“R”, as the reader knows him, is a young man with a bit of an identity problem. You see, he’s dead. Or technically, undead. A zombie. Wait, wait…come back. This isn’t your typical zombie novel. “R”, and the others like him, aren’t your normal zombies. They hold conversations (granted, to the Living human ear it consists of a bunch of mumbling) and they have a conscious. One of the biggest tragedies is they remember nothing of their past. They don’t remember their names, nor what they did when they were Living. They jokingly speculate about their careers and pasts based on the clothing they are wearing. Most difficult to “R” is not knowing his name:
“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.”
It’s unknown how things ended up this way, but it’s been the case for some time:
“I think the world has mostly ended because the cities we wander are as rotten as we are. Buildings have collapsed. Rusted cars clog the streets. Most glass is shattered, the wind drifting through the hollow high-rises moans like an animal left to die. I don’t know what happened. Disease? War? Social collapse? Or was it just us? The Dead replacing the Living? I guess it’s not so important. Once you arrive at the end of the world , it hardly matters which route you took.”
“R” and hundreds of other Dead live in an abandoned airport. The Dead maintain many of the traditions they carried on while Living: They marry, they “have kids” (adopt, really), they go to church. The children go to school, learning what it takes to survive as the young undead. “R” spends a great deal of his time riding up and down escalators. Occasionally, he joins a group of others and they go off to the city and feed. Yes, they still require human flesh to exist. “R” craves the brain in particular, for it brings a spark of memory, a bit of life. He isn’t fond of many of the zombie’s “habits”, isn’t sure of why they have to eat in this manner, but he does what he has to survive. It is one of these visits to the city that “R” meets Julie, the girlfriend of Perry, the man “R” has just eaten. Flashed before him are Perry’s memories of his relationship with Julie. Perry’s memories become his own. But this time is different; they last longer than the typical few seconds. They hold on a little longer than normal. “R” takes Julie back to the airport and since “R” isn’t as decayed as most of other undead, he doesn’t appear as frightening as some of the others. A very unlikely relationship starts. “R” and Julie aren’t truly enemies. In a conversation with Perry, “R” sees he’s not necessarily the “bad guy” in this situation, just a victim of circumstance:
“You and I are victims of the same disease. We’re fighting the same war, just different battles in different theaters …My soul, your conscience, whatever’s left of me woven into whatever’s left of you, all tangled and conjoined…
This relationship, a modern day Romeo & Juliet, sparks change. A completely different future is in the horizon. The Undead begin changing, becoming more Living. It is then that “R” and Julie discover that they must be the vehicle for this change. The Undead can learn to live among the Living, to co-exist. “R” and Julie must stand strong against those who oppose him, generations stuck on living the life they same as they have for generations.
Warm Bodies isn’t your typical zombie novel, if you haven’t noticed. Instead, it is a look at our society, the fate that may be in store for us if we don’t stop and look at how our actions influence the future.
Mind you, this book isn’t all dark & serious, there are some pretty humorous scenes as well. One can’t help but fall in love with “R”, a handsome (ok, it may be a stretch but compared to the others) zombie with a conscious. He doesn’t want to continue living off of human flesh. He wants to live a happy, normal life. He, along with Julie, are saddened by the current state of society and strive to do something to change it.
They say that change starts with a on person. In this case that one person is “R”…willing to stop at nothing, including risking his Undead life, to see that it happens.
*Warning*-considering this is a zombie book, there are some pretty gruesome scenes. That said, they aren’t without a purpose. They serve to allow the reader to truly grasp the consequences of their actions. While it might not be “real” zombies that loom in our future, some characteristics of these creatures, including selfishness, greed, etc. are a real and true possibility.