In his book BEYOND THE BARRIERS, the Washington author Timothy W Long introduces us to a curious hybrid of zombie and human called a ghoul. It’s really a fascinating idea, born from the idea that if a living human ingests the dead tissues of a zombie, they can transform into a hybrid between the two states.
Ghouls are formed when the living ingest zombie flesh. When they eat them. Disgusting as the thought of that is, it happened often enough in BEYOND THE BARRIERS that there was a small group of ghouls available for the climax of the book.
So one must ask, just how desperate to survive was that first person who cooked up some zombie fillets? Or perhaps we are better off not knowing.
So the ghouls have become something other than zombies. They can reason, know what they used to be, and can, in some fashion, command the zombies to do their bidding. The exact method is never spelled out, and the limits of the control are never tested where we can see the results. This is absolutely fine, because it allows some room for things to develop as the next book gets released.
They are still dead things, however, and can be destroyed as zombies can. This is most fortunate. If they were immune to brain damage they would quickly be able to command huge armies of zombies and destroy all life on Earth. The battles against the ghouls in the book are among the most satisfying scenes in the story.
One thing we don’t know is whether the ghouls only exist in the area the book describes (a small part of Oregon). If they are worldwide that presents a whole load of other issues, the least of which is that all over the world living people resorted to undead cannibalism. Ick. If the ghouls only exist in this small area then there is a small chance that winning the fight against the undead is possible.
The ghouls seem genuinely puzzled that the living characters they meet are still alive. It’s like they see it as a burden. The heavy ordeal of being alive weighs the living down, keeping them dependent on food and water and secure shelter. The ghouls only want to help the living get better, and by better I mean more like them. Naturally there is some resistance among the characters to being fed zombie tissue.
I look forward to the next book. I think Tim Long has created something memorable here, and I look forward to where he takes it.