Warm Bodies Series, #1
by Isaac Marion
Publisher: Atria (April 2011)
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia, Zombies, Horror
Format: eBook (239 pages)
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
R is a young man with an existential crisis–he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse. Just dreams.
After experiencing a teenage boy’s memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim’s human girlfriend. Julie is a burst of vibrant color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that R lives in. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.
Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead and the blurry line in between.
At A Glance
How the hell can a zombie book be romantic and poetic? I don’t know. Ask Isaac Marion because he pulls it off without effort.
What the hell did I just read? As long as I live, I don’t think I will ever read another book like Warm Bodies again. This is not a normal zombie book. This book has love, humor, courage, and hope. What if not all zombies were mindless killing machines? What if they wanted to feel, to talk, to smile? Warm Bodies takes us through the mind of a zombie with thoughts and feelings. R may not be able to remember his life before he died, but that doesn’t make him any less hopeful for a real life. His urges only intensify when he eats the brains of this guy Perry who happens to be in love with a girl. I think the concept of zombies reliving memories from eating their victims’ brains was genius. It gave the zombies a reason, a purpose. And as R started to fall in love with Julie through her boyfriend’s memories, I knew this book was going to keep my attention the whole time.
Warm Bodies was so many things, I don’t even know where to begin. Okay, let’s start with the humor. I laughed my ass off through this whole book. Zombie humor is my new favorite thing. Only zombies can make eating brains, getting married, “having” children, and walking mindlessly around seem hysterical. I really didn’t expect the zombies to have such a structured system within their community, and by community I mean the airport they hang out at. But they actually have weddings, adoptions, schooling, sex (you have to see how zombies have sex, you will die laughing), and they even strategies when they go hunting.
This book also has its fair share of gore. Sure, R seems nice, and he even feels bad when he kills people, but Marion does not hold back on the reality of what zombies do. They eat people alive. It’s horrific and gruesome and Marion describes it all with great detail. But then he goes and mixes it up with heartfelt moments. Moments where you forget R probably has warm flesh between his teeth, that he has a piece of brain in his pocket for later. You start to see R in a different light because we are with him every step of the way. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just dead…and hungry. And when he starts to protect Julie from the other zombies, you almost want to cry. He is so sweet. He does everything possible to make her comfortable, even facing his own final death to keep her safe.
Say No To Brains!
There was also a lot of action in this book. We go through a couple bad guys. First, it’s just other zombies who want to eat Julie, then it’s the Bonies trying to stop the progress of the zombies healing themselves, and last, Julie’s father. I won’t even start with him because I am still a little confused by his situation. I also loved the themes in this book. Even it’s tone. They all live in a dark world that is dying out slowly, but there is hope. Julie and R bring hope from some special place we will never understand. It may be silly, but sometimes love does concur all (did I seriously just way that?). I also loved how Marion never really reveals how zombies came to be. The world-building is pretty minimal since we are in the head of a zombie the whole time. It worked well though.
Will Work For Brains!
And last, I have to talk about Marion’s writing style. His prose is just freaking amazing. He doesn’t just write a zombie book, he paints us a zombie book. His writing is very poetic and deep. The meaning behind every word was not lost on me. Some of what he writes is interpretive. It causes you to think, to analyze what he is truly trying to say, not just the words he uses. And turning R into a poetic zombie who sings Frank Sinatra was perfect. We needed to get past his zombie exterior somehow, especially since the romance is a major factor in this book. So humanizing R into an intelligent, analytical being was the perfect way to do it.
What Do We Want? Brains! When Do We Want Them? Brains!
I can’t wait for the movie. It seems like they followed the book very closely when making the movie, which is nice. I also wanted to mention that many people see this as YA book but I don’t see it that way. Sure, nothing hugely sexual happens to keep it away from a YA rating, but the book has a more adult feel to me, or maybe a new adult feel. In the end, almost anyone can read this book, as long as they can get past the whole zombie romance. I know that has been the biggest complaint with readers so far.
The only thing that didn’t work for me was the ending or to be more accurate, the last fighting scene. Some of it was confusing and some of it was anticlimactic. I expected a little more.
Though this book is very romantic in a lot of ways, the physical romance is very minimal. I think that’s a good thing since R is a zombie. That’s just gross. But the way R and Julie fell for each other was simply beautiful.
Maybe this book isn’t for everyone, but I know it was sure as hell for me. It had everything I often look for in a book: humor, action, romance, a unique twist on an old concept, and a writing style that appeals to me. I am just sad it had to end at all. I hope everyone who gives this book a chance can see it for what it is: Amazeballs. Highly recommended for everyone.
Sorry, I went a little overboard on the quotes. I just couldn’t decide which ones to leave out, so I didn’t.
In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, everything collapses.
My friend “M” says the irony of being a zombie is that everything is funny, but you can’t smile, because your lips have rotted off.
I crush her against me. I want to be part of her. Not just inside her but all around her. I want our rib cages to crack open and our hearts to migrate and merge. I want our cells to braid together like living thread.
Of course if I don’t eat all of him, if I spare his brain, he’ll rise up and follow me back to the airport, and that might make me feel better. I’ll introduce him to everyone, and maybe we’ll stand around and groan for a while.
We sit against the tiles of the bathroom wall with our legs sprawled out in front of us, passing the brain back and forth, taking small, leisurely bites and enjoying brief flashes of human experience.
“Good…shit,” M wheezes.
He is gaping at a late-night soft-core movie. I don’t know why he does this. Erotica is meaningless for us now. The blood doesn’t pump, the passion doesn’t surge. I’ve walked in on M with his ‘girlfriends’ before, and they’re just standing there naked, staring at each other, sometimes rubbing their bodies together but looking tired and lost.