More books reviewed
Since Channel 5 has started to show zombie movies on every Saturday night, I would pass over any book on zombies at the bookstore. When I saw this book cover, I thought: Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart? Not again! In a zombie movie this time? If both names don’t ring a bell, you are probably uninterested in the vampire series Twilight or its author, Stephenie Meyer. I’m neither a fan of both. However, being a writer, I could not overlook this book as I foresee its potential for a frenzy à la Twilight. After all, the duo had a proven box office record that helps to sell all the four books from which the movies were based on. So I picked up the book. Isaac Marion. I’ve never heard of the author but that doesn’t mean he is a nobody writer. I turned to the page with the author’s information.
“Isaac Marion was born in north-west 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.”
First, his occupations intrigued me. Then it was his lack of college education. Most new author profiles that I had seen mentioned at least a degree education, if not a master in creative writing. Or they simply don’t mention a tertiary education at all. Marion’s honesty was unusual but also inspirational. Despite his lacklustre resume, Summit Entertainment (the same movie company that produced the Twilight saga) adapted his first book into a movie. What’s in the magic in his writing? I bought the book and found the answer.
Stephenie Meyer was spot on when she said the story has “the most unexpected romantic lead I’ve ever encountered”. She has created Edward Cullen, the world’s most romantic vampire while Marion has minted
arguably the world’s first romantic zombie.
During an attack on a group of human teenagers, R eats the brain of Perry who is protecting Julie. Immediately, he’s connected to Perry and could see his past with Julie. When his zombie best friend, M springs on Julie, he punches him and saves Julie’s life. He brings her back to his sanctuary, a 747 commercial jet parked inside an abandoned airport where his peers roam. Julie’s presence among other zombies has attracted their attention and enraged the nasty, fleshless zombies, Boneys. For her safety, R decides to
escort her back home. Julie’s dad is a General in the Stadium, a fortress for the living. And Julie knows the danger for any zombie to be near the Stadium. So she tricks R and returns home alone. But that doesn’t stop R from seeing her again. With M’s help, he ventures into the Stadium and right into Julie’s room. By now, R is looking and feeling more like a human. Still, he cannot fool Julie’s father. When a guard is found dead in the Stadium, R becomes a prime suspect. While the Security are hunting down R and Julie, the Boneys are killing
every stray zombie and human. What fate lies for the zombies and the livings?
Warm Bodies is a page turner, a reading experience I never had since The Song of Achilles. Once I bought it I read non-stop for about 100 pages. If I weren’t sleepy, I’d have finished the remaining 140 pages that night. What makes this story highly engaging is the zombie character, R. He’s the only fictional zombie that doesn’t scare me. Perhaps he hasn’t died too long ago and hence could pass off as a pale human with a little help of makeup. And I’m not kidding; R has a makeover done by Julie and her friend, Nora so that the Security at the Stadium won’t discover his zombie identity.
Asides from his unrotten skin, he’s also probably the first zombie that I’ve known in zombie fiction to have exhibited human cognition. He question why zombies have to eat people and listens to Frank Sinatra. As the story progresses, R looks, speaks and thinks more and more like a human. His changes are brilliantly shown and not told by Marion - a writing mantra which I have never fully understood until now. Though Marion is not a
trained writer, his storytelling skill deserves to be studied by first-time writers. It seems that when he first wrote the story, he had already anticipated the coming of a film adaptation. The story is fast-paced and his style is cinematic. As I read from page to page, I could picture the movie in my head. It was like watching the movie without going to the cinema. I refused to watch the movie trailer before I finished the book and I’m glad that I did that. Had I watched the trailer first, I’d have a different impression of the book. That means I won’t be watching the movie when it hits local cinemas on 14th March. But I will want to re-read the book again. Oh, by the way, I found out after I bought the book that the actors on the cover aren’t Rob Pattison and Kristen Stewart. I was tricked by their similarity but I’m not complaining.
Warm Bodies is based on Marion’s self-published short story, I am a Zombie filled with Love. It has attracted a wide internet audience and won him a full novel contract with Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. But I wasn’t impressed by it; it lacks everything that I find interesting in the novel. It isn’t just the new spin on zombism that he introduced in the book but also the way he tells his story. The way he writes has a rhythm that carries me through from start to end. I discovered how poetic language can be charming when it is skilfully and suitably weaved into a story. Underlying the zombie romance, Warm Bodies is interspersed with the concept of existentialism and a strong message on forgiveness. The use of poetic language renders a romantic and philosophical touch to a scary subject.
Though I’ve enjoyed reading the book very much, I was uncomfortable with some parts of it. Whenever the zombies are hungry, the anticipation leading to the actual feeding on humans and their brains unnerved
me. Marion did not go into the gory details but his brief description was vivid and powerful enough. Then there were times when I was both entertained and unamused. For example, how zombies have sex and R keeping Perry’s half-eaten brain in his pocket. At a glance, this book seems like another teen paranormal
romance. However, I would think that it is written for adolescents. Aside the “F” word that Julie infrequently says, other bad words are also randomly found in the book. Warts and all, I’m won over the refreshing plot and the humour.
The prequel to Warm Bodies, The New Hunger is available as an 140-page eBook. It fills in the missing bits and pieces unexplained in this book. I haven’t read the eBook but I guess it will talk about the zombie plague, how R became a zombie and more about Julie’s estranged relationship with his father and Nora’s dalliance with Perry. As for the sequel to Warm Bodies, Marion hopes to get it out by 2014. I’m keeping my finger crossed that R and Juliet won’t end up marrying and have children just like Edward and Bella did in the finale of Twilight. Marion, please continue to surprise me!