Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Publisher: Atria
Pages: 256 (Paperback)
Published: April 2011
Series: Warm Bodies
Source: Gift (Kindle edition)
ISBN-13: 978-1476717463
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies, Horror, Romance
Author: Twitter | Blog

First Sentence: I am dead, but it's not so bad.

R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.

And then he meets a girl.

First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.

Goodreads Overview
Warm Bodies was inventive, fun, and at times dramatic. I enjoyed the first person perspective of "R" as he breaks away from the mundane existence of being one of the walking dead.

When we meet R, he is stuck in the monotony of undeath. He doesn't know how long he had been a zombie, nor did he have any recollection of his life before he was turned. His best friend M is a ladies man, or the closest to a ladies man you can be when you're a zombie. The world that R lives in is a much different world than we're accustomed to in most zombie movies. The walking dead in this book have the ability to speak, though their vocabulary is limited. They form fictive kinships through their zombie hives where children are taught the way of the afterlife, they hold workshop services and even marriages. "Hunting parties" even bring back food for those left in the hive. In a lot if ways, life for R and his kind isn't much different than it is for their human counterparts, aside from that whole surviving on brains thing.

On a fairly routine hunting trip, R meets Julie and immediately he feels something. Julie seems special and he takes her back to his home in the airport where he lives in a long abandoned 747. He's intrigued by her and by the way he makes her feel, which is unique for a walking corpse. I'm reminded of the part in Hocus Pocus after Billy turns against Winifred Sanderson and Max says, "He's a good zombie." That's exactly what R is. He knows that there must be more to (un)life. What unfolds is a story of what could happen if the zombie plague could somehow be cured. No one knows how it began, but through something once R meets Julie, they set off a chain reaction and the superior zombies, known as boneys don't know how to deal.

The book is well written. I like that its from the first person perspective and R makes a great protagonist. R thinks much more eloquently than he can speak and we get his inner monologue and reflection about every situation that he's placed in. From the sensation of listening to Frank Sinatra to drinking alcohol, we are privy to his innermost thoughts. M is a nice foil for R. He's a ladies man that's living it up for someone that doesn't have a pulse. They have some nice conversations in the airport and while he doesn't seem to gain the full trust of Julie, he does help her out.

The main villain of the story is the zombie plague itself. It takes people away from their lives, halts their progression, and prevents children from aging. As a reaction, the living are forced to go into hiding, protect their families from the zombie threat and target anything that could be identified as "the other." This puts Julie in a tough situation when we find out that her father General Grigio, is responsible for the safety and general well-being of those living in their stadium community.

The story is well paced. It's split into three parts, with each part having a theme. R grows as a character throughout the story, as he realizes that not only is he changing, but the change is affecting the zombie populace. One interesting twist comes with the ability for the zombie to delve into the thoughts and memories of those whose brains they consume. This allows them to relive the persons's life. This is an integral part of the story of Warm Bodies and the author was very inventive with his way of depicting R's experiences. This also helps us to better understand the characters of Perry and Julie. 

In the end, Marion presents a unique interpretation on the zombie mythos while at the same time making us think about humanity. His story is all about connections and the way in which we as people connect with one another. It also shows how a person grows and how growth can be helped or hindered by others. There is nothing shallow about this story.

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