Warm Bodies – A book worth reading
Straight to the point: I AM DEAD, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it. I’m sorry I can’t properly introduce myself, but I don’t have a name anymore. Hardly any of us do. We lose them like car keys, forget them like anniversaries. Mine might have started with an “R,” but that’s all I have now. It’s funny because back when I was alive, I was always forgetting other people’s names. My friend “M” says the irony of being a zombie is that everything is funny, but you can’t smile, because your lips have rotted off. (Isaac Marion) We’re off to a good start already, aren’t we?
When I first heard about Warm Bodies (via the movie trailer, which came out in February) I thought it was a stupid idea, let’s face it, it sounds like a poster book/movie for necrophilia, you have a living girl and a dead boy, ending up changing the world with their love. It does sound like it has a high squick factor, doesn’t it? After giving it some thought, I decided to take my chances and start reading and I haven’t regretted my decision. It seems that lately the zombie genre is making a comeback, but so far all tales about them have been mostly focused on the human characters that have to fight the plague that has taken over the world, none has ever presented the zombie point of view. None until Isaac Marion, that is (bear in mind that this statement is based on my limited knowledge).
**Beware, some spoilers ahead** Let’s see what the book is all about, shall we?
The world was hit by a plague, one that takes people and turns them into walking dead, whether they are bit or die of natural causes, the end result is the same, they get up and search for fresh flesh. In this post-apocalyptic setting we have a zombie of ambiguous age called “R”, who doesn’t remember when he was born or when he died or for however long he’s been dead, but despite all those things that seem to work against him, he is still determined to get more out of “life”. Unlike his fellow dead who spend their time by bumping into each other and forgetting everything from one moment to the next, he seems to be clinging to things like music and beauty and everything else that those with a beating heart seem to enjoy.
After devouring a brain, and apparently brains are like pot to zombies – having almost psychedelic effects, and accessing the memories of a young man, he becomes surprisingly attracted to a living girl- Julie, a girl the dead boy knew and loved, who will join him in the quest to change the world. It’s his voice that paints the world we’re entering, his thought process so deep and charming that you will be instantly taken by it, despite his apparent inability to put those thoughts into actual words. He’s the one taking us through the journey of discovering how the world can be saved, while dead, he’s still human, flawed and failing more than once, but he doesn’t despair, he doesn’t give up, he wants more, more than the hunger and the grunts and the overpowering silence that surrounds the dead.
Since the world can’t function without a villain, and the plot would suffer greatly from this lack, the author create a superior race of monsters, the Boneys, skeletal creatures that seem to thrive on the ignorance of the zombies, leading them like ruthless shepherds to the slow destruction of the last bastions of humanity. They are the ones that don’t want change, clinging to the ugliness of a filthy world where hope is not even a word worth mentioning, let alone something to feel and hang onto. Through the book we are lead to believe that these particular kind of zombies are those that have died a long time ago, their flesh rotting away slowly until nothing is left but the blackened skin and their bones, however, the ending reveals a special twist, which sheds light on what the author might have intended with his book.
Ultimately it’s not a love story between a zombie and a living girl, it’s a story of our own world and society that’s becoming so twisted and harsh, praising and needing the material things so much more than anything else, forgetting about the inherent beauty that our world possesses, forgetting about love and the very things that make us human. We are the Boneys, we are the monsters that stare at the horrors of our world and build shrines in their honour.
R and Julie (the girl that gives him a chance even while knowing he was one of the dead, one to be feared and loathed) resemble the heroes of old, the ones that lead into battle by inspiring people, the ones that solve wars with a well placed word or, in this case a kiss, but without developing a superiority complex over it, they don’t think they are alone in this. A surprising character, heard only by R is Perry, the boy he killed, a boy who in life had trouble seeing the point of a world in which people only worked to survive, forgetting what living actually was, his voice guiding our lovable corpse, freeing him of his presence only when the first sparks of the much needed change have been planted. How those seeds grow? Well…read the book and find out.
Bottom line: While clunky in parts and rushed in others, this book is worth the read, it’s fun, it’s gripping and it will keep you glued to it’s pages, not to mention that it’s a reminder that we shouldn’t forget that we’re not here just to eat and indulge in the latest gadgets, that we should seek deeper meanings in the world around us and not allow ourselves to be devoured by our inner demons, that we ought to fight them and come out victorious. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, perhaps the author was much more literal than I give him credit for, but that’s what this book inspired in me, whether intentional or not.