Saturday, 19 February 2011

Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

‘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…

This blurb doesn’t do the book justice. It’s rare, but it has happened before that I’ve gotten a little way into a book and realized that in a way, this book is going to change my life. All books change our lives in some way, but it’s more obvious with some than with others.

There were four things that made me pick up this book.

1) The cover. Some of the blood vessels are raised, and it kind of makes me squirm a little every time I pick the book up, but it’s simplicity used incredibly effectively. And a nice break away from the Twilight esq covers that have flooded the bookstores recently.

2)Have you seen the recommendations on this book?! Simon Pegg, Stephenie Meyer, Audrey Niffenegger and Nick Harkaway. Wow.

3) The awesome self-deprecating ‘About the Author.’ I normally find these so frustrating and smug, and this was a refreshing change.
Isaac Marion was born in north-western Washington in 1981 and has lived in and around Seattle his whole life, working a variety of strange jobs like delivering deathbeds to hospice patients and supervising parental visits for foster-kids. He is not married, has no children, and did not go to college or win any prizes. Warm Bodies is his first novel.
Finally an author who has written a brilliant novel without the list of achievements that makes me feel completely useless. There is hope after all.

4) The first page. Go and read it. Now.

The prose is exquisite. A blend of humour, morbid decay and depression; it suited my mood perfectly. But as the story progresses some of the idle beauty is lost as R starts to regain his consciousness and becomes more focused on the human world around him. That doesn’t detract from the book at all, but having fallen in love with the style of the first stage of the book, it was strange adjusting as more people were involved and R began to interact with the living again.

The book has so many different levels to it. On first sight, it’s just a fantasy book about zombies, but it is so much more than that. It’s a love story, it’s an apocalypse story, it’s a story about two men who are in love with the same woman, both of whom are dead. It’s about desperation, re-birth and hope. It’s beautiful, it’s tragic and the writing is brilliant.

It’s disturbingly gross at the same time, Isaac doesn’t shy away from the fact that R is a zombie, he is dead, he is surrounded by the dead and desiccating, and they eat people to stay alive. That does diminish over time, but there is no sugar coating when it happens.

I’ve never been a fan of zombies; they scare the pants off me so I was hesitant about the content. But whilst the terror is still there, it was a very different view on zombies to the stereotype that you often see in films. But whilst there was a more human look on the inner workings of a zombie, instead of just looking at the mindless shuffle and groaning, there was still a terror element in the form of the Boneys. There did need to be another threat, and they work really well, and are incredibly well written and terrifying.

That’s another thing – there is no explanation how or why, or even when! And I’m so relieved. A lot of books try to really get into the breakdown. There’s a curse, or a medical condition, or testing gone wrong. There was none of that here, just an acceptance that this was how things were, and always had been. Well, for the memory spans of the characters. And whilst things do change, there is no real cure, or again, explanation. It just happens. And it works.

I’ve been really lucky with debut authors over the last few months, and Isaac Marion is no exception. And again, I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – with the standard this high in his first novel, I cannot wait to read his next offering. His writing is brilliant, and I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve found this book. It crosses so many genres that no matter what you enjoy reading, you should try this book: Fantasy, romance, an insight into existence? Go get and see for yourself.

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