Today I Read…Warm Bodies

Warm BodiesToday I read Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.

It’s not that bad being dead, really. Sure, R can’t really remember anything, not his family or his job or his name, and he has to eat people to survive, but he has his collection of interesting things, and he can wander around moaning and staring, and it’s okay. But then one day he eats the brain of a young man named Perry while on a hunting trip, and experiences his memories of Julie. Beautiful Julie, who is about to be eaten by the other zombies.

R rescues Julie and brings her to the airplane where he keeps his collection. She’s safe there, but surrounded by Fleshies and Boneys so she can’t leave, and unlike R she does need food to live. And R doesn’t want her to go- she makes him feel so strange…almost alive. But everyone knows that the dead and the living aren’t meant to be together, and they’ll keep R and Julie apart any way they have to…

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I saw the movie first and I loved it, so I was excited to read the book. They are different- the movie emphasizes the romance and the humour much more, while the book delves a little farther into the horror aspects. R attacks more people and the reader goes even deeper into his experience of being a Fleshy (a zombie with skin and muscle left, as opposed to a Boney, which are more savage and in control of the Fleshys). There’s also more of an impression that R’s fascination for Julie comes from Perry and his memories, instead of being mainly charmed by her on his own. His wife and children play a larger part in his life as opposed to being random zombies that catch his interest for a passing moment, though not enough to overcome his interest in Julie.

Memories are an important part of the book. Even without his memories, R’s personality still comes through, especially his interest in music and his fascination for artifacts of the pre-disaster life. THe artifacts themselves serve as the physical memories of the old world, even if R doesn’t share those memories. Julie’s memories are of growing up in a broken world, and the ways that people cope. Perry’s memories start the connection between R and Julie, before they can begin to build memories together. And R beginning to remember what it feels like to be human begins the process for the rest of the Fleshys, and leads to the end of the Boneys. Memories are life, because without them you are truly dead and forgotten.

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I am dead, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it. I’m sorry I can’t properly introduce myself, but I don’t have a name any more. Hardly any of us do. We lose them like car keys, forget them like anniversaries. Mine might have started with an ‘R’, but that’s all I have now. It’s funny because back when I was alive, I was always forgetting other people’s names. My friend ‘M’ says the irony of being a zombie is that everything is funny, but you can’t smile, because your lips have rotted off.

None of us are particularly attractive, but death has been kinder to me than some. I’m still in the early stages of decay. Just the grey skin, the unpleasant smell, the dark circles under my eyes. I could almost pass for a Living man in need of a vacation. Before I became a zombie I must have been a businessman, a banker or broker or some young temp learning the ropes, because I’m wearing fairly nice clothes. Black slacks, grey shirt, red tie. M makes fun of me sometimes. He points at my tie and tries to laugh, a choked, gurgling rumble deep in his gut. His clothes are holey jeans and a plain white T-shirt. The shirt is looking pretty macabre by now. He should have picked a darker colour.

We like to joke and speculate about our clothes, since these final fashion choices are the only indication of who we were before we became no one. Some are less obvious than mine: shorts and a sweater, skirt and a blouse. So we make random guesses.

You were a waitress. You were a student. Ring any bells?

It never does.

No one I know has any specific memories. Just a vague, vestigial knowledge of a world long gone. Faint impressions of past lives that linger like phantom limbs. We recognise civilisation – buildings, cars, a general overview – but we have no personal role in it. No history. We are just here. We do what we do, time passes, and no one asks questions. But like I’ve said, it’s not so bad. We may appear mindless, but we aren’t. The rusty cogs of cogency still spin, just geared down and down till the outer motion is barely visible. We grunt and groan, we shrug and nod, and sometimes a few words slip out. It’s not that different from before.

But it does make me sad that we’ve forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else’s, because I’d like to love them, but I don’t know who they are.

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