I read Warm Bodies a while back in advance to watching the movie. At this time I am of the opinion that reading the book first is better because I think I generally find more enjoyment in a book than in a movie. Or rather maybe it seems that way because you get pleasure from a book for longer. I will admit it sometimes spoils the movie because I tend to really notice all the little things that they changed. In the case of Warm Bodies however although there were differences I appreciated them both but in different ways.
Zombies aren’t really my thing–either in books or in movies, but if something is good and creative, I’ll wander outside of my favorite genres. I did enjoy Zombieland, after all. I’m pretty sure I first became aware of Warm Bodies (2011) by Isaac Marion through some Cannonball Reviews. They convinced me that the book was worth reading.
I really liked this one. It was well-written and original. The tone jumped between wry, black humor and the sad loneliness of isolation. I finished the book quickly, and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.
Click here to read about my only problem with this novel.
R is a zombie. He can’t remember his full name, what he did or who was when he was alive, or even how he died. The only sounds he can make are grunts and groans, but inside his head is swimming with thought and emotion. Yes, he eats people, but it’s only logistical, he needs to continue existing. And what is this existence anyway? Well, he finds his reason when he and a group of other zombies attack a group of humans and he sees Julie. He helps Julie escape the ordeal alive, and helps her blend in and protects her. He and Julie forge a strange, tentative bond that is tested once they get out into the real world. R doesn’t want to go back to normal zombie life, and he feels like maybe, just maybe he’s learning to be human again.
I love supernatural stories, vampires, demons, ghosts, I love em all. Zombies fall under that category, but they’re toward the bottom of my list and quite frankly with zombie craze spawning a ton of books, I was a little tired out. I had seen the premise of Warm Bodies and thought “Eh, not for me. Just another attempt to wring the last idea out of a tired genre.” However, the positive buzz for this book lasted a lot longer than most others and it stayed on my radar. And then the movie came out and it looked charming and funny, so I finally broke down and read it. Sometimes, friends, I am an idiot. I was an idiot to wait that long to read this book because it is great. It was absolutely wonderful and fun to read from start to finish.
First of all, R is a very likable narrator. There is a lot of dry humor, and wry observations about human nature and not-so-human nature. His relationship with his best friend “M” (and M himself) is probably my favorite part of the book. The set up is a simple one, but Marion makes sly observations about our nature and how we identify ourselves and those around us through the zombie apocalypse. There are some bittersweet moments (for instance, the thought that they may never see a plane in the sky again) that remind us that even if the story has a happy ending, there is much that has been sacrificed, many that have been lost.
There are quite a few opportunities for clichés to rear their ugly head, and indeed I often expected them, but Marion deftly steers clear of any sappiness or unnecessary theatrics. This book is funny, thoughtful, and likeable and I found myself rooting for M and Julie the entire time. There was a subplot with the “Boneys” that I wish had been fleshed out a bit more, but it’s really a very minor complaint about what is otherwise an excellent story. I recommend this to anyone looking for a fresh, fun take on the zombie apocalypse.
Meet R. He’s a zombie. He can’t remember the rest of his name, or even who he used to be, but it was someone who died wearing a suit and tie. He spends his days, along with countless other zombies, shuffling along in an abandoned airport. Every so often, he and his fellow zombies will shuffle into the city to find food, eating some of the desperate survivors hiding out in boarded up buildings. They eat the flesh, but the brains are the best part, as they allow the zombies a brief moment to relive the memories of the person whose brain it is.
R is a bit different from the other zombies at the airport. He keeps collecting things he finds when they’re out hunting for food. Little trinkets he brings back to the 747 he’s made his home. He likes to listen to music. He prefers vinyl because the sound is purer. One day, when he, his friend M, and a bunch of others are out hunting for food, R eats the brain of a young man called Perry, and when M tries to kill Perry’s girlfriend Julie, R stops him. He finds himself inexplicably drawn to Julie, and takes her home with him to the airport. More on my blog.
As the movie previews suggest, Warm Bodies is a remarkably similar premise: Zombie “R” spends his days meandering around an airport with his fellow undead—including best friend “M”—but during a routine search for food he stumbles across Julie, a human who we later discover just so happens to be the daughter of the military general in charge of preserving whatever semblance of humanity is left. R doesn’t fall in love with Julie so much as feel something, which, when you’re dead, is enough to provoke a bit of curiosity. Over the course of the novel, R and Julie become friends, and through said friendship (plus all to-be-expected romancing) R finds himself becoming more and more human, a development that not only spells good things for the prospect of Julie not committing necrophilia, but also for the fate of those millions upon millions of other zombies in this post-apocalyptic world. After all, if one can start feeling again, couldn’t they all?
Although zombies are one of the happening supernatural creatures of 2013—thank you, The Walking Dead—Marion does a great job of creating a zombie world that adopts all the typical fixings of the undead, plus some extras. The zombies in Warm Bodies have the capacity for limited speech and thought; they’ve formed semi-communities whose perks include bizarre religious ceremonies and a zombie training school for undead kids. They have friendships, sort of, and get “married,” sort of. Generally speaking, they seem less removed from not only humanity, but mere human-ness, than we are perhaps used to in books/movies/TV shows of this ilk.
Overall, I really really enjoyed Warm Bodies, and am excited to see the movie (because really, who knew that weird-looking kid from About a Boy would turn out decently attractive?) As zombie stories go, it’s fun and quirky, but still speaks to that greater question that accompanies all plague or plague-esque end-of-world scenarios: Why did this happen?