“It frustrates and fascinates me that we’ll never know for sure, that despite the best efforts of historians and scientists and poets, there are some things we’ll just never know. What the first song sounded like. How it felt to see the first photograph. Who kissed the first kiss, and if it was any good.”
― Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies
R is dead, but it’s not so bad. He’s learned to live with it. He wanders around the airport he and his fellow zombies inhabit without memories to reflect on or purpose to pursue, with only his friend M to talk to, and even then, they’re not much for conversation. But then Julie Grigio comes into his un-life. She is color in a grey landscape, light in a dark world, and life in a dying world. With her by his side, he’s starting to feel all over again and discovering that there just might be a chance for life after not-death.
The Warm Bodies series by Isaac Marion has been one of my favorites since the first book was published in 2010. The actual book Warm Bodies, the first one in the series, is one that I’ve read over and over and over again for years, finding new things to love about it with every turn of the pages. Its gorgeous prose is nearly poetry with deep, introspective reflections on life, happiness, hope, and humanity interspersed with dark humor and irony.
The basic plot is that of Romeo and Juliet, with each of the characters in the original play having their post-apocalyptic counterpart, and the conflict taking place between not two families, but the Living and the Dead. It’s so much more than that, though. It plays into the classic tropes of horror and science fiction but completely flips it on its head by telling the story from R’s perspective, letting us experience the quiet of being Dead, the brilliance of finding a new life, the frustration of not being able to express all of the words in your head. It also explores the psyche of depression and the survival instinct, the depth of bonds between friends, partners, and families, the concepts of life and death, right and wrong, progress and caution, and so many more things than I can say in one short book review.
My favorite thing about this series is the insight we get into R’s personality, both when he remembers nothing at all and when he chooses to forget. He is a fascinating narrator, full of wit and wisdom beyond his years that occasionally still makes me stop reading and stare out of a window to think about my life and how lucky I’ve been. How lucky we are to be human, and to be able to say to each other what we need to in order to leave some impression on ourselves in this vast and complicated universe. R’s struggles with literally finding the will to live and with who he is and how he fits into the scheme of this society he’d thought he’d left for good is amazing to read and really makes you fall in love with him more with every sentence.