After spending most of this weekend slogging through another 4% in Les Miserables (I swear that I’m actually enjoying it, just sort of the way you’d enjoy doing “laps” in one of those infinity pools), I decided to take a breather last night and knock out a book I’ve been meaning to investigate since trailers for its movie adaptation starting popping up on my radar—Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies.
As the movie previews suggest, Warm Bodies is a remarkably similar premise: Zombie “R” spends his days meandering around an airport with his fellow undead—including best friend “M”—but during a routine search for food he stumbles across Julie, a human who we later discover just so happens to be the daughter of the military general in charge of preserving whatever semblance of humanity is left. R doesn’t fall in love with Julie so much as feel something, which, when you’re dead, is enough to provoke a bit of curiosity. Over the course of the novel, R and Julie become friends, and through said friendship (plus all to-be-expected romancing) R finds himself becoming more and more human, a development that not only spells good things for the prospect of Julie not committing necrophilia, but also for the fate of those millions upon millions of other zombies in this post-apocalyptic world. After all, if one can start feeling again, couldn’t they all?
Although zombies are one of the happening supernatural creatures of 2013—thank you, The Walking Dead—Marion does a great job of creating a zombie world that adopts all the typical fixings of the undead, plus some extras. The zombies in Warm Bodies have the capacity for limited speech and thought; they’ve formed semi-communities whose perks include bizarre religious ceremonies and a zombie training school for undead kids. They have friendships, sort of, and get “married,” sort of. Generally speaking, they seem less removed from not only humanity, but mere human-ness, than we are perhaps used to in books/movies/TV shows of this ilk.
All of this makes it much more believable—and endearing—to watch R rediscover his humanity. Since Warm Bodies is told in first person—something I’m glad the movie chose to adopt as narration; his pithy internal monologues are what make the book great—we as readers are privy to R’s thoughts as he discovers what it is to have a feeling, any feeling, about anything, and subsequently many feelings about many things. R also happens to be appreciably funny.
Warm Bodies does have a few mystical elements that I’ll be interested to see adopted in the movie. For example, when zombies in R’s world eat brains, they experience their victim’s memories (generally speaking, Marion easily makes up for the book’s inherent love story cheesiness with delightfully casual discussions of injury, death and brain-eating). There’s also the matter of the Boneys, a group of exceedingly old zombies (essentially skeletons) whose unspoken leadership of the overall zombie hoard comes into question when R starts resisting zombie traditions. Are the Boneys zombies? Aliens? Really old malevolent forces raised from the center of the earth to wipe out humanity? Who knows.
Overall, I really really enjoyed Warm Bodies, and am excited to see the movie (because really, who knew that weird-looking kid from About a Boy would turn out decently attractive?) As zombie stories go, it’s fun and quirky, but still speaks to that greater question that accompanies all plague or plague-esque end-of-world scenarios: Why did this happen?
Plus, it’s a nice break from the French Revolution.
TITLE: Warm Bodies
AUTHOR: Isaac Marion
PAGES: 239 (in paperback)
ALSO WROTE: In his words, nothing else that’s “worth your time.”
SORTA LIKE: Shaun of the Dead with some romance
FIRST LINE: “I am dead, but it’s not so bad.”