Book Review: Warm Bodies By Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies HeaderIt doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while a book is topped by its film adaptation.  Such is the case for Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies.

A lot of the negatives for the book come early on when the world is being set up, different from the world that I’d just seen on the screen.  Instead of the self-deprecating slacker, we have a nicely dressed zombie narrating the book through mostly inner monologue.  There’s something about the way he thinks that seems so pretentious as he examines what life has become for him, all the while talking through the choppiest sentences ever.  Gone are the moments in which he forces words out to his satisfaction, responding, “Nailed it” cognitively.  This humor is definitely missed, as it doesn’t reach the same level as the scripted version for the film.

Not only that, but understanding R’s initial introduction is pretty confusing as he thinks about making jokes and speculating with his best friend, M, or M making fun of him, only to contradict this ability later with an offhand comment about being able to push words out when he’s lucky.  So how exactly are they communicating?  Mostly through groans based on the amount of times that word is written, but I would have still appreciated a little more of a description on the functionality of the individual zombies if these relationships are really being formed, or a stronger indication that these were all just ideas that R implemented in his interpretation of the world around him to make it more bearable.

Eventually this does get better, and I appreciated that R was still set apart from the rest of the throngs because of the remorse he feels towards what he is and does to others to survive, but his character is just as confusing as those communication problems.  His whole story was supposed to be of an evolution he made through his relationship to Julie, the girl he saves during a group feeding, yet in the book he falls in love with another zombie before meeting Julie, even adopting children with her that he continues to care about for the remainder of the pages.  This was just such a weird character choice considering where the story goes because it weakens how we interpret his feelings later, leaning more so on only feeling anything for Julie because of his consumed memories of her through another’s brain, though I suppose this first love could have been him clinging to what makes someone human.  It’s just simply confusing, and would be the worst differentiating element of the book from the film had it not been for how the boneys were written.

On the page the boneys are these creatures that are still skeletal in nature, long decomposed past the state of the fleshies, yet they have managed to cling to some semblance of what they once were, including the desire to capture everything in photograph form.  No, I’m not making that up.  They are the head of these zombies, structuring this new afterlife for those around them by doling out “sermons” during religious gatherings, marrying dead couples, and acting as the stork to couples deserving of children.  Like R, maybe this is their own way of clinging to humanity, but instead of examining the world and hoping for change, they try to enforce to norm of what they are now.  Maybe had I read the book first this wouldn’t seem so weird, but coming from the film this decision is just comical.  I missed the idea of how they were another step down in degradation from the fleshies, losing all resemblance of consciousness as they can no longer deal with the mundane monotony, living solely based on instinct from now on.  This was far more believable than being skeletal teachers.

I don’t want to dwarf what Isaac Marion was able to do by using these unique ideas to create this world that is something pretty refreshing coming out of the zombie genre, but the filmmakers were able to create something even better by building off what they were working with.  Not only that, but Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer created a relationship that was far more adorable and believable, in the sense that R’s motives for feeling for Julie seem less questionable in concerned to what was spurring them along.  So if you can, be sure to go see Warm Bodies while it’s still in theaters, or read the book first.  I have no doubt it would have been a better read had I started with Marion’s version first.

Final Grade: 3 out of 5     

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