Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: Warm Bodies

Isaac Marion, 2010, Random House Australia

'R' is a zombie. He has no memory of his name, or of his former life. His entire existence, along with many of his kind, consists of endlessly shambling around the local airport, mimicking the routines of the living. Only the occasional scavenging forays into the nearby city, hunting for warm, living flesh, bring anything close to genuine emotion into R's sterile life. Until the day he meets a living girl, and - for reasons that will haunt him thereafter - saves her life, spiriting her away to his airport hideaway to be his companion. The status quo is beginning to change. The rules are being broken. But will R's strange evolution bring peace to a shattered world, or only tragedy to those he is beginning to care about?

Warm Bodies is a tremendous novel that turns the zombie genre on its head, minutely examining the human condition - an oft-explored theme in zombie fiction - entirely from the zombie's point of view. Marion's undead protagonist is painted as something of an autistic savant - capable of intelligent observation and rationalisation, yet unable to truly comprehend the behaviour and motives of the living (or even his fellow dead, for that matter), himself operating on a mental level that would be incomprehensible to the reader, were it not for the power and clarity of Marion's writing. The plot explores numerous philosophical and ethical issues at a deeply intellectual level, whilst remaining engrossing and entertaining throughout. There's also plenty of violent mayhem and flesh-eating action for the old-school zomfans, with a nifty explanation as to why zombies have to eat flesh, and why brains might offer more than just a tasty treat.

Warm Bodies is among the best of the best of the current crop (shamble?) of zombie novels. Zomfic enthusiasts absolutely owe it to themselves to read it - and to then pass it on to those who disdain the genre, but love a deeply literary affair. And thus, the sickness spreads...

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