shrink-wrapped in plastic, so a casual shopper couldn’t flip through it and find out more about Negan without actually purchasing the book. The book is much shorter than I would have expected, and was a quick read.
The book begins a few months before the world goes to hell, and we meet Negan who is a foul mouthed gym teacher who has a nasty quip for everything. He seems to respect his wife Lucille, until we see him cheating on her, despite her recent cancer diagnosis. Negan has a parallel with Rick, as the zombie’s attack while he and his wife are in the hospital. I do not want to share anymore than that, because the point of the book is to show Negan’s journey from being a regular asshole kind of guy to the monster we know him as.
But I will say- I was highly disappointed in this story. It’s hard to share why without giving away too many plot points, but Negan’s arc wasn’t as complete as it should have been. There was more character development of Dwight and Sherry and the the group that will evolve into The Saviors, than with Negan. Plus, there seems to be a discrepancy between this book and a conversation he and Rick have in Volume 28.
I also had been intrigued that Negan seems to have an aversion to rape, although certainly not killing, and I was curious if they would address some of his contradictions. While they dance around the subject, it wasn’t truly answered. So I ended up feeling the plastic wrap was to prevent shoppers from backing out of the purchase once they discovered this book doesn’t quite pass muster. Some of the ingredients for a good narrative were there, but they were not fleshed out enough. Borrow, do not buy this book (that’s what libraries are for!) to get your Negan fix.
Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This month’s T5W topics center around Halloween, and when asked to pick my favorite type of scary creature, I knew zombies was it!
Revival is a favorite of mine, and I have written a lot of posts about it. In this now completed series, twenty three people inexplicably come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin. The “Revivers” are not your typical zombies looking for braaaiins. Instead they quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. The series is being developed into a movie through Shatterglass Films.
The Walking Dead is the grand-daddy of all zombie series. A fascinating premise, that is getting a bit long in the tooth now, but is still beloved by many. I list the three compendiums I have reviewed on my blog, but I have also been keeping up with the smaller volumes as they come out, and putting reviews up on my Goodreads account.
This book must be listened to on audio…it was beyond good. The story covers the history of the world wide war against zombies, and the narrative covers a reporter getting first hand accounts from survivors that tell about the beginning of the epidemic, the resistance, and the aftermath of the zombie catastrophe. Some of the standout characters/stories were Todd Wainio, the Redker Plan, the North Korea speculation, the female Russian soldier, the pilot of the downed plane, and the family at the Manitoba campsite. A tiny criticism, is that I figured out every supposed surprise in the stories, and the connections between the world-wide characters strained credibility. The actors voicing the characters in the audio edition were perfect- Mark Hamill! Nathan Fillon! Denise Crosby! Jeri Ryan! Common! Alan Alda! I will definitely be listening to this story again and again.
Negan has been a prominent villain in the long running The Walking Dead series, and is a perverse mix of monster and savior. The question of how he became so twisted and his backstory during the zombie apocalypse is explained in this book that just came out the same week of Volume 28.
After is a strong collection of nineteen short stories about life “after” a catastrophic event. As with any compilation with various authors, some are stronger than others. One of the standouts was After the Cure by Carrie Ryan. It took the zombie story trope and subverted it. Vail is a teenager that was previously a zombie like creature but was given a cure to rehabilitate her. Society has a hard time accepting those rehabilitated people back into their communities, and the people themselves still feel some degree of hunger and a need to be back with their undead packs. Despite the melancholic nature of this story, there was a nugget of hope built into the end.
Who would have thought that zombies could be so appealing, but my reading list doesn’t lie!
Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the prompt is about “unlikeable” protagonists. So I’m going to share the ones I pulled for!
I love this villain! He is complex, and shows brief moments of compassion and insight, but then rips your heart out with his brutality. I hated the Governor and his over the top inhumanity, while Negan is more believable. I am snatching up the book about his past when it comes out in October.
Amy Dunne from Gone Girl
Amy is twisted. She and Nick are so outrageously dysfunctional, and what she did and all the planning that must have gone into it were awesome. The twists at the end were unexpected, and while I had a bit of sympathy for Nick, he kind of deserves it. I’ve thought about what their future holds, and the child they will raise.
Jack the Giant Killer, Little Jack Horner, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Frost, and Jack O’Lantern…these are all names that Jack of Fables is known by. Here’s another name- a$$hole, but yet you’ll be rooting for him to escape Fabletown.
Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender
I loved watching Avatar with my kids when it was on Nickelodeon. Zuko was the classic misunderstood anti-hero who just needed someone to love and understand him in order for him to change. I enjoyed his redemption at the end, and how he and Aang were able to end the terrible reign of the evil Fire Lord together.
Rooting for the underdog can be fun, for often these characters are more complex than the typical (and sometimes boring) hero. Who would you pick?
Here we go again. Some new villains come into play, and Rick and his crew continue to fight the living and the dead! Warning- some spoilers.
Volume 17-Something To Fear: No!!!! So did you think the Governor was bad? Well then, it’s time to meet Negan. Two fan-favorites bite the dust, with the second death being especially heartbreaking. Rule of thumb with TWD- if a volume ends on a hopeful note, the next one will devastate you.
Volume 18- What Come After: After the heartbreaking death in the last volume, Rick regroups. As Negan doesn’t know who he is dealing with, he thinks he has cowed Rick and the others. He has another thing coming. I love that Heath speaks some much needed truth to Michonne. Enough of her man-stealing crap.
Volume 19-March to War: Leaders Rick, Paul, and Ezekiel along with the residents of Alexandria, The Hilltop Colony and The Kingdom decide they are going to take on Negan. This book is another bridge book, for it is setting up characters (I like the conversation between Ezekiel and Michonne) and scenarios as they prepare for war.
Volume 20-All Out War Part 1: Rick leads the united three communities against Negan. Although they have an initial first victory, Negan regroups and comes at them again. Negan shows some crazy morals, as he stops a rape and voices his long-term strategy, but yet then he does…
Volume 21-All Out War Part 2: I have to give props to Negan- he is a fantastic villain. While evil and misguided, he is much more believable than the damn Governor. So…we have more mayhem, needless death, and double crosses. Rick reverses yet again on moral issues- in previous books he said they must be better than their enemies and spare them,…then wait, no, we must kill our enemies to survive…ok now we must show mercy and be civilized in this book. Pick a stance Rick, and get control of your son who tries again to be judge and jury of whether a person lives or dies.
Volume 22- A New Beginning: Two years have passed since the war with Negan and the communities have thrived since then with community building and trade networks established. Negan has been neutered, but don’t count him out. I’m sure he’ll figure out a way to create some chaos in the future. A new band of survivors have been discovered and they are as wary of Alexandria as Rick and his crew were when they discovered it. As there has been a lull in epic villainy for awhile, a new threat is discovered at the end of this volume. A new beginning indeed.
Volume 23- Whispers Into Screams: A large contingent of survivors are found, living amidst the zombies, called The Whisperers. How they have survived is revealed, but many questions remain about their motives and standard of living. Carl falls for the daughter of the leader Alpha, and is incensed regarding some of their ways. Tensions mount at the Hilltop among the different factions, and a showdown is imminent.
Volume 24- Life and Death: Beginning: Welcome back Michonne! Interesting character development to explain where she has been and why. Middle: Alexandria trade fair. The surrounding communities and their residents come together to trade, network and hook up. Ending: No!!! OMG, the boundary line set up by Alpha to warn Rick to stay away from her and The Whisperers! The last few pages break your heart, as the panels are split up showing the newest victims, and the reactions of their friends and loved ones at the fair not knowing where they are yet. The feels!
These compendiums only come out every three or four years, so you wont see another TWD review from me until 2019 or so (although I will keep up with the smaller volumes)! Remember- “In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living”. So…put down your phone and LIVE!
More zombies. More brutality. More death. Now that we have that covered, let’s move onto volumes 9-16, at a mere 1068 pages. Warning- some spoilers.
Volume 9- Here We Remain: I needed a break after the misery, suffering and heartbreak of volume 8. In this book Rick and Carl regroup after their loss and deal, each in their own way, with the repercussions of what they did or didn’t do. Slowly they regroup with some of the survivors of the massacre, and take in an interesting trio of new characters. What does the future hold after such devastating loss? Who knows- but it won’t be simple or happy…
Volume 10- What We Become:I was willing to overlook this in the last book, because the prison catastrophe was new, but WHY hasn’t Rick gone back to find Lori and baby Judith and put them out of their zombie misery the way he did with Shane? This bothers me. Yea, the prison is completely over run, but still. Theme of not being what you once were: Duane and his son, the twins(!), and the conversation Rick and Abraham have after the attack on Carl. Yep, a zombie apocalypse has a way of changing things.
Volume 11-Fear The Hunters : As the story progresses the question arises- who exactly are the hunters? Is it Ben, who hunted his twin Billy? Is it Carl who dealt with Ben? Is it the fringe group who first ate their own children and then pick off humans traveling by? Or is it Rick, Andrea, Michonne and Abraham who mete out justice and avenge a loved one? This was definitely my favorite of the books so far, for the deaths weren’t gratuitous, instead they were heartbreaking and affecting. Favorite line: “Tainted meat!!!”
Volume 12- Life Among Them: The group’s journey to Washington DC continues, until Eugene’s deceit is accidently discovered. I wasn’t even mad- can you blame a weak guy for looking for an angle that will keep him safe? Soon afterwards another survivor from a nearby walled town approaches them, and introduces them to the community of Alexandria and the survivors there. The residents there have maintained civility (not like the Governor and the town he ruled!) but suspicions remain for Rick’s weary band. Nothing is ever easy for any of them…
Volume 13- Too Far Gone: Rick’s group uneasily settles into the relative safety of the town Alexandria, but remain wary, as they don’t know the town’s inhabitants and safety protocols. Homes, food, and jobs are available, but at what cost? Rick is unable to relax and wishes to remain in charge, as he feels he can trust himself, but is unable to put the lives of his followers in the hands of another. Andrea wisely points out that he was a better leader when he didn’t want to be one, in comparison to him wanting to do a power grab in this new community. As is typical, the group can never let down their guard, and new threats appear both inside and outside of the town’s gates.
Volume 14- No Way Out: Rick’s group settles further into the town of Alexandria. Many romances are either being established or revealed for the first time. Not happy with Abraham- throwing away a good relationship, just as Tyreese did. A zombie horde surrounds the community and some heart breaking decisions and sacrifices are made. And yet there is actually some hope at the end, as the community works together as a team to combat the threat.
Volume 15- We Find Ourselves: The town of Alexandria cleans up the mess after the zombie horde attack- both physically and mentally. Abraham makes the situation with Rosita even worse- digging the knife in deeper after he betrays her. And then he and his new chickie think they can make a power move? Please…as if. I really like the coupling at the end between Rick and Andrea. Finally a good match for them both (although I did like Dale).
Volume 16- A Larger Fear: Alexandria has become as stable as it can under the circumstances, when they meet Paul “Jesus” Monroe who tells them of another community of 200 who have survived in the Hilltop Colony. Rick and his band are naturally wary of Paul and his community, but are pleasantly surprised and consider joining forces. Nothing is ever straightforward, and they are made aware that the Hilltop is paying tribute to a group called The Saviors, who protect them from zombies but demand half of their food and supplies for doing so. Now knowing about this yet-unseen threat; Rick talks hopefully to Glen, Andrea and Michonne about partnering with the Hilltop group, and this exchange is shown in some poignant full page spreads at the end of this volume.
I have read almost all of this series, so this post is a bit of a cheat: I took my previous Goodreads reviews and put them all together into this post. Warning- lots of SPOILERS!
Volume 1- Days Gone By:Good stuff…I know I’m going to enjoy this series. No explanation of how this zombie apocalypse started and just the briefest mention of the government lets you concentrate on the survivors and how they cope. At the end a few likable characters die, reminding me not to get attached to any one. I actually had compassion for Shane, but why he was longing for Lori escapes me.
Volume 2- Miles Behind Us: I will just state my impressions and thoughts on the many books ahead of me: There are a lot of hook-ups in this zombie apocalyptic world. I find this unlikely, mostly due to the poor hygiene everyone would be dealing with, plus the minor fact that zombies are trying to eat you. Poor Hershel. I actually thought his (flawed) logic of keeping zombies in the barn until more was known, understandable. He gives food and shelter to Rick and his band and then he loses several of his children, and then has to deal with shrill horrible Lori afterwards. I flippin’ hate Lori.
Volume 3- Safety Behind Bars: Safety behind bars? Yea…right. We discover that you no longer need a zombie bite to become a zombie-you die, you’re a zombie. This then leads to Rick unearthing Shane to kill him for good, a last show of compassion in the book. I was troubled when the “tax evader” killed innocent Rachel and Susie. That scene was just too much…not cool Kirkman. I’m still hatin’ on Lori.
Volume 4- The Heart’s Desire: Rick’s speech at the end about living now, making their current situation the best they can and not waiting and hoping to be rescued was spot on. Rules need to be changed…so what worked in the past needs to adapt for their current situation. Life will never ever be the same- deal.with.it. Observations: Poor twins- being orphaned and although Andrea and Dale step up for them, it’s not the same. I felt for Andrew- he was so trusting and just couldn’t deal with it all when Dexter died. Michonne- her being kick ass is tempered by the fact that she deliberately went for Tyreese when she knew he and Carol were together. But believe me- most of the blame goes to Tyreese who throws away a good relationship for some easy gratification. A$$hole. That then leads to Carol going off the deep end. What she did was almost understandable, a cry for help- but NOT in front of her daughter.
Volume 5- The Best Defense: Worst book thus far. Why? The Governor. Rick’s group finds another band of survivors! Too bad they are bat shit crazy. I know I need to have a ‘suspension of disbelief’ in certain books and movies, but come on…the daughter? the arena? the heads?! Plus, what happens to Michonne is just too much- the brutality of the Governor to her is over the top and extreme.
Volume 6- This Sorrowful Life: The book obviously serves as a bridge book- we met the Governor in the last book and it’s all but certain the jail will be found soon by his followers in the next book. Michonne gets her revenge…boy, does she get her revenge! Lori’s nearing her due date, and Glenn and Maggie get engaged. Although I want to be happy for them, rooting for someone in these books means certain death.
Volume 7- The Calm Before: This book continues the lull of action since Woodbury, leading to some needed character development. Lori flashbacked to Shane (showing that he was not a bad guy- at least in the beginning), Glenn and Maggie got married, Judith was born, Dale had a significant injury and then was insecure regarding Andrea, and then what Carol does happens. I guess there were clues leading up to it, and she had a previous suicide attempt, but it still surprised me. Things seemed to be settling down for her, and she was still needy, but…poor little Sophia, no goodbye or parting sweet words said to her by her mother. Then at the end- who we all knew was coming sooner or later arrives.
Volume 8- Made To Suffer: The title of this volume is very truthful- how I suffered reading this book. The Governor is back. So many people die, including some main characters. But the worst is…well, I shouldn’t spoil too much! This book is so bleak, bleak, bleak. Thank God the tv series has kept some of the characters, dead in the comic books, alive on the show.
Morgan Special: A small vignette about Morgan and his son Duane surviving in Rick’s former neighborhood during the Christmas season. They are trying to find normalcy during a time that is anything but. Needed sweet story in the middle of depressing chaos.