Review – Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies

Reader beware: here there be spoilers. This is a discussion, NOT a review. We (the glorious and fearsomely beautiful powers that be) shall be reviewing the book, yes, but we do so to open a discussion based upon intimate details in the plot. Please do not read further unless you’re either taking part in the discussion or you don’t care about being spoiled.

If you do and you are, don’t come crying to us.

You’ve been warned.

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Hello, dear friends, Meghan here! I know, I know, we’ve been missing for quite some time, but this past month has redefined the meaning of “March Madness” for myself and the lovely Diana.  However, we have returned and I have a great many thoughts on Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies.  

Edit by Diana: Yes, crazy indeed! I now commute two hours each way to work everyday. This leaves time on the way home to read, but not much time to blog or be online (my commute to work is spent napping; I’m on a train, I can do that). So hopefully we’ll settle into a better schedule and you’ll be getting more content from both Meghan and I. We know you’ve missed us, lovely subscribers…oh, wait, that’s right. NO ONE’S SUBSCRIBED TO THE BLOG YET! Seriously people, get off your butts! You want to find out when we post something? To get involved with the reviews? To have a chance at winning this month’s participation prize? Subscribe! We don’t care about numbers, but we DO care about people taking part in these book discussions and knowing is half the battle in that respect.

Oh, and by the by, this month’s participation prize is a copy of Cassie J. Sneider’s Fine Fine Music. Say “pretty please” and I may even get it signed by her 😉

I have to admit, I haven’t read a huge amount of zombie fiction – it only really started to ping on my radar this past year and I haven’t had enough time to really get into the genre yet, although what I have read of the genre has made me insatiable for more.  With that in mind, let me just say that I liked Warm Bodies a great deal.

I was wary, at first, because I’d seen the commercials for the movie and I got the feeling that they’d… tweaked the book a bit so they could make into a zombie Twilight-esque rom-com for the masses.  Which, no.  Ew, no.  I was also relieved it wasn’t as Romeo and Juliet-esque as its marketing had made it out to be, because you guys, I’m sorry if I’m the first one to break this to you, but – Romeo and Juliet were stupid.  Plus, I really hate reading about lovers dying in a giant tragic ending of martyrdom.  (I’m a happy ending kind of girl, which you will learn about me eventually, I am sure.)  There were many small details that made you aware that this was someone taking Romeo and Juliet and turning it on its head, but you could also read it and not feel as though you were constantly reminded of this fact.

Despite my misgivings, once I started the book, I was hooked.  First confession: I have a great deal of affection for books where readers are just dropped right into the story, without a whole chapter of ridiculous back story.  Don’t TELL me what kind of world this story takes place in, who these characters are, what they’ve been up to – SHOW ME.  When it’s done right, you just feel like you’ve sunk into a really comfortable bath.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Either way, it took me about halfway through the first chapter, but I was able to sink right into this world once I got over the cynical half of my brain that was convinced I would hate this book and it would be a horrible waste of my time.

From the first page, readers see this new world through the mind of R, a young man of indeterminate age who also happens to be a zombie – and it’s definitely an interesting perspective.  R can’t remember who he was, where he came from, or anything else about his life before he became a zombie, but R still isn’t exactly your normal zombie.  Sure, he stumbles around groaning with the rest of the zombie herd he lives with at an abandoned airport somewhere in what used to be North America.  However, he also listens to Frank Sinatra on vinyl and wishes he could remember his name.  Although he doesn’t want to, R must eat living not only to keep existing, but also because consuming a living brain is the only time when R gets vivid, effervescent flashes of human emotion and life.  It is on a hunting trip for food (re: brains) that R consumes the brain of a human boy and effectively changes the world as they know it.  (Side note: how much do I wish I could change the world just by eating a burger? A LOT, THAT’S HOW MUCH.)

I really loved R as a character, which I was not expecting.  I loved the way that his quiet mind was so eloquent, but all those words were trapped inside a body that could barely get complete sentences out most of the time.  I loved the way he observed the world around him with such yearning, such aching to feel alive again, and yet such detachment from the actual world.  Perry’s memories were a nice part of the story as well.  The way that they interacted with R’s awakening and his relationship with Julie was well done, I thought.  I liked how they gradually built up from R simply experience parts of Perry’s life to R actually conversing with Perry in this memory/dream-like moments.  It would have been jarring had the audience not been gradually introduced to the idea that Perry was involved somehow in what was going on.  Also, the way Marion described the rest of the zombies and their interactions, hierarchy and routines was both interesting and hilarious.

Marion was actually quite good at that, I thought, weaving together the darkness of this world that crumbled and descended into chaos and zombies and death and then also the funny, whimsical world that hummed inside R’s mind and then with Julie and Nora as well.  One of my favorite images was that of Julie’s house with her father, with its blank, white, lifeless walls – until you arrived at Julie’s room, where you had walls painted every color and covered in stolen Salvador Dalí paintings, flooding the room with enough life to almost make up for the blankness of the rest of the house.  Life and death.  A blank, white void and an explosion of color and personality.  I really liked the juxtaposition.

Seriously, don’t believe the movie trailers.  This is not some ridiculous romantic love story like Twilight except funnier and with zombies.  It’s actually a story that was thoughtful and subtle (until the end, at least), and a love story that deserves NOT to be linked with Twilight for the rest of its life, jeez.  As I hinted at before, the end might be a bit heavy-handed, in my opinion, but I honestly didn’t think it detracted from the quality of the story.

All in all, it probably won’t go down as one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, but I still enjoyed it a great deal and I still definitely recommend checking it out.  It was well-written with excellent pacing and fascinating world-building, I thought.  I found R’s inner thoughts to be the most compelling character of the story, with their combination of vague sadness and wistfulness and yet also a bright curiosity and hope.  Now, onward to find more brains – er, zombie stories – to consume!

PS – Did anybody else imagine Julie Taylor from “Friday Night Lights” the whole way throughout this book? No? Just me? Sigh.  I always see her face now whenever I see anyone named Julie.  Plus, I always get the urge to chant “Clear eyes, full hearts – can’t lose!” at the television whenever there’s a football game on.  Damn you, FNL, for infecting me with any kind of feeling about football!

PPS – Do any of you other lovely readers think the inclusion of Dalí was intentional?

PPPS – Did anyone else picture the show “Revolution” while reading this, and feel a bit bitter over the fact that it isn’t anywhere near as awesome as this book? Seriously, I had such hope when I heard about the premise for that show, and then they took those hopes and crushed them with terrible writing, inconsistent characters, and implausible plot-lines.

Okay, seriously, I’m done with my thoughts now.  What did y’all think?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Review – Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies

  1. I, for one, LOVED the book! But I have to say, I don’t think the ending was that far-fetched. Yes, it had hints of Deus ad Machina,but not much. I believe the end was more a discourse on the transformative power of love, as well as on how dispair and hopelessness can seep into your bones and make you alive-yet-already-dead. I mean, it wasn’t like R and Jules kissed and suddenly the world was all zombie-free puppy dogs and rainbows. It’s just that, in the face of such powerful and pervasive hope, the hopeless lost their self-identity and became…well, hopeless in their hopelessness.

    What I REALLY want to talk about, though, are the parallells between Romeo and Juliet!

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