Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Minor spoilers included.
I adored this little book. I have quite a few issues with it, but I loved it anyway.
It’s basically Romeo and Juliet if Romeo were a zombie and the romance happened in a post-apocalyptic city. So that’s fun, right? However, the build up between “R” and Julie in this book is much more thorough than its prototype, even if R finds himself in love at first sight with our heroine.
Isaac Marion’s zombie world includes a host of zombies with some low-level forms of consciousness. They are, in effect, sleep walkers who wander in packs for hunting and live in groups, forming low-level friendships and yearning for relationships and family in a rudimentary way that is usually overpowered by their overarching desire to eat brains.
The book had some editorial errors that were unforgivable in my mind—there is a strange discrepancy about whether the zombies can die and how and there were a few gaffes that confused me. In one scene Julie takes her friend Nora’s drink away to spike it but Nora continues to sip from it and then Julie brings the drink back. Stuff like that should have been caught at some point! But I don’t blame the author for it.
[SPOILER] Early on “R” kills Julie’s boyfriend, Perry. In this world, zombies get flashes of the life of the person they killed when they eat their brains. Perry’s desperate desire to protect Julie is seemingly transferred onto R, and this is how R comes to protect her himself. R then falls for Julie after kidnapping her (presumably to save her from the other zombies but really he can’t stand to let her go). Now, killing Julie’s boyfriend should present a real problem for our star-crossed lovers—you would think that Julie would be horrified by this, but the author glazes over that very real problem by noting that Julie blames the situation—the plague that has taken over humanity and turned them into zombies—but not R personally. By glazing that over too easily—and having her basically forgive R with a “Zombie plague? Bygones!” moment, the author misses the opportunity to make Julie complex and veers her a little too far into saintly dream girl territory for me.
Despite the complaints listed above? I still think this was my favorite read of 2012 so far. Despite the handful of errors, some problematic world building issues, and the lack of complexity in Julie’s feelings? The author has created a charming narrator in R, a zombie who loves music and longs for love deep down under his grey skin. Marion makes R incredibly relatable, wistful, romantic, and a hero you find yourself truly rooting for despite the fact that he ate the brains of the heroine’s boyfriend.
The narrative moves at a swift pace, carrying the reader briskly through the plot while also imbuing R with a sense of humanity that is palpable. I found myself completely wrapped up in R’s head, the little world he builds inside it, and rooting for him and Julie completely. It’s actually the most romantic book I’ve read in a very long time.
I also found myself comparing Marion’s swift style to Stephenie Meyer. He shows a great deal more restraint than she does—his plotting is stripped down but the style itself has the same fast-paced first person narration with strong romantic overtones. And I mean all of that as a compliment since I know everybody loves to bash Stephenie Meyer but there is a reason Twilight is such a swift read and easy to get caught up in. This book has those same elements. It’s a very fun, fast, romantic read.
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