We’re kicking off Zombie Love Month with Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Warm Bodies is the story of an unusual zombie, known only as R, who meets a Living girl named Julie and sets off a chain reaction that can only be described as enlivening.
One of my favorite things about this book was the insight into the zombie side of things. Zombie shows and movies will sometimes raise the question of how much humanity remains to the walking dead, but usually it’s only after a loved one has been turned/infected/raised. Cue heartbreaking slow-motion scene with the comrades dragging the screaming mourner out of the new zombie’s murderous grasp. Marion, on the other hand, creates a fascinating subculture where the most skeletal zombies (the Boneys) act as village elders and newly dead kid zombies are adopted by married zombie couples. With Marion’s zombie society, it’s back to basics: food, shelter. Safety in numbers. Companionship. It’s endearing, but more than that it represents the urge to do more than exist which is undeniably human. Marion’s zombies can barely speak, but they still look for ways to live, well, normally.
ON TRUE LOVE’S KISS
Warm Bodies is a love story, and it’s one that feels genuine and well-paced, unlike so many on the market these days. R’s instant fascination with Julie has a lot to do with the bits of her boyfriend Perry’s brain he’s ingested–love at first sight by proxy, almost. But his affections develop over the course of the novel beyond the memories of that former relationship. They become less Perry’s and more his own, and his “healing” parallels the growth of his feelings. Love literally quickens his flesh. His transformation from limit-four-syllables corpse to silver-eyed superhuman also sparks life back into Julie, who up until meeting R had been resisting a different kind of zombification. Their relationship is about trust and that certain inexplicable something that leads you to first share parts of yourself with a stranger.
But again, it’s not just about their love itself. It’s about what love represents. Love of all kinds forms the backbone of society, and R and Julie falling for each other kick-starts the convergence of the divergent remaining sides of the human race. Rebuilding isn’t just about staying alive. It’s about adapting. Warm Bodies takes a different approach than your typical tale of the the shambling dead. Zombies aren’t living, but they aren’t dead either. Usually zombie stories have living heroes trying to make the zombies definitely dead. This time the zombies are coming back to life, and the world along with them.
I completely love this book. R as a narrator is charming as hell, pairing dark humor with a persistent but subtle curiosity. The pacing of the story and the descriptions of the setting are just right: the pace steady without barreling on and leaving you behind (as sometimes happened with Anita Blake), and the details are woven into the action seamlessly. There are a few things left unexplained, such as what iteration of zombie this is (virus, voodoo curse, psychosomatic self-fulfilling prophecy?) and why exactly Perry’s consciousness lingers in R (I ended up imagining it kind of like Echo in Dollhouse). I look forward to the prequel, The New Hunger, and hopefully other sequels and companions to flesh out this innovative new universe.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Recommended for: everyone who has eyes.