You know how sometimes you pick up a book and know you’re going to love it before you’ve even finished the first chapter?
That was Warm Bodies for me. I’ve been obsessed with zombies for as long as I’ve known what a zombie was, from “they’re coming to get you, Barbara” to rage virus infected monkeys, mostly because zombies terrify me and so I want to be as prepared as possible for the impending zombie apocalypse, meaning I will read or watch or DEVOUR (mmm, brains) anything zombie-related, out of self-preservation at the very least.
I did things in the wrong order, however, as I so often do, and saw the movie before I read the book. It’s not that I didn’t WANT to read the book first, it’s just that I’d had it reserved at the library and it didn’t come in until after I saw the movie. And, sure, LOGICALLY, I could have just put off seeing the movie until the book came in but I really wanted popcorn, you guys, I’m sorry.
The book ended up coming in the next day, and if it had only come a few days earlier, I totally would have had it finished by movie time. In the end, I don’t think it mattered much. I loved the movie, I loved the book, and the two were similar enough that I only loved the book more by a teeny tiny bit, and that’s because, in the book, I got to live inside the zombie’s head. Sure, there were voiceovers in the movie but it’s not quite the same, you know?
Warm Bodies tells the story of a young zombie named R, named so because he can’t remember his real name. He doesn’t recall how he became a zombie and he doesn’t know how long he’s been a zombie. R meets a young (and live!) woman named Julie when he and his zombie friends attack Julie’s group. R eats Julie’s boyfriend, Perry, and, upon tasting Perry’s brain, R absorbs his memories and falls in love with Julie, going to great lengths to protect her for the rest of the book.
I loved this new spin on the zombie tale, a difficult endeavor, really, in this zombie-saturated landscape. Much like Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies is funny, much funnier than I expected, and the people, even the zombies, feel like actual human (or, you know, human-like) people. The zombie threat is real but there’s a real heart to the story, a cold, dead, zombie heart that warms and starts beating as the story unfolds.
This isn’t the Walking Dead, so those of you who need a little hope with your apocalypse will get that. Also, I don’t know about you, but I spent most of my time reading Walking Dead wishing that I could punch most of the characters in the face. There was no problem with that in Warm Bodies, as I deeply enjoyed the characters, especially the zombies. R, though he is a zombie, has a best friend named M (played by Rob Corddry in the movie to absolute perfection), and (in the book), even has a wife and children, assigned to him by the Boneys, the longest-dead zombies who have lost all traces of humanity.
Something I loved about Warm Bodies was that the zombies, though undead and slaves to the inevitable brain-hunger, still held onto some basic human conventions, much like how the zombies in Shaun of the Dead were able to perform the same rudimentary tasks they’d done in life. The Warm Bodies zombies go to church together, have a school of sorts (how else to teach zombie children how to kill humans?), some zombies get married and are given children, and still others even attempt some undead schmexy times (you can imagine how successful that was).
R, as he spends more time with Julie (and inside Perry’s mind, which he can access by eating the bits of Perry’s brain that he keeps in his pocket, YUMMY), starts becoming less zombie-like and more human. It’s a nice thought, that should we end up lurching about, all undead-like, we could still come back from it. Nice and hopeful, just how I like it.
If there was anything missing for me, it was just that I wanted to know how the zombie apocalypse had come about this time. But I didn’t find the book lacking because it didn’t provide this information. That’s just my preference. I always want to know how it happened. Otherwise how will we prevent it?