I detest zombie books with a passion I usually reserve for people who talk with their mouths full or people who don’t like the taste of alcohol. There is something about wanting to eat someone’s grey matter that just doesn't appeal to me; all the oozing and decaying and poor dental hygiene. YIKES. But then Angie reviewed it and well, that girl has never steered me wrong. And she was right; this is a zombie book that isn't a zombie book.
R is a zombie. A brand spanking new zombie (well, as new as you can get when you’re dead and eating people instead of mac and cheese) if his state of decay is anything to go by. Because the thing is, R can’t actually remember. He can’t remember how long he’s been this way, unchanging. He can’t even remember his name, only that it begins with an R (well, he thinks it does). R spends his time shuffling around an abandoned airport with a group of ‘friends’ and making regular trips into the world to find some decent leg of human or arm of child (undead, naturally) and that’s about it. His days are filled with nothing but the stench of death until one day they become filled with wonder and you know? wonder doesn't die, wonder comes in the shape of a human girl called Julie, who R decides to keep. And the world shifts.
I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did; like R, I shuffled my way through the first couple of chapters completely indifferent not thinking or feeling much. And then there was a shift, a quiet shift that took me wholly by surprise, and I was full of wonder. This tiny book about a boy who doesn't even have a name consumed my every thought. From the way that R lamented his lost humanity and the hope that Julie emanated, I was all in.
The message Marion conveys isn't all that elusive; you know from the start the metaphorical meaning of this zombie wasteland and even though at points it did feel a little too heavy handed, not once did it diminish my love for this book. Warm Bodies hit my sweet spot – prose that was hauntingly lush and beautiful. The narrative works perfectly; we get to see R’s wry observations and witness his obvious discomfort with his state of undead. He is a zombie who doesn’t want to be a zombie. Because R is different; somewhere inside his zombie brain there is a part of him that got left behind and man, if it isn't beautiful to watch unfold. Because what we are left with is hope shining bright on the horizon, lighting everything up. A beautiful debut.
p.s. just in case you didn't know, Warm Bodies is coming to a theatre near you in 2013.