Saturday, November 10, 2012

Warm Bodies: Read it or Watch it? BOTH

As a fan of zombies (shout-out to We're Alive- The Zombie Podcast) I'm pretty much qualified to tell you that this book is awesome, in it's own strange way. The movie is being marketed as a Zombieland meets Twilight teen romance but the book is black comedy all the way. 

What is Warm Bodies and why does it sound like a Harlequin novel? Basically, the novel is about a post zombie apocalypse world seen through the eyes of R, a zombie who is slowly becoming self aware. 

In the novel R is a twenty-something year old zombie shambling around post apocalyptic Manhattan wearing the same slacks and a tie he died in. Back-story on R is limited but the story clearly hints that he was, at some point ,a young professional on the up and up:
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 color... (Warm Bodies)
Mentally he's intelligent in that dry and witty way, but that stops when he opens his rotting mouth to speak. ZOMBIE BABEL! Anyway, R is just the kind of guy who'd be having an existential crises with or without the whole zombie apocalypse ordeal.   

Warm Bodies novel and trailer review
The movie version of R has clearly been aged down a bit. In the trailer he's wearing typical teen angst getup: a hoodie and jeans. Julie's a teenager in both the novel and film so his teen makeover makes their creepy-as-hell romance acceptable...from a legal standpoint at least. I knew they'd have to age one of them up or down to get around this but I was hoping the movie would take a chance and make Julie a bit older instead. But alas, a supernatural romance MUST appeal to tweens and teenagers. Le sigh.

Other cool things about R that probably wont make it to the movie: He's "zombie married" (not to Julie) with 2 adopted zombie kids. I'm not even joking about this. This book is strange, I know.

In the novel, when zombies kill, they temporarily absorb their victim's thoughts and emotions, which is where Julie comes in. After killing Julie's boyfriend, R naturally develops an infatuation with Julie. Creepy, yes, but understandable considering the rules the story established.

Julie's attachment to R, on the other hand, made me uncomfortable. The novel does not give R the "Twilight treatment"; he is very much a decaying copse with limited motor and speech functions. Much of her emotional attachment to R comes from, ironically enough, her lack of human companionship. Which begs the question: who the hell has she been hanging out with? 

The last scraps of human kind live holed up inside of a giant compound under the control of a military dictator that happens to be Julie's father. From there the story really wants you to know that zombies are a metaphor for the death of human creativity, free will and love. And the inhabitants of the last human colony on earth are seriously lacking in all three.  

The minute R gets to this compound the story becomes a lame teen drama, and R, being a twenty something on the up and up, should know better! Pretty much the conflict is:
-She's like: Hey military leader and father, may I date your mortal enemy, the predator to our race?
-And he's like: Hell no, daughter. Now let's sound the drums of war Pocahontas style (I dare you not to read that like Gangnam Style)

The only thing that saves the story is the introduction of a 3rd enemy (no spoiler here). "The bonies" are the zombie version of the elderly and they control the zombie population. Since the novel doesn't say how long ago the zombie apocalypse happened, it's only natural to assume that "the bonies" are just older, more decayed, zombies, and the author does a good job of getting you to ignore them as background creepers for awhile. The more the story reveals about the nature of zombies, the more and more truly evil the skeletons seem until you realize, too late, that there is actually something more sinister going on with them.

Even at it's most predictable, I enjoyed reading every bit of it. I honestly don't think I've ever read or seen anything like it, except for maybe Fido. There's no necrophilia in it, thank God. BUT there's just enough creepy supernatural romance to keep the twilighters happy. Unlike twilight, however, Warm Bodies is pretty well written. I say, if you like will-he-or-won't-he-kill-me romances, dark comedy, horror/comedies and zombies give both the movie and novel a try.