Warm Bodies by Isaac MarionWarm Bodies by Isaac MarionWarm Bodies by Isaac Marion

In Warm Bodies (2010), our world has been overrun by the zombies, and the few humans who are left are fighting a rearguard action. They huddle in walled enclosures, sending out occasional armed expeditions for food and supplies. Regular school classes have fallen by the wayside, replaced by classes and demonstrations on how to best kill a zombie permanently (head shots).

R is a zombie who doesn’t remember his past life, except that his name maybe started with the letter R. He can speak a few syllables, more than most of his zombie companions, and think complex thoughts that his tongue can’t share. R and hundreds of other zombies live in an abandoned airport, going on group hunts to the city to try to find food, in the form of humans. When they eat the brains of the Living, they experience fragments of the human’s memories, and it energizes them.

R and his friend M lead a zombie hunting party to the city one day and come across a group of humans who have ventured out of the stadium where they live. R attacks and kills Perry, the young man leading the group. As he bites into Perry’s brain, he’s hit with Perry’s memories of moments with his girlfriend Julie. When R recovers from these visions, he sees Julie cowering in a corner. Against all his zombie instincts, he rescues Julie from the other zombies and leads her back to his home, a 747 commercial jet parked at the end of a boarding tunnel. As R and Julie get to know each other better, Julie gradually loses her fear of R, R edges back toward humanity, and the two develop an unlikely friendship. But their relationship is a threat to those around them, both the humans and the Boneys, the animated and malignant skeletons that lead the zombie horde.

R is a zombie with a heart ― even if it’s not beating ― and philosophical thoughts that he can’t really share, since a zombie’s conversational abilities are so very limited. But he finds his tongue and heart are loosened as he gets to know Julie. And as R continues to snack on bits of Perry’s brain that he saved for later, many of Perry’s thoughts and memories are shared with him; kind of like in Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, Perry is often a separate voice in R’s head. But R’s feelings are his own. R’s narration is intelligent and engaging, dealing with the horrors of his murderous lifestyle with self-deprecatory humor that, together with the slowly developing romance, lightens the otherwise bleak post-apocalyptic setting.

I got all the way to the end of Warm Bodies before I realized how many connections Isaac Marion has made to Romeo and Juliet. R and Julie are the star-crossed couple, with the zombies and humans playing the roles of the houses of the Montagues and Capulets. Perry is the analogue of Paris, Juliet’s ill-fated lover; Julie’s best friend Nora takes on the Nurse’s role as Juliet’s confidante; and R’s zombie friend M stands in for Mercutio, Romeo’s friend.

Despite the many character connections, the plot of the story is Isaac Marion’s own original creation. It’s a quirky but moving mixture of science fiction and fantasy, shifting from a fairly straight zombiepocalypse near-future setting to something that is a little more meta, fantastical and symbolic in the end, not to mention heart-warming.

Though Warm Bodies is classified as a YA book, it contains adult language and themes, and fairly graphic and gruesome violence. Not recommended for younger or more sensitive readers.

Published in 2011. Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead, and the blurry line in between. R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization. And then he meets a girl. First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.


  • Tadiana Jones

    TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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