Synopsis: ‘R’ is a zombie. He has no name, no memories, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead. Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows – warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can’t understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins. This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won’t be changed without a fight…
NWW Review: Warm Bodies is a bit of an unusual choice for our website, but as soon I have seen the film and then read the book I had to write a few words about it. Especially that the author managed to do something I thought was impossible: turning a zombie into a romantic character. For years I was looking at the titles like My Zombie Valentine wondering: “How can you make a rotten corpse attractive?”. Ashen complexion, bad breath, and a rather controversial diet are not your textbook selling features. And yet Isaac Marion did not only manage to turn a zombie into a beautifully tormented hero, but also to use the ‘Romeo & Juliet’ motive without the cheesiness which often follows.
The story is set in an apocalyptic Earth, a gruesome and fearful world. The fight for survival halted any progress, the preservation of what is left of the human race becoming an imperative driving force. It is humans against zombies: humans huddled behind tall walls of once great cities, and zombies hunting the outskirts and preying on weak. But this way of life takes its toll by slowly stripping a person of all that is inherently human: compassion, love and hope. It is perfectly portrayed in the person of Julie’s father who after a lengthy war becomes a shell of man he once was, living in the ever present fear of death or worse – becoming infected and slowly turning into a what he hates most..
But regardless of what one might expect of a mindless creatures, zombies have their version of society. Led by fearsome, skeleton-like looking Bonies they created their version of church, family, school even marriage rituals. But all this is not enough, the attention span in short that nothing seem to satisfy or irritate for long enough to be meaningful. Pleasure, betrayal, death. What remains is instinct to hunt and feed. In the midst of this hell Marion puts an unlikely hero – a zombie called R, who is also the narrator of the story. He feels he is different from his mindless brethren, hoping that there is something more beyond this constant hunger. It is an inexplicable longing for something R cannot even name. He wants to connect with another being, yet in the same time he is painfully aware that his need to feed overruns any fleeting motions, a remain of his long-gone humanity. Until he meets Julie… Crossing the barriers between the two battling sides, they bring a change to the battling world. However, after years of fighting, countless death and horrific sacrifices this world is too set in its rules to accept a change without fighting back.
The picture Marion paints is macabre and disturbing. The borders between good and bad, black and white are blurred. Suddenly things are not as set as we would like them to be. Zombies slowly drifting at the border of awareness and mindless existence. R and Julie manage to wake them up, turning fleeting sparks of awareness into a revolution of senses, a change to big that it cannot be stopped.
Is it then a story about a healing power of love? Absolutely. But it also discuses controversial aspects of soul transgression, where one person finishes and the other begins. It is about forgiveness and absolution. If you will find yourself wondering how could Julie forgive R for his actions, I am sure you will not be alone. Personally I think that because they live in a world filled with hatred, mistrust, where the fight for survival devoted people from any affection and kindness, that Julie is not afraid to forgive and trust R. She sees something worthwhile in him, something which would probably escape her in more accommodating circumstances. That makes the romance in the story so innocent, endearing, heart-arming and pure.
Concluding, Warm Bodies is a love story against all odds. It is about forgiveness and second-chances, about the most dangerous thing of all – hope. It is a good lesson in what is important and how hard one have to fight for what they believe in and who they love. And, more frightfully, just how thin is the line between humanity and our baser instincts.