“Warm Bodies“, at first, looks like your typical zombie story, that most recently has been done to death (literally). However, along with the successful TV show and comic book “The Walking Dead”, “Warm Bodies“, is just as concerned about its characters as the ensuing apocalyptic doom that encompasses it.
I’d heard it recommended as “Twilight with zombies”, which put me off immediately! The recommendation of one of my favourite actors, Simon Pegg, meant that I had to check it out though, and I have to admit the plot caught my attention. A quick summary of the story without any spoilers would be this: ‘R’ the zombie has no recollection of his past life, but senses things, can grunt a few syllables and staggers slightly quicker than the rest of the Dead. Then one day he meets a human girl called Julie, and instead of an insatiable urge to eat her, he instead takes her back to the airport in which a large majority of the Dead reside, and keeps her ‘safe’, in his words.
Admittedly, this does sound a bit of a shallow story, it is a tough read at first, with little dialogue being uttered by anyone, zombie or human, with lots of description and little action. We see the world directly from the first-person viewpoint of our ‘hero’, ‘R’, and it’s a strange perspective. Humans are seen as ready meals, and ‘R’ expresses the reasoning behind tearing them apart, purely so he can feed his newly wed wife and their zombie kids. Yes really. Zombie kids. He enjoys simple things like riding the airport elevators and listening to Frank Sinatra in his Boeing 747 home. It sounds bizarre, but you soon slip into the blank, dark world of ‘R’ and, sort of, emphathise with him and his actions.
As he becomes ‘aware’ of the world around him, his meeting with Julie drags the plot up to speed, and is an important device to stop the book from plodding along, like it threatens to at times. Her introduction is where most of us would be. She’s forced into hiding by ‘R’, to keep her alive within the zombie homebase, having to douse herself in zombie blood to put off her scent, and generally stay cooped up in an aeroplane all day long. Their relationship isn’t forced, but develops at a satisfying pace, for what is essentially a zombie falling in love with a human being, who in no way should return feelings back. I won’t divulge into anymore further plotlines in case you haven’t read the book, but from the second half onwards the story really comes alive and you never know where it’s going next. Towards the very end, I felt it was a bit wobbly in terms of narrative, but that is understandable given that this is author Isaac Marion’s first book, which makes this even more of a great achievement.
I mentioned the feeling of empathy the reader feels for ‘R’, but as we go on, this grows and grows. ‘R’ begins to gain partial knowledge of scraps of memories from a previous life, remembering what it felt like to live as a human, the simple things of life, and he misses it. It makes you appreciate your own life, and is a strong device, used to make the reader think about it, long after they have put the book down (if that is possible!).
The book’s film rights have already been snapped up, and is set for a February 2013 release date in the UK. A Brit, Nicholas Hoult of ‘Skins‘ fame has snagged the leading role of ‘R’, with Teresa Palmer as ‘Julie’ and John Malkovich as Julie’s father ‘General Grigo’. Directing is ‘50/50‘ helmer Jonathan Levine, so we could perhaps see the comedic element of the book brought to light too, and there is a fair bit of humour spread throughout. My only main worry over the conversion from book-to-film, is that the narration of ‘R’, will not be carried through. It’s one of the main reasons for the empathy given towards him, and may hurt the successfulness of the film if it is transferred over.
As it is, ‘Warm Bodies’, is certainly worth a read, purely as it isn’t anything like you expect, and is more than just a bog-standard zombie story.