I don’t get much time to read books these days so finishing one over the weekend was a rare treat. What’s better, it was about zombies, and at a time when monsters are all the rage, its refreshing to read about a story that features the perspective of a stinky inarticulate undead rather than sexy, shimmering vampires, not that I have anything against the Cullens or anything.
Warm Bodies was written by first time author Isaac Marion after publishers found his short story on the internet. The story revolves around R, a zombie who is quite different from the rest of the herd. R feels things. He is smarter and looks closer to human than any other zombie and the book is told from his perspective — his musings about what he is, his uncontrollable urges, and the goings on in his life at the airport zombie community to which he belongs. One day during one of their runs, R dines on the brains of the human Perry Kelvin, an embittered security officer who was once young and idealistic before the world was ruined by the plague. R finds himself reliving the memories of the human, prompting him to save Perry’s girlfriend, Julie and hiding her from the rest of the herd. As R consumes more of Perry’s gray matter, R and Perry develop a bond in R’s consciousness, and this arouses leftover feelings of humanity that R has long forgotten — among them feelings of love and affection for Julie’s, whose fiery spirit intrigues him. But what future awaits a zombie who falls for the Living? And is there really any way for Julie to share the feelings of an Undead (no matter how nicely he cleans up (as the book describes).
I thought that Warm Bodies was a great read in a sense that R’s conversational narrative gives readers a clear perspective of his personality — they can’t help but relate to this unique, insightful and eloquent (at least in his mind) member of the undead, and his frustrations at the limitations that his condition represents. As I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but empathize with R, as he navigates his way among his fellow zombies and tries to reclaim feelings he had when he was still part of the living. This, even before he met Julie, who became the catalyst of his evolution.
I especially liked the first part of the book where Marion establishes how things work at the airport — his classification of zombies into categories like Fleshies and Bonies, and how they have established a heirarchy and a society of their own. Marion gives life to the story by his vivid description of surroundings and characters that interact with R, especially his friend M. I could just picture M, a jock type ‘ladies man’ who backs up his bro no matter what. I liked the fact that even when M did not understand what was happening, his loyalty to his friend took precedence above his doubts. What makes Warm Bodies such an easy read is that Marion injects his own brand of humor in a world run over by the undead and democracy has been replaced by dictatorship in order for the remaining humans to survive. Zombies can be witty too, and this is quite a different way to present the slow moving, brain eating bunch.
I actually kind of liked the part where Julie was being kept at the airport because nobody has really taken a look at how zombies interact with each other within a community, and it was refreshing to spend time with them and analyze their actions, even for a little while. When the location shifted to the city, it became less exciting because the Stadium was described pretty much like most dystopian cities in other novels.
I thought that the parallelism between the community of zombies and the society within the walls of Citi Stadium was well done — at the airport, humans are used to teach the little ones how to hunt and in the Stadium, the undead are used as training practice for young soldiers. And no matter which camp, the leaders are trying to help the others survive, even if it involved extremes such as brainwashing (Yes, even in the zombie camp). This excellently depicts how despite the differences, there are still similarities between the warring camps.
This book is not for everybody though, as purists (and Walking Dead fanatics) may not appreciate the explanation behind how zombies came to be (The book was pretty vague about it). It also does not follow common Undead mythos but one must understand that this was not really the central focus of the story. Even the explanation for the cure is riddled with loopholes, but this is, after all, a work of fiction and everything is plausible no matter how farfetched.
I just like the ideology that the book communicates and the story between R and Julie’s story, was very sweet. I also liked the vulnerability of the characters, especially the zombies and thought that the main zombie characters R and his best buddy M were adorable, even if for most of the story, they were snacking on brains and were reeking from all of their kills.
Warm Bodies depicts the world filled with tragedy and loss but it also presents hope and inspiration. It also deals with peace and forgiveness and an openness to understanding what we normally we would shut our minds to. It also manages to present a cute love story in the midst of all the chaos. The story pushed the envelope and went beyond blood and guts and brains and succeeds in coming out with a touching romance that would bring life back to the deadest of hearts. All in all, a great debut from Isaac Marion.