Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion **Review**

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Series: Warm Bodies #1
Pages: 256
Publisher: Vintage
Release date: 31st January 2013
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

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Goodreads synopsis:
R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse. Just dreams. 

After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a burst of vibrant color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that R lives in. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead and the blurry line in between.
I picked this up for the first time a couple of years ago, but for whatever reason, I started reading something else instead, and didn't get back to reading this until recently. I don't quite know why I didn't - I think the zombies may have put me off at the time, as zombies weren't something I enjoyed reading about then - but that has all changed now, and I have to say, this has a lot to do with that.
With the release of the film adaptation (starring the wonderful Nicholas Hoult as 'R'), I decided that it was about time I gave it another go, and wow, I'm so glad I did!

Because I enjoy knowing as little as possible about a book before I start reading it (synopsis' that give as little away as possible, whilst still making me excited about reading the book are brilliant), all I really knew about this, before I read it, was that it's a zombie novel from the point of view of one of the zombies. As a result, I didn't really know what to expect from it, and I don't think I could have anticipated what I got!
I was laughing from the very first chapter, which isn't quite the standard reaction I would have to any other zombie book! This was such a pleasant surprise, and it's definitely one of the reasons I ended up enjoying the book so much - it dealt with a frightening concept, but in a light-hearted, humorous, and overall optimistic way. Rather than the world ending and it all being doom & gloom, R, our undead protagonist, provides a ray of hope when he decides he wants to fight his condition and gradually starts to change.

R's character was a fantastic one - possible one of the most unique I've ever come across, and he has certainly become a favourite of mine! He tried not to let being a zombie get to him, and despite his overpowering zombie nature, he saves a human girl, Julie, from certain death. This is when his character really starts to bloom. As he begins to fall in love with her through the stolen memories in her dead boyfriend's brain, he becomes a little more human with each passing day (ironic, considering he eats a human brain in order for this change to happen!), managing longer sentences, bigger words and even a sense of humour. I fell for his character very quickly, which was weird, considering in any other zombie novel, he would have been the bad guy!

What I think I enjoyed most about the novel was the chance to see things from the zombie's point of view - this is something I've personally never come across before. I'd never considered that the zombies, as well as the humans, could have their own organised civilisation (of sorts), but in this they do.
When we first meet R, he is living in a derelict airport with countless other zombies, and the 'Bonies', their sinister skeletal leaders (about the only truly scary thing about the novel). He has a best friend, 'M' (so named because, like R, they can only remember the first letter of their human name), and even gets married and 'has children' (adopted zombie children). This concept is both interesting and extremely funny - it's ridiculous, which makes it funny, but at the same time, I was very entertained by it - I just loved the whole idea surrounding their weird little world.

The relationship between R and Julie was another wonderful thing about the book, and something that needs mentioning above all else, I feel. As unlikely as it seems, R saves Julie's life, and disguising her as the newly dead, he takes her back to the airport with him, to keep her safe. It's immediately clear to Julie that R is not like the others, and her fear and anxiety soon fade. What replaces this is a surprisingly trusting relationship.
At first it seems she has no choice, and she doesn't - she's deep in zombie territory, and any escape attempt would almost certainly get her killed. But even after she and R escape, that trust continues and strengthens, despite some inevitable issues.
Despite the danger he could pose to her, Julie genuinely wants him around, and this could prove to be far more important than anyone could have imagined. Could their relationship save the world?

I loved everything about this novel. It was funny, witty, poignant, stunningly original and incredibly well-written. I can't wait to find out what will happen next, when the sequel is finally released (expected 2014, according to Goodreads). I will also definitely be reading the prequel, The New Hunger. I can't get enough of this series now, or of this author.
Warm Bodies is a masterpiece!

A quick note about the film...
I read Warm Bodies, and went to see the film, quite a while ago now, but both book and film are still really fresh in my memory, which is definitely saying something!
My first impression of the film was really positive - the only major thing I picked up on that had been changed was how R was dressed. In the book he is wearing a suit, but in the film, as you can see from the film tie-in cover above, he's wearing a red hoody and jeans (which in the film he says probably means he was unemployed). So a slight change from the book, but nothing important.
R's narration, given by the very talented Nicholas Hoult, is perfect - just as I'd imagined it - and his acting was superb - I really believed him as R, and I fell in love with him in the film, just like I did in the book. All of the actors were brilliant, and I definitely feel they portrayed their characters in the best way that they could. I almost felt as though I was back inside the novel again.

Obviously the major difference from page to film was the ending. The book has a planned sequel in 2014, however the film does not, so it made sense for Jonathan Levine (the screenwriter) to continue the story from where the novel left off, and finish it. It wouldn't be rational to be upset about the change in the ending because of the planned second novel, but I know that for some people, the ending to the film may not have been what they'd expected or wanted.  This wasn't the case with me - I thought the ending was everything it should have been and more. It was the best ending I think the film could have had, and it was done very well! This is definitely a book and a film that will stay with me for a long time to come!


alexsarahlouise said...

I read this in Feb and I really enjoyed it. I went to see the film for my birthday and loved that too! I think the ending was perfect. Great review!

PS, i know this is random but you totally should follow Isaac Marion's blog. He is as hilarious as his writing is and he always talks about how the sequel is going. He has a fab sense of humour! :) http://burningbuilding.blogspot.co.uk/

:) xx

Ellie said...

Yes, yes and YES. I loved the book - it made me laugh, it made me think, and R is already in the running for 'most unlikely book crush of the year'. I thought Nick Hoult was brilliant in the movie, and Rob Corddry as well, and although the end was very different I quite liked the fact that it was more clear-cut and less... horrific. You know the part I mean. :)

Pen to Paper said...

Ooh! I didn't know Isaac Marion had a blog - I now have it bookmarked, so I can check it out on my break from writing later! Thank you :)

Ellie: Yes I know the bit you mean :P And I agree!

Michelle Scott said...

Thanks for the review! I saw the movie without realizing there was a book as well, lol. I loved the movie, and I've been wanting to read the book. I'm definitely going to do that now! (I loved R, too!)

Victoria Hooper said...

I loved this one too! Totally unexpected, as I also had no idea what it was about before starting it, apart from that it was from the perspective of the zombie. I guess I expected it to be more of a comedy and less romantic, for some reason (perhaps because the film trailers suggested that), but I loved how it was funny but also really moving. The characters were amazing and the narration was wonderful. Such a great book! I'm really looking forward to seeing the film now. :-)

grace crawford said...

An inventive and witty twist on the concept of star-crossed lovers the picture is a stylish blend of love story, horror and comedy, engagingly performed by the leads.

Grace Crawford Whiskey BBQ Beef Jerky

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