Fantasy / Post-Apocalyptic / Zombies
When I want to purge myself of the sappy romance of YA fiction, I usually turn to one of two things: classic children’s books I somehow skipped over when I was a kid or zombies. This time around, I chose zombies, but I didn’t know much about Warm Bodies beyond the fact that it involved the undead. This is a fact that I’m very thankful of because it means I had no idea where things were going. I knew it was an unusual take on a zombie tale, which caused my brain to produce certain expectations. Isaac Marion seemed to have foreseen those expectations and hit them all in the first chapter so that we could move on to bigger, better and much different things.
This is my attempt to review a book without telling you much about it because this book is best read going in as blindly as possible.
These are the things I knew about Warm Bodies before I started it:
- It was told in the first person
- It was being turned into a movie with that kid from Skins
- It was about zombies
This book is bizarre. The concept of it shouldn’t work and yet somehow it does. Marion manages to return some sort of humanity back to the zombie lit cannon, which seems wrong on so many levels. Our protagonist, simply known as R, is likeable even when he’s eating people. The story is told from his first-person point-of-view, which means there’s a fair amount of philosophical wonderings on the meaning of life and what went wrong in the world to cause the devastation that surrounds him. Despite having lost everything, he’s still compelled to keep moving on by the virus that has taken over his being.
Honestly after the first chapter, I had no idea where this story would take me and the suspense in its short 250 pages never stopped. When I’d feel I had a handle on how the rest of the book would go, it surprised me yet again. Yes, there are a few ideas that called for an even farther suspension of disbelief than already required for a tale about a bunch of zombies. Once or twice these occasions were jarring enough to make me wonder why the author made the literary decisions he did, but he always managed to keep the pacing steady and the characters realistic (or at least as realistic as things in this situation can be). For the most part, the characters’ decisions made sense and the relationships being built seemed authentic and fit well within the whimsical nature of the story.
Marion tells an epic story on a small scale, somehow fitting so much into such a short book. I think that’s what allowed it to work as well as it did – had he dwelled on more of the philosophical issues and the small things happening beyond the R’s immediate point of view, everything would have become more repetitive. I did still have a bundle of questions by the end that had gone unanswered, but they weren’t entirely pertinent to the storytelling at hand. By the end, I didn’t even really feel like I was reading a book about zombies, since that aspect of the character seemed secondary in comparison to the person.
I fear if I continue, I’ll start spoiling the very things that made this such a surprising and satisfying read. If you haven’t read Warm Bodies, don’t read anything else about it and pick it up. Even those who don’t like a lot of moaning, bloody zombies would probably like this book. It’s an engaging, off-kilter read that puts a whole new spin on the zombie genre.
Inventive storytelling with a compelling narrator and secondary characters; best if going in blind and with no expectations to really enjoy the surprising nature of the story; make sure to suspend belief as much as possible