Friday, July 19, 2013

I'm dead, but it's not so bad. I've learned to live with it.

When I first saw the trailers for Warm Bodies I thought "So what you're saying is the Z is for Zombie, Twilight-esque love story that Nick from New Girl wrote is...real? That's a thing? That sarcastic monster love story joke is an actual movie? And John Malkovich is in it? I don't really know what to make of this." But then the movie actually got good reviews. Whoda thunk? Then I started seeing reviews of the book and they were also good. So when I was on my just-browsing-but-definitely-not-buying-anything trip to the local bookstore I picked up a copy. I was listening to the World War Z audiobook so I was on a zombie kick.

With Warm Bodies you have to forget everything you know about zombies. Not like in a "This will challenge you in new ways!" type thinking, but because pretty much every basic detail about zombies (they are unthinking, the change is permanent, they don't remember anything of their former life) is disregarde.  At first it was sort of hard for me to accept this. I kept thinking "But wait? How can they talk? They're not people anymore" and had to stop and realize this is a different story. And come on, it's not like this is more or less realistic than any other zombie story because zombies aren't real so shut up already.

Warm Bodies is indeed a zombie love story. Our main character is R. He can't remember his full name, but the fact that he can remember anything is pretty good for the walking dead. He lives at the airport with a bunch of other zombies. They wander around, ride the escalators, teach their "children" how to eat brains, and go on hunts. They can even talk...kinda. Already these aren't the mindless zombies from other stories. But they're still zombies and they still eat brains and you'd think that right there would make it pretty hard to set up a love story between a Dead and a Living.

When a zombie eats a persons brain they temporarily experience that person's life. They see their memories and for a moment they get a glimpse of what it was like to be alive. When R eats the brain of a man named Perry he sees Julie and something changes. Instead of attacking her he saves her. He smears blood on her to hide her from the others and she brings her back to the hive. Sure, she's a prisoner at first but there's something going on there.

It seems dangerous to make a zombie the main character because how much depth can a zombie have? But R works wonderful to lead us through his world. He wants to remember what happened to him. He wants to remember his name and the names of the others. He wants to remember to talk and laugh and live.

And of course then there's Julie. There is something about her the causes this shift in his being. But she's not this up-on-a-pedestal too-good-to-be-true-and-ultimately-really-boring woman. She has flaws and she's tough and she's scared and she's brave. This isn't a story about a woman's love ultimately saving a guy. There's something in the bond between the two of them that they don't understand that causes things to veer off course.

I really enjoyed this one. It was funny and touching and there was a surprising depth to the characters, given it is a zombie love story. That said, I'm still confused why there's a blurb from Audrey Niffenegger (she of The Time Traveler's Wife) on the cover of my copy. It doesn't seem to that their audiences would necessarily have a lot of overlap. But what do I know?

Now I just need to see the movie...

Title quote from page 3

Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies. Emily Bestler Books, 2011.