It’s all fun and games until you realize those around you, dressed up as zombies, are, in fact, the literal undead. Such is the scene that unfolds in Zombie Run, a novel by Dwayne Perkins and Koji Steven Sakai that details the zombie apocalypse in a fashion like no other. Ten years after a zombie outbreak occurred during the Zombie Run 5k - a race in which runners are kitted out as zombies - survivors Hanson and Alicia struggle to go unnoticed by the massive population of zombies that have taken over the world.
Zombie Run tells the story of a society dominated by the undead, who, when not searching for their next human meal, have taken to going about their normal, pre-zombie routines. They ride the tram, they go to their jobs, and even have an overly healthy sex drive. To be a human in such an environment requires significant acting skills - one must dress and behave like a zombie so as not to be eaten, being careful to not sweat, bleed, sneeze or cry, all of which would only draw unwanted undead attention.
Hanson is a quiet young man who has been living with his undead brother, Rick, since The Fall, having to pretend he’s a zombie whenever he’s around him. Devotedly showing up to his job each day, he is shocked to discover a beautiful coworker he’s never seen before. While this would normally evoke excitement, Hanson remains convinced of Alicia’s undead status, constantly looking for any subtle sign of humanity. Unbeknownst to him, Alicia is sizing him up in similar fashion. Eventually, the two discover that each is, indeed, a living, breathing person and soon form a romantic bond.
Let’s face it: dating is hard. Factor in the knowledge that everyone around you is a hungry zombie, and trying to manage a genuine, loving relationship is all but impossible - for some, that is. But as Hanson is introduced to an underground network of survivors, it becomes clear that not even the zombie apocalypse can remove the drama from dating.
Perkins and Sakai offer up a truly original concept, in that life goes on even when everyone around you has perished or views you as a tasty treat - even if that life involves shuffling around, emotionless and going through the motions for lack of something better to do. Zombie Run does well to highlight the fact that all of us are slaves - or zombies - to our modern lives, and suddenly having no heart beat doesn’t change that fact. We find comfort in our routines and safety in that with which we are familiar, undead or not.
While Zombie Run could do with some minor editing, it is ultimately an exciting and unique zombie tale that entertains throughout, addressing issues like human-zombie sex, being able to call yourself by any name you choose, and the reality of surviving on a diet of cow brains. Perkins and Sakai are very adept at character development, adding layers to their characters that serve to hook the reader completely, evoking sadness, laughter (which is no surprise, given Perkins’ work as a stand-up comedian), hope and excitement until the very end. For any fan of the zombie genre, Zombie Run is a must-read and comes in at 4/5 stars from this reviewer.
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