R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, noidentity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.
After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and stragely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.
I am embarrassed to admit this has been sitting on my shelves since BEA last year (as in 2011). To be honest, I'd forgotten I even had it at one point, and had been eyeing it up to buy at Chapters. Ugh! I obviously have way too many books. Just don't let anyone I love know I just admitted that ok? Well the hubby is fine, he has the same addiction, but nobody else ok? The rest of our families think we're insane. Cats and books, seriously, mmm, and maybe good food, our vices are a bit unusual. This is maybe why we're such a good match.
It's no secret I have a thing for zombie books. It started three years ago with the first inaugural Giving me the Creeps October, when a blogger (alas now long gone) suggested I try out Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth. And although my library isn't exactly teeming with zombie books, it does have a large shelf dedicated to them in all their various glories. There are many things I love about zombie stories, but one of the things I like the most is the wide varieties of interpretations. Every author seems to bring some new and intriguing twist to the genre and I'm always impressed by how surprised I can still be by them. But I also love the way they highlight humanity and what it means to be human. Whether it be by showing a society that's been broken so long, nobody remembers what the world was before, or by showing the crumbling as it happens.
Marion has introduced a whole new level to zombies with his Warm Bodies. Written from a zombies perspective, Marion has romanticized the search for what it means to be human in a world seemingly devoid of any hope or romance. Set well into the zombie apocalypse, where things have become just a matter of survival, where all hope of a cure has been well and truly crushed, Marion introduces R, a zombie who seems to be evolving, and Julie, the one girl who hasn't had all hope wrung out of her. Together they set out to achieve the impossible, to convince the defeated humans there is always hope.
Beautifully written, R's perspective, and Julie's lack of overwhelming hate, combine to create a very unusual love story. Marion's tale reads like a love letter to those willing to bring about change, the optimists, the believers.
I rub my palm into a recent gash on my forearm, and although it's nearly dry now, I manage to collect a thin smear of blood. I slowly spread this ink on her cheek and down her neck. She shudders, but doesn't pull away. She is, at the bottom of everything, a very smart girl."Okay?" I ask, raising my eyebrows.She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, cringes at the smell of my fluids, then nods. "Okay."I walk and she follows, stumbling along behind me and groaning every three or four steps. She is overdoing it, overacting like a high school Shakespeare, but she will pass. We bump through crowds of Dead, large hunting parties shambling past us on both sides, and no one glances at us. To my amazement, Julie's fear seems to be diminishing as we walk, despite the obvious peril of her situation. At a few points I catch her fighting a smile after letting out a particularly hammy moan. i feel an unfamiliar but pleasant sensation in my lips, tugging them upward.This is...new.It's especially effective with R as the narrator. To see the change through his eyes, and to hear his internal struggles to be more, to be better than he is.
Julie looks at me like she's waiting for more, and I wonder if I've expressed anything at all with my halting, mumbled soliloquy. Are my words ever actually audible, or do they just echo in my head while people stare at me, waiting? I want to change my punctuation. I long for exclamation marks, but I'm drowning in ellipses.
Marion was recently talking about a sequel on Twitter, and although this can be read as a very satisfying one off, I have to say I look forward to more about these fantastic characters. I want to see if M gets it on with Nora, or what happens to the Boneys, and obviously, I'm dying to see what happens with Julie and R.
A fantastically unusual twist to the zombie genre, this is a flesh eating story with heart.
Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion
Published by Atria, April 26th, 2011
My copy obtained at the BEA