Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (book and movie thoughts)
From the author’s website:
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, but he has 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 blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.
When it comes to the Zombie / Unicorn debate, I am firmly in the Team Unicorn camp. Last unicorns, killer unicorns – I’m in. Teenagers tearing each other apart – no thank you. So, when people started talking about Warm Bodies, I didn’t even consider it. Actually, I don’t even know if it registered on my radar.
And then I saw the movie. Before going in, I had heard the adaptation described as a “John Hughes zombie film” – and I’d say that is spot on. While having its gruesome moments, it was funny and cute and backed by a fantastic soundtrack. In short, it was pretty much everything I didn’t expect from a zombie movie. It probably helped that I saw it at the end of a particularly wearing day at work and was most definitely in need of just this kind of movie. But as soon as the DVD comes out I can see it joining the ranks of my go-to movies for lazy Sunday afternoons.
Seeing as this was the first zombie story I can remember enjoying, I knew I had to read the book.
I started the book on a grey Sunday afternoon and finished it that evening. This is definitely not typical of my reading habits and never happens outside a Readathon day. But I was enjoying the story so much that I just didn’t want to stop to do anything else – thankfully I had no other commitments that day!
What hit me immediately was how completely different the mood of the book was compared to the movie. The movie followed the plot of the book pretty closely until about the last 3rd of the story, but the feel of each was very different. While the movie was fun and light, the book was much more introspective and sombre. And that was mostly due to R. He was a fantastic narrator and pulled me into the story, into his struggles. I honestly never thought I would sympathize with a zombie, but it happened.
I also really liked Julie. She had a sharper edge in the book and a more grim history – that maybe movie Julie also had, but we were just never told about – but above all she was still an optimist. Yes, the relationship that developed between the two of them was sweet and awkward and lovely to witness. But Warm Bodies really did feel like it was about a whole lot more than just a zombie falling in love with a living girl. It was about R’s search for meaning and Julie’s struggle to reconcile what she had been taught with her current experience. About the perils of society becoming disconnected and about finding a way to better the world.
I’m usually a Read The Book First girl, but in this case I’m glad I saw the movie first. The book was surprisingly moving and thought provoking and if I had expected a similar experience from the movie I would have been hugely disappointed. As it was, I was able to enjoy the pure entertainment of the movie and then go deeper with book.
I highly recommend both – even to non zombie fans :)