As the saying goes (and as I wrote after finishing The Road to Woodbury), fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Well, that was definitely my own dang fault. After finishing The Road to Woodbury, I told myself I didn't need to keep reading the series, but I stumbled across this omnibus collection of the last two books in the series (which, to my annoyance, had been released as parts one and two of a single story, like every major studio has done with the last remaining book in their license), and somehow it made it home. I'm not proud of this fact, but it happened.
This story is as much a train wreck as the last two books in the series, and suffers from the same problems. The characterization, at best, is mediocre, where you'll find yourself wondering why you're supposed to be rooting for these people. They make poor decisions, they flip-flop about how they feel about certain things (oftentimes flying in the face of what any reasonable person would think), and their moods will change in an instant. The protagonists are shallow, with their behaviors developing from whatever is necessary to happen in the story at a given time, instead of being driven by their own motivations, so you never really get a sense for who these people are supposed to be. The antagonist -- the Governor, in case you forgot -- almost becomes cartoonish, but avoids it simply by being a character who has already been established in other storylines. At least with the Governor, we can chalk his mood swings down to his psycho- and sociopathy, but with the other characters, it's just confusing.
Bonansinga (I know Kirkman's name is on the book, but I honestly think he just gave Bonansinga an outline and let him flesh it out) is back to his usual tricks, where he tells more than shows, gets caught up too much in gruesome and/or unnecessary descriptions (the introduction of every character involves a lengthy description of what they look like, right down to body type, and sometimes we'll get a reminder of that when they come back on stage after an absence), and simply drags out too much of the story. In a couple of places in the book, one of the characters is hit with a realization that becomes clear to the reader within a few paragraphs, but then Bonansinga draws it out over several pages before finally stating what that realization is. Then there's his habit of having all the characters speak aloud details of the story that no one would ever share, as well as his weird way of telling things through the narrative that a character wouldn't know at that time. He writes a lot about people not seeing walkers shambling along out of their field of vision, or noting things that characters will find out later (which always bugs me, because it takes some of the tension out of live-or-die situations). There's also a lot of repetition of description, with "black" and "oily" describing the random fluids (mostly cerebrospinal, he will constantly remind you after a head shot) that seep out of the walkers. I'm not sure if he's overcompensating for what he takes to be an oblivious audience or not, but it struck me as lazy storytelling.
Rick, Glenn, and Michonne also make appearances in the novel, but until about the second part of the story, Bonansinga doesn't really call them by name. Rick is the sandy-haired guy, Glenn is the Asian guy, and Michonne is the black woman. He also does as little as possible in developing those characters, because he assumes that the reader already knows these characters, and he wants to show us the other characters in Woodbury. I guess that's OK, but when he writes about characters we already know, and still draws them out to be as two-dimensional as a speck of dust, there's something wrong with his characterization skills. Plus, the events in the story that involve the characters from the main story are drawn directly from that story. Fans of the show might find some new bits of information (the story, after all, follows the canon of the graphic novel), but anyone who's read the entire series up through the Governor's end will find little new in this book. In fact, about half of the first novel is just an even more graphic description of what happens in the graphic novel.
There are also a lot of typos and editing errors (at one point, a character driving a truck slams on his "air breaks", while earlier in the story, someone "wretches" after succumbing to nausea), and I'm not sure what kind of product placement contract the writers have with Wal-Mart, because the logo (not just a mention of the store, but the actual logo, complete with slogan) appears twice in the book. I guess this is just what The Walking Dead has become.
I don't see that this novel (or the entire series, really) is worth anyone's time. The story read quickly, but not necessarily because it was compelling; it was just such a light, breezy, easy read that it was easy to fly through it and not think anything of what was happening. I should have resisted the temptation to read this one, as it feels even more worthless than the first two books in the series.