Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
We follow the adventures of “R,” a zombie who isn’t decayed nearly as bad as some of the other zombies. He’s described as being tall and dressed in business casual. Zombies can’t remember their life before dying, but they take on the first letter of names that the might’ve had, names that are just beyond the reach of their thoughts. Communication is limited and very simple between zombies. They struggle with words to adequately express themselves and are often distracted away from their thoughts when speaking aloud, but “R” shows a crude complexity in his thinking, which is hinted at possibly being abnormal for a zombie.
The zombies spend much of their time performing a poor emulation of human behavior. “R” lives at an airport with a hive of zombies. They use escalators, have church, even get “married” and take care of children (young zombies given to newly married zombies). They attempt to do things like have sex, but their bodies aren’t able to perform the act. “R” mentions it’s like watching a pathetic imitation of bodies bumping against each other. There’s also “school” where mostly children are taught to hunt by using live human prey. They also have a rough set of laws in place that they follow enforced by a group called the Boneys.
This book is unique because it tells the story from the point of view of a zombie instead of a human trying to survive in this world. It reimagines zombies as more than just mindless creatures. The need for flesh isn’t as simple as a driving, animalistic hunger for it, but part of a craving for something lost, something they can no longer remember. I never thought I’d read a zombie book and use words like “heartbreaking” and “tender.” But those are just two of the words that aptly describes this story.
R is presented in a self-deprecating, humorous way, but he’s easy to connect to. However, this story is touched with a tinge of sadness that made my heart ache. He wonders about his former life and struggles with not being able to express his thoughts in more than a rudimentary fashion. He is already beginning to want something he can’t quite grasp at first, but when he saves a living woman named Julie, things begin to fall into place.
It’s never mentioned what caused the zombie epidemic, but personally, I was fine with that. I didn’t need another rehash of a virus, God’s wrath, or government experiments popping up. That would’ve taken up precious space in the book. R wouldn’t know what caused it anyway, and even if he did, he might not have been able to really explain what happened to them. R is smart, but his thought process has its limits. But the cause is unknown to both human and zombie alike anyway.
One complaint I had was Nora. She just felt so out of place in the story. I liked the character, but it just seemed like she was in the wrong book. I was also a little surprised with her accepting attitude toward R all things considered, but that may apply to Julie as well. I’d read there was a novella out there about Nora, so maybe I can fill in the gaps with that and get to know her character a little more. She seems to be very optimistic despite their situation. She’s very loyal to Julie, but that’s explained in this book. And admittedly maybe the end wrapped up a little more hopeful than it should have, but I loved it. There’s nothing “usual” about this book, so I don’t necessarily see the ending being a problem.
Overall, I really loved this book. Marion took a genre that’s so rife with clichés and tropes (as with most supernatural/paranormal things these days) and found a way to make it his own. Even if I hadn’t loved it so, I would’ve still applauded his effort to be different. Also, Muse provided the perfect musical backdrop for me while I was reading this. Uprising even started playing during the ending, and it was so perfect.