My skin is always cold. I don’t like people to touch me, to try to hold my hand or touch the back of my neck because the skin there is always cold. Even in the middle of a scorching August day parts of my body are cold. Passing mirrors or shop windows I’m startled into remembering I’m inside this body. I feel like I just fell into it, that I was somewhere else a few minutes ago and then boom! I’m human again. Being inside this skin is almost ridiculous. I think that’s how zombies would feel if they were real. Or had thoughts beyond “That brain looks tasty.”
Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies is a beauty of a book. It’s an atypical zombie read with surprisingly beautiful writing. There’s R, a zombie who lives at an abandoned airport along with hundreds of other zombies. There are out-posts of survivors who go on foraging missions for supplies and weapons. Some make it back in one piece. Some are lost to the world of the dead. There’s no explanation for the zombies or how they came to be. We seem to be the cause or the wrong we’ve done to the planet and to each other:
We released it. We poked through the seabed and the oil erupted, painted us black, pulled our inner sickness out for everyone to see. Now here we are in this dry corpse of a world, rotting on our feet ‘til there’s nothing left but bones and the buzz of flies.
From the very beginning R is a different kind of zombie. He loves Sinatra and lives alone in one of the grounded airplanes while all the other zombies group together. He can’t remember his name or who he was before becoming a zombie. He dreams. “Normal” zombies don’t sleep much let alone dream. R gathers bits of memories when he eats people. He sees their lives spread out before him. He savors their lives the way a zombie savors….well, human meat.
One day R and a few other zombies go out on a hunting mission and run up against human survivors. There’s a battle (the humans lose, of course) and R meets Julie. He’s chomping away at her boyfriend’s brain and quickly falls in love with her. He feels an overwhelming need to protect her and this freaks him out. He’s a zombie. He’s not supposed to feel protective of anyone or anything except maybe what bit of flesh belongs to him.
Surprisingly, the feelings are mutual for Julie. The only problem standing in their way, besides the whole he’s a corpse and she’s alive thing, is Julie’s father who’s a big muckety-muck in the service. He runs the small city Julie and other survivors live in. There’s always a psychotic father/general/sheriff in the zombie world, huh?
R tries to get across the message that the zombies are changing, evolving into something different. Julie sees this and tries to explain it to her father but Crazy General Dad can’t and won’t see the changes. All he sees is death and destruction and his own place eradicating the zombies from this world.
The one thing both zombies and humans have in common is their fear of the Boneys. These are zombies so ancient that they have only the slightest of skin stretched tight over their bones. They’re walking skeletons. They do not evolve. In fact, they seem mighty ticked off at R for becoming something and someone new and try to put a halt to it.
Part love story, part survival story, Warm Bodies is a novel about change and acceptance and loving someone even if they eat your boyfriend’s brain. I was once told that there’s a lid for every jar when it comes to being loved, that there’s someone for everyone. If you can love the zombie who ate most of your boyfriend then you, my friend, have found the best kind of love.
Just make sure your zombie boyfriend brushes his teeth before he leans in for that kiss.