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Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

June 25, 2012

Warm Bodies is a book about zombies, but told from the point of view of a zombie. His name is R, the only part of his former name that he can remember. He shuffles along to go feed on humans in the broken down, bombed out city near the airport that is now home to a zombie enclave, possessed by a hunger he doesn’t understand. R encounters a young woman on one of the zombies’ hunts, and feels the need to protect her. He takes her back to the airport and hides her in a jet liner, than slowly falls in love with her.

The concept of the book – not only telling the story from the point of view of a zombie, but giving him an existential crisis and a desire to co-exist with humans – is fairly ingenious, but Marion’s evocative writing manages to justify it as more than a clever concept. The way that he describes R – driven by desires he doesn’t understand to maim and kill humans, yet yearning to regain his humanity – is one of the most interesting aspects of the novel.

Another aspect of the novel that works well is the creation and description of the zombie society. None of them can remember much about their previous lives, so they have names like ‘R’ and ‘M’, or no name at all. They can barely speak to each other, communicating with grunts and phrases of a few worlds. They form quick bonds that dissolve just as quickly, such as R’s marriage to a zombie girl, blessed by the ‘Boneys’, the elders of the community who have withered away to bone and rarely need to eat anymore, that deteriorates without much impact on either party. They have classes for new zombies to teach them how to subdue humans. Marion fairly convincingly paints a world in which zombies are not simply bad, but in which humans and zombies continue to kill each other inexplicably.

While Marion’s writing and the world he has built – including the human community built in a stadium – are excellent, the story does not end in a way that is satisfying compared to what came before. Basically, R learns that he can reverse the zombiefication process with…love? Blech. It’s enough that you got me to buy into a world where a zombie can have a soul and fall in love, but to think that zombies were caused by a lack of feeling in the world is too far.

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