A Critical Review of Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion
As has so often been the case for me lately, it was the film adaptation of Warm Bodies that first caught my attention. The movie looked interesting, and as I so often do when an interesting movie comes to the theaters, I looked to see if there was a book version, so that I could read the book before I watched the movie.
At first I was stunned by the price of this small novel. $15 is a lot of money in a rough economy and I nearly didn't purchase it, instead figuring that I'd wait until a better time to make my purchase. That would mean not seeing the movie until later, however, and since I wanted to see it, I finally relented and forked over the hard-earned bread so that I could read this amazing novel.
If you've seen the movie trailers, you know that this is the story of a zombie who meets -- and falls in love with -- a living girl in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. And for the sake of frankness, that's pretty much all there is to the story, other than the fact that this zombie is different from the other zombies; he's changing, a little bit at a time. He's getting (as the trailers tell you) warmer.
This is my review of Warm Bodies. If you've been following my series of critical reviews of the books that I read you'll probably be surprised to see that I'm not including the word "critical" in my description of my review at this point. That's because it's hard to be critical of a novel that I enjoyed this much. There weren't many things with which I could find fault, as you'll see toward the end of my review.
Please note that if you've seen the movie trailers, you've gotten about all the spoilers that anybody can give you. This isn't an intense story; the beauty of this novel is not the story that it tells, but the way that Marion tells it.
A Brief Summary of the Novel
R is a Dead, with a capital D. He's a zombie who can't remember the life he had before he died, how he died, when he died, or even his own name. All he has is a first initial, as do most of his friends. He can't read the name tags on the blouse of his wife, and since she's the "quiet type" she can't tell him what her name is either. His Death involves wandering about a run-down airport where the zombie hive lives and occasionally riding the escalators (when the power is working).
That's all there is for R, until one day, while on a hunt, he eats Perry Kelvin. Perry is unlike any person he's ever eaten before. Although he's accustomed to getting a playback of the life of a person whose brain he is eating, Perry's life has more depth, more substance, than any R has ever gotten stoned on. Because of what he sees, R seeks out Perry's girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend, now that Perry is de-brained) and rescues her from his fellow zombies, bringing her home to his 747 home.
With the girl -- Julie -- R begins to gradually change. He's able to speak more, and move more fluidly. What's happening to R? Why, he's getting warmer.
My very first thought on Warm Bodies was that it was beautifully and eloquently written. Nothing at all like what I would have expected from a zombie novel. Of course, it was the first zombie novel that I've ever read, so I didn't have any particular expectations, other than a hunger for brains and a lot of grunting (both of which are definitely included in this book).
Mr. Marion is surely able to turn a phrase. He has a wonderful way of writing, even if I'm not especially fond of the first-person present-tense narration.
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What I Love about Warm Bodies
There are a ton of things that I love about Warm Bodies (a book I know is going to become a tattered paperback in my collection due to being read over and over again). But first and foremost is that thing that I've already mentioned to you before; The writing is absolutely eloquent and stunning. I've made some posts on my Tumblr with quotes from the book, so that you can see what I mean by going there.
So let me break this down as I always do (if you've read my other reviews, you'll know what I mean!).
- I love Marion's style. I like it so much, in fact, that I'm able to get past the fact that the book is written in first person, present tense (something that always bugs me -- the present tense specifically). He has a way with words and his style is incredibly prosaic.
- R is a compelling character. Okay, so he's a zombie, but if you put that aside and you see the person that R is (because there's no way to know the person that he was), he's an incredible type of person who is really dynamic and interesting to read about. He has thoughts -- a lot of thoughts -- and many of them are really reflective of the human condition.
- It's a story of hope. Ultimately the story here is one of hope, that things can change no matter how bleak the world is. And most of all, it tells us that the world can change for the better (or, for that matter, the worse).
The most significant thing that I like about this book is the fact that Marion has a beautiful way with words. I've never read another novel that compares to the way that the author uses his phrasing to evoke emotion in the reader. There were moments that I cried due to the sheer beauty of the choice of words of the author.
That being said, the book has many faults, things that might draw readers away from this novel. In the interest of fairness to my readers, I'd like to address what some of those faults are.
As many things as I loved about this book (and as much as it is easily a five star book for me), there were definitely some faults here that I couldn't help but observe. It's hard for me to do this with a book that I loved this much, but I have to accept that not every book is for every person, and adhere to the relevant consequences.
Here are the things that I consider to be problems that take away from the story and the writing of Warm Bodies.
- First person, present tense. As I mentioned in my review of The Hunger Games, this isn't my favorite. I'm not a fan at all of first person (though I'm reading a lot of first person books lately) and I twinged a little bit when I realized that this was the second book a row written in first person, present tense. I understand why Marion would use it (to prevent the reader from knowing whether or not R would survive to the end of the novel), but that doesn't mean that I love this style.
- R is a zombie. Alright, so we know that going in; R, the romantic lead in this story, is a zombie. If you read this book as a romance novel, it's just as disturbing as the notion that Bella Swan would be kissing on a dead guy (regardless of his sweet smell). If you've ever kissed somebody who's been drinking something with a lot of ice, you know that this isn't pleasant. Then add to that the fact that R stinks, it's a stretch to imagine a romantic lead who is dead.
- The twisting of the zombie myth. Zombies have never especially been my "thing," but I can understand how zombie fans might feel about this one. Zombies who can think (and speak, and love) aren't in line with the traditional zombie myth, and therefore this is a very divergent book (series). Readers need to stretch their view of what makes a zombie a zombie in order to make this work.
- Julie swears -- a lot. Bad language doesn't bother me. The language in this book did bother some readers, but most of all, it bothered me just because it didn't seem to match the tone of the book otherwise. Julie used the F-Word at some fairly odd moments that didn't really make sense to me and I wasn't sure how I felt about that; it just didn't seem in character.
- Zombie sex. Yeah, you read that right. There are a couple of incidents in which R's best friend, M, engages in adult activity with zombie females. It's nothing like the living version of the same activity and it's far from being explicit or gross, but this bothered some people. I, personally, felt that it added to the story and its setting rather than detracting from it.
What About the Movie?
It was okay. I've heard several people say that they enjoyed the movie more than the book, so for those who are questioning whether or not they should read the book, it might not be a horrible option to see the movie instead.
The problem with this is that the movie lacks the diction of the book. The person (or zombie) that R is gets lost in the film because it lacks his first person narration. Situations like this are teaching me more and more to enjoy the first person narrative because they give me so much more of the characters that I love than what I can get in a simple movie, which uses the God perspective to cover everybody in the story.
Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer were good in this movie, but I think that it could have been better. I'm glad I read the book before seeing the movie!
My Book Links
- 2013 Reading List
This is my 2013 reading list, which lists all of the books that I have read during this calendar year. With any luck I will be running one of these every year, with a complete list of the books that I have read and opportunities to purchase them.
- Why I Prefer Reading on My Kindle Keyboard
I love reading on my Kindle, and most of the books that I review here have been read in the e-book format. If you're looking for a full list of the books that I've read and reviewed here on Hubpages, this page contains a list to those reviews.
- True Confessions of a Bibliophile
My Tumblr blog, where I share information, quotes, and updates on the things that I'm currently reading. This is one of the two most interactive ways to get in touch with the way that I read and to find out what's coming up in my reviews here.
- New Confessions of a Bibliophile
My book blog on blogger, where I interact with the rest of the book blogging community. This is a more serious type of blog than my Tumblr, and while interactive, its purpose is to allow me to share with other bloggers and authors more than readers.
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