The Walking Dead: Return to Woodbury, Joy Bonansinga, Thomas Dunne Books
David Pitt review:
I’ve only read a few of the literary spinoffs of the Walking Dead graphic novel and television series, so I can’t tell you whether this is the best of the bunch. I can tell you this: it’s gory, and fast-paced, and full of characters who feel like real people.
The setup is straightforward. Fed up with living on the third floor of a big-city IKEA store, Lilly Caul, who lived through more than her fair share of tragedy in the small town of Woodbury (including the reign of the self-appointed despot who called himself the Governor), decides – against the advice of her friends – to go back to Woodbury and rebuild the town. After much deliberation, her friends decide to go with her, although to be honest they would rather have stayed behind, in the relative safety of the big-box store. (Several of them will seriously regret their decision to go along, if you catch my drift.)
Anyway, the journey back to Woodbury soon turns nightmarish, and when Lilly meets up with a woman named Ash, who recently escaped from the clutches of the vicious Spencer-Lee Dryden, things go from very bad to immeasurably worse. Soon, the undead are the least of Lilly’s problems.
If you mixed together the smarmy, evil-lurking-under-the-pleasant-surface Philip Blake (aka the Governor) and the brutal, falsely-smiling Negan, you’d get somebody quite like Spencer-Lee Dryden. He’s a perfect Walking Dead villain: a man for whom the living dead are merely an excuse to build his own fiefdom. He’s arrogant, and ruthless, and just plain evil.
A word or two about the author, Jay Bonansinga, because I don’t think he gets enough credit as the author of the Walking Dead novels. I know his work; before he started writing the Walking Dead books he published a string of horror-thrillers that were well-written and creepy. He’s a talented novelist, not just some guy they hired to slap his name on a quickie Walking Dead tie-in, and Return to Woodbury is a first-class horror novel written by someone who really knows what he’s doing.