It seems zombies have been all over popular culture for years now, and their takeover of the publishing world shows no signs of slowing. Zombies have increasingly permeated literary genres beyond traditional horror stories, and a recent library display on zombie fiction showcased their variety. From zombie westerns (Rob DeBorde’s “Portlandtown”), to classic literature mash-ups (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith), to literary fiction (recent collections by Manuel Gonzalez and Jess Walter each featured a story with a zombie protagonist), and even imaginary non-fiction (“A Zombie's History of the United States” by Worm Miller), zombies are everywhere. With so much undead saturation, I admit I have started to cringe a bit when I read about a new zombie series coming out or a new twist on the classic zombie story. There are, however, some authors approaching the zombie theme in clever, entertaining, and sometimes even moving ways, as Isaac Marion does in his novel “Warm Bodies”.
Marion’s novel (which has now been made into a movie), is told from the point of view of “R”, a zombie who finds himself having a crisis of conscience when he impulsively saves the girlfriend of one of his victims during a hunt. He takes the girl, Julie, home to the 747 he calls home in the airport zombie enclave in order to keep her safe. In Marion's version of the zombie apocalypse, when zombies feed on human brains they temporarily experience the memories of their victims, so "R" feels a strong connection to Julie from the start. As they get to know one another, Julie realizes “R” is not quite like the other zombies, and “R” can feel himself changing. He is able to speak in longer sentences, and finds himself thinking more clearly about his motivations and the world around him. As Julie and “R” forge an alliance, they have to deal with threats from both the zombies and the humans focused on wiping out zombies to ensure the survival of humanity. Julie and “R” have to come up with a way to change the unquestioned order of their post-apocalyptic world if they want to be together.
I was surprised at how sweet and funny this book turned out to be, and I am glad I gave it a chance despite my zombie fatigue. It was a good reminder not to write books off just because they fall into a trendy theme, and with all the zombie books out there these days I am sure there is something for almost everyone.