Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Warm Bodies: A Novel

2011, 2012 Atria movie-tie-in edition
Isaac Marion
Warm Bodies: A Novel
Bought newish for $15.00
Slightly worn paperback

I'm not a zombie fan, as you might've guessed from my book collection.  Yet I found the trailer for the movie adaptation of this book hilarious, and the zom-com itself is one of the best films I saw last year.  (Third, after American Hustle and World's End.)  So I rushed right out and got the novel, only to be disappointed.  It may be a case of "you shouldn't see the book first," but that never dampened my love for The Wizard of Oz, book or movie.  I still laughed out loud and was moved the fourth or fifth time I saw Warm Bodies as a movie.  This second time reading the novel, I mostly tried to enjoy it as reliving a pale "imitation" of the film.

Actually though, it's more like Romeo & Juliet, where he's "dead" until the end.  His love for her brings him, and a lot of other zombies, back to life.  The movie gets away with this cheesiness because it's a very sweet movie.  The book is not sweet, primarily due to the zombie "society" and to the character of Julie.  In the movie, there is no zombie marriage, adoption, church, or school.  The zombies at most grunt at each other.  They do not attempt to have sex with each other!  Early in the beginning of the film, this isolation is playfully contrasted with the pre-Apocalypse world of "connection" (where even the little kids are focused on their cell phones).  

As for Julie, she has a much darker background in the movie (including having sex for money at thirteen), which might be OK, but R also sees her as angelic, as if he can't take in even that she drinks, smokes pot, and swears.  Damn, does she swear!  And her favorite thing is to call R's best friend M "a fat fuck."  Now admittedly, he, too, is less likable in the book than in the movie, but that has nothing to do with his weight.  She even mocks the dead fat people whose house she and R shelter in one night.  She's much nicer, more accepting, all round in the movie.

Not that there aren't problems with R's character, particularly his selective amnesia.  Marion may well be the youngest writer in my collection, having been born in 1981, but he's given R (who can't remember anything of his life beyond his first initial) and Julie a frame of references that seem rooted in the 1950s and 1960s, not just the Sinatra and Lennon music they listen to, but things like R comparing zombies "on the road" to Kerouac.  And R would have to be born sometime after Marion himself.

One of the many wise decisions in the movie was to make it more the YA story it should've been, to make R's awkwardness around Julie a funny and charming symbol of adolescence, to take him out of his suit and put him a hoodie.  This novel got a glowing recommendation from Stephenie Meyer, who apparently missed the little swipe about vampires' eyes changing color when they feed, but it's got much more potential than Twilight.  As it turns out, director/screenwriter Jonathan Levine (born in 1976) understood that potential better than Marion did.

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