Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Reading "The Walking Dead"

This may cause me to lose my zombie-blogger cred, but I haven't seen the TV series The Walking Dead, despite owning the first season on DVD.  The big reason is because frankly I don't have time, and then when I do my kids tend to be around and the show isn't elementary-school friendly.

But I heard it was good, so I went to my local friendly library and checked out most of the trade paperbacks for the comic book series.

Trivia bit: at least four of the people in this picture are now dead in the series
For those who don't know, the main character, Rick, is a sheriff from Georgia who wakes up from a coma to discover the world has gone to zombie hell (it's very 28 Days Later, making me wonder who ripped off whom).  In the many, many episodes that follows, Rick drifts from situation to situation with a rotating cast of characters who could end up being killed by zombies or humans at any time, usually in a striking graphic manner.

The over-arching theme of the series is really to continually subject Rick to torment after torment to the point where Rick can't even garner the smallest bit of hope when things start to go right, usually with good reason. As a reader, all I can say is don't get too attached to anyone.

The Walking Dead does a lot of things right.  The true horrors are the people, people reduced to barbarism, cruelty, and insanity.  The characters are complex, likable while falling just shy of heroic.  On a technical note, the series features the "no room in hell" style zombies where you can turn once you are bitten, but you can also turn if you die from other causes (the claim is that everyone is exposed to the zombie-producing element, but a living person can fight off the infection semi-effectively.  The location/character/plot turnover is pretty well done and keeps the story from getting too stale.

There are moments when I think the story goes too far, though.  A long time ago when I was a teenager I was talking to horror writer Stephen King (long story) and he said that he frequently used children in his stories as a way to get people emotionally involved in the story.  It is, in a way, a sort of cheap ploy in this regard, and not only does the series exploit this often, but often horrifically.  Children are the subject of attempted rape, they are shot and killed, and in several cases kill other people.

[spoiler alert after the break.  Stop now if you don't want to know at least one serious plot event.]

When you kill a baby in a story, I start thinking that I don't want to read anymore.  There's a reason I kept my kids out of my ATZ campaign, and I think particularly as the series goes along he uses it more and more as a way to keep the horror viable over the long haul.  Like I said, at times it feels like a cheap ploy.

That's probably my biggest beef with the whole thing, namely that it seems to sometimes struggle to keep going.  There are continual "cycles" that seem to take place usually associated with a particular locale, and then the author turns over most of the cast and starts again (case in point--there is only one other cast person aside from Rick from the beginning of the story).  It makes me wonder if, at some point, the story will just run out of juice despite the author saying that there are several grinders he can still put Rick through.

But in the meantime, it's a good "zombie soap opera" and worth the read, even if you don't like the series.


  1. The TV series has lost it's appeal for me but I've always liked the comics and the graphic novels that they base so much on nowadays!

  2. I like that Kirkman isnt afraid to kill a child (and infant) in his storyline. In a Zombie outbreak you will probably see a high mortality rate in children under a certain age since they cant defend themselves, and the "grownups" might have their hands full with other things (ie trying to fight off a gang or a group of undead), and the child not knowing better might wander into harms way.

    As you mentioned bringing children in a story (or even the elderly) draws the reader more into the storyline, where they can more easily associate with certain characters, and by killing them off you are hit with the omg anyone can die at any time feeling, so you start to invest your emotions on the other characters that normally you might not have given a second thought about.

  3. Not read the comics I just don't get them. I quite like The Walking Dead Tv series tbh. Its like most Zombie movies hit and miss.

    I recommend you read The Dead, The Enemy and The Fear by Charlie Higson they are superb.

    Basically everyone over the age of 14 turns in to diseased zombie types that crave the flesh of children. The children strive to survive

  4. I haven't read the comics either, but I have watched both series on TV and I can see your "Children Shock" viewpoint and I tend to agree with it.