My introduction to Warm Bodies came in the form of its movie trailer and to say I was slightly mortified at the idea would be somewhat of an understatement. Once I discovered the premise was actually born in a book, my resolve started softening and my interest was piqued. Ordering Warm Bodies took a couple of pep talks with myself about how a zombie love story might actually work in some odd universe. After all, zombies are fantasy creatures anyway – they don’t exist and therefore can be whatever someone imagines. I chastised myself on being so small-minded. Zombies must surely deserve love, too. Necrophilia be damned.
So, yes, I placed my order and apprehensively awaited the book’s arrival. In the meantime I read numerous reviews which seemed defiantly positively slanted to the complete mystification of the reviewers themselves. Had Isaac Marion managed to hit a homerun with this absurd little Romeo and Juliet re-telling?
Finally, Warm Bodies appeared in my mailbox and I greedily opened its pages and by the time the first chapter had ended I was ready to buy myself a Team R t-shirt. Screw sparkly vampires, love sick zombies are the shiz.
In Marion’s world, the traditional zombie apocalypse has ocurred for one reason or another – he never really gives too much back story, just dumps us in the middle of the aftermath. Humans are hanging on by a thread and zombies are enjoying abundant amounts of BRAINS. Then there’s Rrrr…he doesn’t quite remember his name, but thinks it perhaps started with an R sound. R’s problem is that he’s starting to question this whole dead corpse thing. He’s beginning to believe there’s more for the zombie afterlife than stumbling and groaning around abandoned airports. On a visit to town for, you guessed it, more BRAINS, R eats the brain of one particular teenage boy, Perry. While munching on the chewy morsal, R is inundated with images and memories from Perry’s past. These little snipits of human life awaken something in R’s dead heart, specifically those memories of Perry’s girlfriend, Julie. R’s in love.
Marion’s zombies are almost unrecognizable in Warm Bodies. He’s in no way staying true to zombie lore so purists will be disappointed. Zombies who are able to think and who’s very humanity is finding its way back will probably read fairly offensively to those who are unable or unwilling to purge themselves of this FICTIONAL mythology. What hasn’t changed from the zombie norm is Marion’s continuation to use these rotting bastions of humanity as topical cultural commentary. Instead of roving through the reasons the human race has destroyed itself, Marion alternately chooses to explore how humanity will be saved. Felt like a breath of fresh air during the current zombie craze.
The novel’s comedic timing and dry wit also helped win me over. I laughed out loud multiple times and grinned through probably half of the novel. Marion’s also a superb writer. His turns of phrase are both brilliant and sharply honest. He’ll make you see life and self-discovery in new ways. R is an utterly charming lead with quite a unique perspective on both his dead and living peers. The love story’s oddity doesn’t distract from the potency of R and Julie’s connection, but rather strengthens it and leaves you with this satisfyingly sweet relationship. A relationship that should not exist, that should not work, but does while simultaneously warming up all those frozen, dead hearts readers can sometimes harbor within their chests. In some weird way, reading R’s story almost felt like reading for the first time.
I wish my review could just end there with y’all believing that Warm Bodies was quite possibly the most perfect book written this century. However, that would be dishonest and make me a bad blogger! Marion’s story starts off super strong, but hits a point somewhere in the middle where the pacing goes a bit wonky and everything slows down. The ending is also less that stunning and with some largely gaping plot holes and moments of extreme suspension of belief that bothered me. I also never felt particularly attached to Julie. Perhaps she just paled in comparison to the awesomeness that was R. He’s a hard zombie man to live up to.
Luckily, none of these problems was enough to deter my overall happiness. This story was one that had my imagination working overtime. I kept trying to play the scenes out in my head or trying to see the stadium where the humans lived in makeshift shanty tower-like structures. Isaac Marion’s world manages ironically to feel so very alive. I couldn’t put it down and could not wait to go see the movie. Which I rushed out to do IMMEDIATELY upon finishing! Highly recommended!
Go see it. Even if you haven’t read the book. It’s a perfect Valentine’s Date movie or any other date movie. The comedy is spot on and my entire theater laughed many times. Even the guys – perhaps even the men more so. And Nicholas Hoult as R was the perfect casting. All the charm oozed. I think I liked movie Julie better than book Julie to be honest. Not a Twilight rip-off or even closely related. I’ll even go so far as to say the movie’s ending, while still somewhat lacking, felt better constructed than the novel’s. That’s high praise, folks. It is what it is and somehow, it works.