R is not your average zombie. He’s young, fleshy, and happens to remember the first letter of his name. His clothes – black slacks, gray shirt, and red tie are nicer than most and may mean that he was a businessmen in his former life. If it wasn’t for the gray skin, the dark under eye circles, and the strong odor, he could almost pass as Living. Wandering around with his tough zombie friend M, listening to records in his airport terminal home and dreaming of his time as a human, life is not so bad. R still hates chewing arms and eating brains, but that’s what zombies do, and he’s accepted it. Spare the brain and the corpse will rise again as a zombie, devour it and you relive the victim’s memories in a brief flash of sensory overload leaving you a little less dead before. Either way it’s a win-win situation. That is until R consumes the brains of the troubled teenage boy Perry. Reliving the memories of Perry and his girlfriend Julie, R in an inexplicable, split-second decision spares Julie from the same fate. Little does he know that his unprecedented decision to protect rather than eat Julie sparks a change in R that will unknowingly transform his fellow Dead, her people, and their entire world.
Just as it was for R when he first sets eyes on Julie, I fell hard and fast for Warm Bodies. Since I’m ambivalent to zombies in books or movies it was the unconventional romance that at first drove me to pick this up. Surprisingly though it was kind and down-to-earth R, his post-apocalyptic world, and Isaac Marion’s striking prose that had me at hello and made me a goner even before R met Julie, Marion’s book is simply that irresistible. One of the many smart and thoughtful passages from R’s perspective to which I owe my complete and utter absorption:
I don’t know why we have to kill people. I don’t know what chewing through a man’s neck accomplishes. I steal what he has to replace what I lack. He disappears, and I stay. It’s simple but senseless, arbitrary laws from some lunatic legislator in the sky. But following those laws keeps me walking, so I follow them to the letter. I eat until I stop eating, then I eat again.
How did this start? How did we become what we are? Was it some mysterious virus? Gamma rays? An ancient curse? Or something even more absurd? No one talks about it much. We are here, and this is way it is. We don’t complain. We don’t ask questions. We go about our business.
There is a chasm between me and the world outside of me. A gap so wide my feelings can’t cross it. By the time my screams reach the other side, they have dwindled into groans.
An introspective, humane, and all-around good zombie? It’s hard not to sympathize with R or hope that his seemingly irreversible fate can be reversed. After you meet Julie, who is a ray of sunshine in a dark, gritty world you’ll be hard-pressed not to lament the loss of his humanity or resist her belief in change and hope for a better future. I one hundred percent bought into their relationship, which started out with an understandingly repulsed and creeped out Julie and gradually developed into a relationship of mutual, human respect. While I found the focus on solving the undead problem at the conclusion rushed and heavy for a book that up to that point had focused merely on the small, fascinating world of R and Julie, this didn’t take away from the endearment of its protagonist or the overall charm of this story. Perfectly paced, elegantly written, and with pitch-perfect narrator R, I highly recommend Warm Bodies to zombie fans and non-fans alike. A real pageturner, it grabbed me from its deadpan first sentence and never let go. I won’t be surprised if Warm Bodies is the most unique and refreshing book I read all year nor can I wait to see what Isaac Marion writes next.