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- Why I read it: BRAAAIIINS, cover love, allegory, zombie love story
- Disclosure: Purchased an ARC secondhand after the publication date to benefit a local literacy charity. Rock on.
A zombie who yearns for a better life ends up falling in love—with a human—in this astonishingly original debut novel.Review:
R is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He doesn’t enjoy killing people; he enjoys riding escalators and listening to Frank Sinatra. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.
Not just another zombie novel, Warm Bodies is funny, scary, and deeply moving.
A full disclosure: I've never been quite sure what to think of zombie stories. Call it squeamishness: despite my love of Battle Royale, movie gore makes me nauseous and panicky, and book gore isn't much better. Call it a struggle with the straight-up allegory: sure, I get what moviemakers and writers are trying to say, but I've always thought there were better ways to say it. Zombie parody is easier to take - Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead are among my all-time favorite comedies - but it's all still, on some level, wrong. Bleak. Unnatural. Ridiculous.
Not so Warm Bodies. Is it literary allegory? Sci-fi? Quirky supernatural? Dystopia? Who cares? It blurs the lines of every zombie and YA convention you can think of, and manages to be a damn fine debut, besides.
Perhaps the most arresting thing about it is its characters; most of all our lovable angst-puppy oft-disgusting narrator R. Of all the voices I've read this year, I can't say I've found one as quite as bizarre, unforgettable, and oddly believable. With R, Isaac Marion made me believe in zombies for a whole 239 pages, and that's no small feat. The supporting cast is just as complex and entertaining, especially Perry, whom we glimpse only through flashbacks and remembered conversations but feels fully realized, nonetheless.
Second most-arresting, for me at least, is Marion's world: visceral, dismal, painful, hopeful. It's almost a character in and of itself, and every moment I spent within it - whether it's the airport, or suburbia, or the stadium - felt as vivid and real as my everyday world. Not a compliment I bestow lightly.
Unfortunately, the ending wasn't nearly as charming as the build-up, and when Marion unleashed his most blatant allegories I felt rather as if I'd not only seen the man behind the curtain, but collided with him violently on the street. But maybe that's just my personal zombie curse rearing its ugly head again.
All in all, it's fabulous, funny, sweet, gritty, scary, thought-provoking, gross, and even occasionally (dare I say it?) sexy. Very few of which are adjectives I ever thought I'd apply to a zombie book. It's an awesome choice for anyone who hates zombies and anyone who loves them; in fact, it's an awesome choice for anyone, period. I want more Isaac Marion! Five out of five stars.