Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Book review: Warm Bodies
As I write this, the film version of WARM BODIES is burning a hole in my dining room table. After reading the book, I'm both dying to watch it, and a little nervous. I'm worried that it will pale in comparison to the novel. I'm worried it will turn into a completely different type of story just based on the trailer I saw a while back. I'm worried it will lose everything that I loved about it.
Both the book and the movie are advertised as a kind of zombie romance story, but that's not exactly what I see happening here. I assume the marketing department either didn't think the public would get WARM BODIES for what it was, or they didn't get it themselves. There is romance, but it's not the point. The heart of the novel is rising above your circumstances, and the strength to keep hoping for something better. It's about all the best things humanity has going for it: faith, love, bravery, compassion, etc. And it's all bound up in a story that asks: What if a zombie wasn't exactly dead? What if something human remained? What is it really like inside their head? And what if one chance encounter could change them back, could change everything?
We experience WARM BODIES through R, our zombie protagonist. For a member of the undead, he's pretty advanced; R can talk (kind of) and has complete, beautiful, philosophical thoughts. His fellow zombies either don't speak at all, or have a very limited vocabulary. I got the impression, especially by the end of the book, that most of the zombies may have had more complex thoughts, but simply gave up on striving towards anything that once made them human. R on the other hand, has not. R clings to the last shreds of his humanity with everything he's got.
While on a raid for food, R encounters Julie-- right after he kills her boyfriend. Eating the brain of a human causes R to see parts of their life, so after experiencing part of the boyfriend's life with Julie, something clicks for R and he decides to bring her back to their zombie community for safekeeping. The rest of the story tells the journey R takes as he begins to grow and change, the developing relationship between him and Julie, and how the effect they have together begins to change the world around them.
I've been raving about WARM BODIES ever since I finished it. I found it so well-written, poignant, introspective and hopeful. I wouldn't exactly classify it as a horror novel, despite the zombies. There is gore, but it's well-placed and appropriate without going over the top. I'd call it an introspective, dystopian adventure with a philosophical bent and a twist of horror. I suspect one of the reasons I fell in love with WARM BODIES is that it uses a classic theme: Who or what is the real monster? (Cause it ain't who you think it is!)
Another major reason is the writing, especially the way Julie talks and the way R thinks. As I read, I found myself bookmarking pages with quotes that I loved and wanted to write down later. I don't remember the last novel I read that made me want to do that. Every time I had to stop reading, I sighed and said to myself, "This is sooo good."
I think something about R and Julie's personalities really spoke to me in a deep way, too. No matter what happened, they kept fighting and trying to survive, and held on to a belief in something better. Hopelessness was not an option. For a dystopian setting, it had me feeling pretty optimistic and inspired. That sort of thing strikes a fire in me, and maybe that's part of the point of the story. All in all, it was an unexpectedly refreshing story that was a joy to read.
Dear WARM BODIES movie, please don't let me down...