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Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Reading Warm Bodies has taught me a valuable lesson: I don’t like zombie stories. I just don’t, I’m sorry, world-that-has-decided-zombies-are-a-thing. The only zombie story I’ve ever liked was Zombieland, and I think that was mostly to do with the casting. So maybe I’ll like Warm Bodies, the movie. It’s going to have Nicholas Hoult in it, who played Beast in X-Men: First Class (and also, I just realized, Marcus in About a Boy, one of my all time favorite movie/book child characters); he’s pretty cute. Then again, he’s playing a zombie, and there is only so much make-up can do! So I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I don’t mean to imply that Warm Bodies was a bad book. It wasn’t, actually. The writing was really, really lovely, and part of what makes Warm Bodies interesting is that it takes a monster (because, for all intents and purposes, that’s what a flesh-eating formerly-alive person technically is) that, on the outside, is a single-minded beast, a being of destruction and darkness, and gives him a lush inner landscape, an articulate and poetic interior life.

I'm here to eat your braaaaaaaaains!

This monster calls himself “R”, which (he thinks) is the first letter of the name he had when he was alive, an experience he only members in wisps. He’s spending his post-life life in what can only be described as a zombie commune in an abandoned airport. R is a sensitive soul, but he’s still a zombie, so he goes on a hunt with a bunch of other zombies in which they attack a group of teenagers and R eats one of their brains.

The brain belongs to a young man named Perry, and as soon as R bites into it, he starts to experience—in a real, visceral way—Perry’s emotions and memories. So much so that he falls in love with Perry’s girlfriend, Julie, and manages to keep her alive long enough to get her back to the airport. Though they establish a strong bond, Julie eventually runs away from him, and R sets out to find and protect her from the zombie hoard that is threatening to descend upon the repurposed sports stadium in which she lives.

Since this will probably get made into a film, I don’t want to ruin the ending for you, but I will say that I find the conclusion of the novel highly unlikely. Poetic, sure, but not at all realistic, which I realize is a funny word to use when talking about a zombie apocalypse novel in which a woman falls in love with a rotting corpse, but there you go. I couldn’t tell you a better way to end it (just halfway through, all I kept thinking was, “This is nice and all, but how is he going to end it?”), but I am just not sure, you guys.

Nevertheless, the writing is beautiful. It feels all wrong for film, because so much of it is internal—necessarily, because for a long time in the book R can’t speak out loud, being a zombie—but I’m reserving judgment for a later date. The romance was not entirely convincing (again: rotting corpse!), but the ways in which R deals with, in varying ways, Perry’s residual feelings and memories, and Perry himself (as R imagines him) are probably the most intriguing parts of the book. That’s the real relationship of Warm Bodies--the hopeless young man and the zombie who ate him.

Now, what other book can say that?

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