Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (2010)
Hard to believe this book came out this long ago, and I’m only just now reviewing it. But this is the review I’ve been promising everyone since I read it – though the Dearly review had to come out first. Because without Habel’s Nora – I never would have met Marion’s. (Spoilers below the cut.)
Warm Bodies, for those that didn’t see the movie, is about a zombie by the “name” of R – that’s all he remembers. R lives in an airplane, a relic left after what the kids would call the “zombie apocalypse” occurred, and seems to know that he’s got more going on in his undead brain than the average zombie. He thinks about things – he wonders about his existence – he collects old vinyls that he finds and listens to them because they sound “more alive”. And he’s got a record of four or five syllables all strung together in speech before it gives out on him.
And as per all good story, here comes the monkey wrench. While out hunting for food, R and his friends run into a living away team. Marion’s reasoning for why zombies eat brains – aside from necessity – is that by eating a person’s brain, the zombie is able to relive some of that person’s past. And R’s latest feed gives him a lot of fond memories about a girl named Julie – who’s still in the room with him.
In a moment of clarity? emotion? desperation? R takes Julie back to the plane with her – and then has to determine what he’s going to do with a living girl that he hasn’t converted to the undead walk.
Marion manages to weave a tale that you don’t realize is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet until suddenly Julie’s on a balcony and you smack yourself for not seeing it coming. R is believable and sympathetic, Julie is headstrong but clearly haunted by the world she lives in, the other zombies have just enough spark of life for you to hold onto, and the other living members of the story like Nora and Perry, Julie’s friends, finally tie off your belief in the world. General Grigio, Julie’s father (and may I comment on how much I love the names in Marion’s book) is a perfect antagonist to the “romance” between R and Julie. (I do use the word a bit loosely, though it is in fact a romance story.) M is a wonderful bit of comic relief for R’s scenes away from Julie.
Coming in having already seen the movie, I was ready to say all the things about book-to-movie transitions, and so forth – since often I/one likes whichever one sees first – and I’m not going to. While the movie was very much a fair adaptation of the book, I am definitely a fan of the book. Marion has a way with words that you simply cannot recreate on the screen, despite Nicholas Hoult’s splendid acting. There is a depth and a wonder to R, and his journey with Julie, that you lose in a transition. Seeing the entire end of the book unfold (which I won’t spoil for those that might read it later) was nothing short of magical – and I understand how trite that sounds.
It’s Romeo and Juliet in reverse – and perfectly orchestrated.
I’ve heard rumours of a sequel, and I’d be willing to fly out to Seattle and play personal assistant to Isaac Marion if I thought it might get him to write me more of R and Julie. Definitely a wonderful book, and worth the time to pick up and read. (I’ve read it at least two or three times by now, and fully intend to read it many, many more.)
Final rating: ***** (Must Read)