It starts off like your typical love story: Boy meets girl, they are confused by their feelings, and they dream of a happily-ever-after. Except this time, the boy is a zombie, while the girl is not. Throw in a little Stockholm syndrome, great classic music selections, an impending battle between the living and the dead, and you have Warm Bodies.
Warm Bodies is set in a post-apocalyptic nameless city in America, with groups of humans left scattered across the country. R is the narrator of this tale, a zombie with consciousness, and a slow developing conscience. The humans however, have no clue about this active mind some of the undead have. The dead greatly outnumber the living, but neither side seems to be better off than the other. Life has become mechanical and monotonous for both sides.
R meets Julie Grigio on one of his routine hunts, when he eats her boyfriend’s brains and feels drawn to this female human, enough so as to not eat her brains. R brings Julie back to his home in an airplane at an abandoned airport. Julie is extremely confused but is reassured by R who repeats, “Keep… you… safe.” Julie finds herself confiding in him more easily than she could with most living people.
Soon, R and Julie begin doubting everything they’ve known to be true, risking their relatively stable status quo lives, to pursue the unlikely bond that forms between them. All these questions quickly identify R and Julie as outsiders to their respective peers, and tensions rise between the humans and zombies.
Throughout the entire novel, there is a recurring juxtaposition between the living and the dead, as Isaac Marion defines what is means to be living. Each party believes they are so different from the other, yet the similarities outnumber the differences.
R clings onto life, hoarding souvenirs from “hunting trips”. Records being the most important objects of his collection. Julie has also been clinging onto souvenirs of life pre-zombie-apocalypse, while her family and peers increasingly shift their focus on surviving rather than living.
R speaks with great elegance and a sense of gravitas. The irony of course, is that he doesn’t actually speak much, but readers hear his voice as he narrates in first person.
Regardless of R and Julie’s difference in bodily state, their romance still feels natural and organic. While this romance between R the zombie and Julie the human unfolds, many other themes are discussed. R is definitely the most intelligent zombie of recent times in pop culture. He questions his existence and his life throughout the whole novel. He wonders why he does certain things, and why he can’t do other things. R and Julie also begin to question the rules that exist in their respective societies.
Warm Bodies is a novel that I would definitely recommend to anyone, living or dead. The novel does ask you to accept new facts about zombies, and thus, certain elements may feel like a stretch depending on your openness to changes in the zombie lore.
Isaac Marion has an amazing way with words, and is a very skilled writer. Warm Bodies has moments of comedy, action, and of course romance. This wider span of genres means it is definitely does not limit itself by catering to only one type of reader. Despite fitting in multiple genres, the book doesn’t feel like it is confused about what kind of story it is telling, and instead feels quite well rounded.
A prequel, The New Hunger, was just released a few months ago, and a sequel is currently being written! Warm Bodies is great as a standalone book, so I am a bit skeptical of how a sequel would work, but that doesn’t mean I’m not dying to read Marion’s next installment (pun intended).
R is on a journey to find out what it means to be alive, and the readers are in for a bumpy ride. I’ve done my part to convince you to join him. Are you going to read Warm Bodies? What books are you reading right now?