Creepy but fun (3 stars)
Source- personal copy
Published by Vintage- this edition in January 2013
I read the Kindle version; the paperback is 256 pages
Ok, so admittedly I’m a little bit late to the party when it comes to this book. I want to go and see the Warm Bodies movie though- something that I don’t generally like doing if I know that a film happens to be based on a novel which I haven’t had a chance to read yet! Warm Bodies was released at the end of last week here in the UK and my boyfriend and I have decided to go and see it at the cinema this weekend, which fortunately gave me plenty of time to dive into the story. I had quite high expectations, I have to admit. A romance novel with zombies? It sounded both fun and original.
The plot of the book revolves around zombie male ‘R,’ a walking corpse with no identity and no memories in a United States now over-run by the living dead. After he eats the brain of teenaged boy Perry, however, R finds himself inundated with the late Perry’s memories, as well as inexplicably drawn to Perry’s childhood sweetheart Julie, whose life he saves. Somewhere along the way, Julie and R inexplicably connect and she reminds him of a life that can actually be worth living once more.
From the outset, the parallel’s in this story to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are glaringly obvious; it made me wince a bit at the author’s lack of subtlety, yet despite this, I enjoyed getting to know R and the changed world in which he found himself. R is a character with a difference. He is not your typical leading man: he’s dead for one thing, he absolutely reeks of decay, his skin is grey, he grunts a lot and yet there’s something inherently appealing and sweet about his determination to protect Julie. I found myself smiling at some of his actions as he tried to behave in a more ‘human’ manner towards her. Julie I felt quite indifferent towards; though her capacity for forgiveness was admirable it did add a degree of unwelcome predictability to the plot. She also seemed far more level-headed and decidedly less hysterical about the whole zombie saving-your-life-and-being-taken-to-their-domain experience than I would have anticipated.
The writing in this book flows well, it’s almost poetically beautiful at times and I did become pretty absorbed in the story which has welcome splashes of poignancy and humour. Though R himself tends to over think absolutely everything (which didn’t always make sense, what with him being a zombie and all), it was really interesting getting into his head and seeing this changed world entirely from his perspective. He and Julie had a romance that I wanted to believe in (though it is still way creepy) and I never thought I would become as emotionally invested in them as I did.
The book isn’t without its flaws however. The primary one being that even though R is a brain-eating zombie, he seems to be immediately absolved of any guilt for his actions from almost the beginning of the story. This is a fact that the author constantly reiterates throughout, to the extent where it actually gets annoying. Yes, R eats Perry’s brains, yet Julie doesn’t seem exactly bothered about the situation, much to my disbelief:
“Anyway,” she says, “whoever killed Perry… I just want you to know I don’t blame them for it.”
I tense again. “You… don’t?”
“No. I mean, I think I get it. You don’t have a choice, right? And to be honest… I’d never say this to anyone, but…” She stirs her food. “It’s kind of a relief that it finally happened.”
Say WHAT?! A zombie just ATE your boyfriend and you’re ok with that? Pfffft.
Following all of the above, I did think that the plot lost its way somewhere towards the middle and it grew decidedly less exciting at this point; for me, this is definitely a book of two halves. The pace dwindled in the middle and I found myself a little bored towards the end before it picked up again in the final few chapters. Still, this short book has such a cinematic tone to it that it has most certainly whetted my appetite to see the film; I do think this will translate brilliantly onto the big screen where R’s world can be explored in greater depth. Though I have admittedly read better zombie novels, I’m still glad I picked this one up. It was a fun way to pass a few hours.