Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
R has always been a bit different than his zombie friends – if you can call them that – trying harder than most of them to hang onto his pre-zombie identity. So, perhaps it makes sense that it was R who managed to take in and keep the memories of a dying boy at the same moment that he was feasting upon his brains. R’s victim was in love with a girl named Julie, a girl who was in the same room, under the same attack, but somehow R manages to save her, and even bring him home with her. Back in the presence of the living in a non-predatory role, R begins to become more sentient, and even win Julie’s affections. How can their love survive, though, when zombies and the living are the most deadly of enemies?
I never expected to be talking about a beautifully written zombie novel, but here I am. At times, Warm Bodies verges on the poetic:
I don’t know why we have to kill people. I don’t know what chewing through a man’s neck accomplishes. I steal what he has to replace what I lack. -p. 8
The writing is lyrical and smart, including literary references to Melville and the Epic of Gilgamesh, not to mention the fact that the whole thing is essentially a post-apocalyptic version of Romeo and Juliet (R and Julie). Part of what is so interesting about Warm Bodies is that the Romeo and Juliet aspect is so subtle. Once you are alerted to it, it becomes obvious – what two groups could be more diametrically opposed than zombies and the living? – but Marion makes the story his own, instead of simply sticking to the story laid down for him by Shakespeare.
I will admit, I was very skeptical about the idea of a sentient, loving zombie, as that seemed to be the antithesis of all things zombie, but Marion makes it work beautifully. Not that there aren’t times where the improbablity of R’s character – even accepting the existence of zombies – can frustrate, but the story and the writing pull the reader through those times.
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