There are some books that please, some books that disappoint, and some books that just completely surprise you. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion falls firmly into that last category. I remember being intrigued when it was published. It's a book about zombies, so obviously I was interested, but the fact that it was about a romance between a zombie man and a living woman and had a quote on the cover from Stephenie Meyer, sort of put me off. I worried that this was just a cynical attempt to drag zombies into the Dark Romance category, to hook both the Twilight fans and the Shaun of the Dead fans in one fell swoop. Then, for reasons I can no longer understand, I decided it must be funny. I guess horror-comedy is just where my mind retreats to when faced with the possibility of Undead sex.
Well, it's not a comedy book (other than the humour inherent in rotting corpses moving around), and that's fine, because it's not meant to be. What it is, is the tale of the transformative power of love versus the danger of hatred, negativity, and order for the sake of order. Yes, that sounds cheesy, and it is a little; yes, the main characters are called 'R' and 'Julie' (the significance of which took me far too long to register) and maybe it did appeal to my romantic tendencies, but the point is that it's really well done.
The story is narrated by the zombie, 'R', and it's well written from when he's shuffling about in an airport, abandoned by all but the Living Dead, right through to the exciting end. You share his thoughts, as well as the physical changes and the flashes of memory he experiences when eating the occasional chunk of brain. This is also how you learn about the destruction of the world, and how bleak things are both for the Living and the Undead.
Marion has done something quite clever in managing to create a new kind of zombiism (I thought the Bonies were genuinely creepy) and balances the large scale problems with the domestic really well. I actually cared about what happened to the characters.
I haven't seen the film yet, but I'd be intrigued to see if it's any good. So much of the book is internal, the inner thoughts of a creature who appears just as a shuffling corpse. How does that translate on to the screen, or do we have another World War Z situation, where the source material is sadly wasted? We shall have to see.
I seem to have abandoned my rating system, and I've decided I'm fine with that. Suffice to say Warm Bodies is a far deeper and better written book than I expected it to be.