The Running Dead
Zombies aren't real. Yeah, we said it. That means authors can put their own personal spin on the mythology. Don't worry—Sherrilyn Kenyon isn't making zombies sparkle, but she does stretch the definition of what you may think a zombie is.
There are multiple types of zombies in Kenyon's universe. There's the tried-and-true decaying corpse type of zombie. But there are also zombies who are a little less crumbly, which means they are faster, smarter, and more dangerous than the walking dead. Bubba explains it like this: "Most times bokors use corpses, but they don't have to. There's been lots of studies of chemical-induced zombies who weren't dead first" (5.123).
Bokor-created zombies are similar to traditional voodoo zombies. That's appropriate, since this book is set in New Orleans, a traditional center of voodoo. These zombies are a random threat, just like the other supernatural characters in this book, creatures like vampires and werewolves. Chemical-induced zombies are more like zombies from the video game Resident Evil, which is frequently alluded to in this text. See our "Shout-Outs" for every reference to this creepy franchise.
Kenyon creates a brand-new kind of zombie: the video game zombie. We dissected this (gross pun intended) a bit in our section on video games. But these "zombies" create a complication for Nick. Their zombie-tude is temporary.
In horror movies, you always encounter the best friend/former lover/parent who is turned into a zombie and must be tragically killed by the friend/lover/child. It's always a metaphorical gut-wrenching moment, in contrast to the literal gut-wrenching moments when the zombies disembowel something.
Killing isn't an option for the video-game zombies. These fast-moving violent zombies are Nick's classmates. They're not his friends, but he still can't kill them in cold blood…mainly because their blood is so warm. That makes these zombies more dangerous to fight. They have to be subdued instead of killed, because they can be turned back to normal.
Nick and pals make a shocking discovery when they learn that an electric jolt restores these zombies' brains to normal. In many zombie stories, the most effective weapon is a shotgun to the head. Here, the most effective weapon is a cattle prod.
Depending on how deep you want to take your analysis, consider the fact that Nick is a lone wolf who acts the way he wants to act, and not how society wants him to act. He doesn't want to be a part of group just to be popular. Yet the people who run in groups are turned into zombies to be zapped like cattle. Fun plot device, or cultural commentary? You be the judge.