He must have had a full name, once, but now that he’s one of the Dead, the letter R is all he remembers of his past identity. He and his friend, M, with a few of their fellow Dead, go hunting for the Living, and, on one such hunting trip, R meets a girl. Julie who brightens his colorless life and warms his cold, Dead heart. Strangely, R doesn’t want to eat her; he wants to protect her. For him to truly keep her safe, though, the hopeless world in which they live must change.
On the surface, this novel may seem to be just another Twilight spin-off, but the reality is far more delightful. With an evocative, strangely poetic voice, Warm Bodies tells a story of zombies and of love—of what it means to be alive. It has certainly launched Isaac Marion into the spotlight, and the startling beauty of this gruesome story leaves no doubt as to why. A prequel, The New Hunger, is now available as an ebook, and an untitled sequel is expected next year. Warm Bodies has even been made into a movie, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
I admit, I’ve never been a fan of zombies, except in such cutesy forms as in Plants vs. Zombies, so I don’t really know much about them. The monsters in Warm Bodies do seem to embody all the typical traits of zombies, though—they’re mindless, shambling, undead creatures in various states of decay who feed on the flesh—especially the brains—of the living. Yet R is different somehow; in some indefinable way, for some unexplainable reason, he’s not quite as mindless as his fellow Dead. He is, in fact, quite beautifully eloquent as he narrates the story, though, true to zombie form, he can’t actually express his grand thoughts vocally. This makes for the most unique viewpoint character I’ve ever read.
With our viewpoint character and narrator being a zombie, one could expect he doesn’t tend to associate much—at least on friendly terms—with the Living. One would be fairly correct. During a hunting trip, though, R saves the life of a Living girl, Julie, disguising her as Dead and then bringing her back to his hive in an abandoned airport. He promises to himself, and, when she’ll stop panicking and listen, to her, that he will keep her safe.
I certainly can’t imagine what it would be like to see my friends and associates eaten in front of me, only to be essentially kidnapped and held hostage by a zombie in a whole hive of zombies. But I found Isaac Marion’s portrayal of Julie’s behavior to be believable, certainly as realistic as anything in a speculative novel can be. The other characters, Living and Dead alike, are also generally quite believable in their actions and motivations.
Deus ex machina
The ending was, unfortunately, the one weak point of this book. The narration, prose, and uniqueness of the story were all exquisite, but the ending just didn’t feel like it had enough oomph. It felt like the resolution came too easily, without really asking anything of the characters and without enough foreshadowing. I’m sure my expectations contributed to my feelings about the ending; I was expecting a more scientific and less supernatural approach to the resolution, and so it ended up feeling a little hand-waved. Though it wasn’t enough to dampen my overall enthusiasm for Warm Bodies, I was definitely a little disappointed by the ending.
Why should you read this book?
Warm Bodies will show you a side of zombies you’ve never seen before. Read it because it’s unique in all the right ways: it’s got a unique protagonist, unique narration, and a unique take on the entire zombie mythos. On the surface, these are zombies as you know them already—mindless, shambling creatures who hunger for brains—but R is something more. And he makes something more of the rest of them.