In Warm Bodies* by Isaac Marion, what we’ve all been waiting for has finally happened. The zombie apocalypse has devastated the human population and the zombies continue to terrorize the few remaining survivors. Living in stadiums, the humans are subsisting on nutritional supplements, faux food, and what little they can grow.
R is a zombie, but he’s a little different. He can produce some speech patterns (I believe his record is five syllables) and his rot rate is slower than the rest. He knows he’s a bit of an outsider, living in an abandoned airplane and spending little time with others of his kind. His differences are exacerbated when he leads a hunting party into a nearby city and consumes Perry, a young man with a lovely girlfriend. By eating Perry, he relives his memories and becomes enamored with the aforementioned Julie. This piqued curiosity causes him to do something unexpected – he saves her.
Make no mistake; this is a zombie love story. As you can infer from the synopsis, a human and a zombie fall in love. Thankfully, it is not a Twilight version of a human and an undead being falling for each other (I’ll admit to being a little nervous with Stephenie Meyer’s quote on the front, clearly she and I don’t see eye to eye on what constitutes a lovable character). Could Warm Bodies be considered the literary equivalent of cotton candy – all fluff, no substance? Sure, but that’s not how I read it. Instead, it’s a loose retelling of R(omeo) and Julie(t) with a delightful philosophical subtext about what exactly constitutes living.
Though an adult classification could fit too, I do consider Warm Bodies to be more of a YA novel, it certainly reads like one (this is not an insult, though the author isn’t necessarily fond of the YA designation). Being suitable for young adults has no bearing on intelligent writing, interesting characters, or novel concepts – all of which this book possesses. The only thing that struck me as incongruous was R’s inner monologue. It was strikingly intelligent, though R was supposed to be a zombie with little capability of such thinking. However, I would rather be surprised by intelligence than by stupidity any day.
Despite my love for all things macabre, I don’t read a lot of zombie literature. I’ve only read two and a half before this (the half is for Sarah Langan’s The Missing, are those things zombies? Dunno). If you’re looking for intellectual, literary zombie fiction – read Zone One, it’s excellent. If you’re looking for an action packed account of a zombie war (with a movie that looks absolutely nothing like the novel), check out the fair World War Z. If you’re looking for a slyly humorous, Shakespearean zombie novel with a little romance, read Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. It’s short, sweet, and unlikely to cause any irreparable harm.
*I received Warm Bodies from Random House/Vintage via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
This is a tough one to recommend food for, given the constraints of a zombie’s diet. However, Julie thinks Pad Thai is fantastic and I can’t argue with that.