Todd and I want to apologize for the major gap that has occurred between our Walking Dead reviews! If you need a refresher, here are our reviews of books one, two, three, and four. To continue with the tradition, we’re doing a joint review of book five!
Book five of the series begins after the horrible battle at the prison and subsequent loss of many characters from the previous books in the series. We’re reunited with Rick and Carl, who are on their own and separated from any other possible survivors of the massacre. There is a particularly poignant scene where Rick comes down with a sudden infection and is rendered unconscious. Carl asserts his independence and tells his dad (who is passed out) that he doesn’t need his help and that he’d be fine alone. Soon thereafter, Carl realizes that he isn’t nearly as brave as he thought, and in a moment of panic almost shoots Rick as Rick slowly (and in a zombie-like manner) comes to. After he recovers, Rick and Carl reunite with Michonne, and the three of them travel together until they stumble upon the remaining survivors of the prison attack. After a brief moment of actual happiness in the post-apocalyptic doom, they then meet a group of three survivors who are traveling to Washington, DC: Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita. Abraham, an army Sargent, challenges Rick as the head of the group, and is the focal point for the remainder of the novel. What happens next though, catches everyone off guard, and puts all of their lives in immediate danger…
Kim: So I truly love the underlying social commentary themes that are woven into these books. I like how in book five we focus a lot on the children who have survived to this point. When we finished reading the book, Todd and I started discussing our thoughts and I said the following: I think that as adults we have the ability to adapt for survival faster than children do. As adults we understand what we need to survive. It’s an inherent trait in ourselves to adapt for our survival. In the case of children, they are taken care of by adults. A child does not inherently understand survival at the level an adult would. In book five we begin to see the effects that this “zombie apocalypse” has had on them. Sophia is looking at any of the females caring for her as her actual mother. When Carl asks her about her birth mother Sophia acts like she has no idea who he’s talking about. The trauma of her mother’s suicide, coupled with the rest of the events of the books have taken such a toll on her, that her mind has blacked out the traumatic events. Consequently, Carl has a scare when Rick become so sick that he passes out for several days. Carl acts like everything is fine and that he can take care of himself, but the reality soon sets in that he is a child and shouldn’t have to fend for himself. It’s these transformations (and others) that makes these books the “must reads” I think they are. They are so much more than just zombie novels. They are true experimental evaluations of the human condition!
Todd: I definitely agree. I think it’s interesting that Carl has to mature (physically and emotionally) in this world while all of the adults are obviously much older and have a greater frame of reference for a time that wasn’t infested with walking corpses. Of course it accelerates Carl’s maturity, but in other aspects it makes him even more messed up, with little to no stability in his life to rely on. Fortunately, Rick tries his best to be a good father figure, and for the most part it works, but the ever-mounting flood of death and destruction takes its toll, especially when Carl tells his father that he wanted to help him kill the man who almost molested him. When he tells Rick that he is scared of the violence of his thoughts sometimes, it offers us a window into how his mind is adjusting to the new surroundings. Rick perhaps puts it best: “We’re doing whatever it takes to survive… The people without the switch– those who weren’t able to go from law-abiding citizens to stone-cold killers… those are the ones shambling around out there– trying to eat us.”
Kim: Speaking of Rick’s mental state, it’s fascinating to see how the events at the end of book four have completely transformed him into a “mental patient”. The conversations with his dead wife and his serious lack of confidence in himself and his decision-making skills showcase a Rick that we have never glimpsed before. Kirkman’s ability to highlight a transforming psychological climate for all of these characters is truly what makes this series stand out, and why he’s still publishing new issues of this series monthly.
Todd: I think it’s interesting you bring up Rick’s mental state, because although this book wasn’t nearly as big on action as the previous one, I think it’s actually scarier. To see what the continued toll of dealing with what has happened to them has on all the characters is really frightening. We’ve always had Rick as the pillar of the group, right or wrong, and to see him in such a diminished state makes me nervous for what will happen in the future. I hope the remaining survivors can pull it together!
Make sure you keep a lookout for the next review of book six in this series. Although we haven’t read it yet, if the speed in which we read this book is any indication, you won’t need to wait long!
Todd’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Kim’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars