Saturday, 5 February 2011

Warm Bodies - Isaac Marion, 2010

It can often be incredibly enlightening to read an author's first novel. Often the style is raw, as the author struggles to make a name for themselves. But the author also pushes more boundaries, as they have no expectations set upon them yet by publishers and fans.

Warm Bodies is the first novel by Isaac Marion, and what a first novel it is.

A romance from beyond the grave, it tells the story of R, a zombie and Julie, his living love interest. R is a smarter than normal zombie, capable of stringing together small sentences and collecting rare vinyls of Sinatra, Bobby Darin et al.

R goes out hunting in a pack with some of the smarter zombies (they bring some of the meat back for the others), but rescues Julie from his fellows. A tender relationship strikes up between them, forbidden by the elders on both sides.

It doesn't take a world-class intellect to work out that this is a postmodern pastiche of Romeo and Juliet, with even the names only slightly changed. But don't let this make you think the book is just a romance, as there is plenty of gore for any zombie fan and a completely new addition to zombie lore, the chilling Boneys - zombie elders, not much more than scraps of flesh on bone with teeth filed to razor points.

Ultimately it suffers from some of the problems that commonly afflict first novels. The tone is uneven, lurching between horror, comedy and some really affecting scenes. Some of the scenes fall a bit flat in the middle of the book, but it quickly recovers and the ending is truly excellent.

Overall, a tremendous first novel. As with any first novel it has its rough edges, but I expect big things from this author in the future.

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