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Literature / Warm Bodies

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I am dead, but it's not so bad. I've learned to live with it.

For the film version, go here.

A zombie romance novel, written by Isaac Marion, that originally started as a short story called I Am a Zombie Filled With Love that you can read from here. After a worldwide, though gradual Zombie Apocalypse, the Living have been forced to retreat to isolated safe-places as the Dead populate the outside world. Out there is our protagonist "R", a zombie who still, in a way, clings to humanity more than his kin, inhabiting a deserted airport terminal which they only leave to hunt food.

But in a hunt gone slightly awry, R eats a young man's brains and fully acquires the man's memories. This motivating him to save Julie, his victim's girlfriend, from the rest of the horde and bring her back to his "home" in the airport. After she realizes that he poses no harm to her and is vastly different from what she has known zombies to be, they start an awkward relationship that changes the futile and rigid ways of both the Living and Dead worlds.

Don't be scared off by the concept similarities that it has to Twilight, or the review quote on the cover by Stephenie Meyer.

A film adaptation was released in February 2013. It stars Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco and John Malkovich. For the film version, go here.

Marion has since published two prequels: a novella called "The New Hunger" and a short story called "The Boarded Window" about R's first winter as a zombie. A sequel novel, "The Burning World", was published on February 7th 2017, and another sequel novel, The Living, has been announced as the conclusion of the series.

This book contains examples of:

  • Cannibalism Superpower: With brains come memories.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: R, with dramatic consequences: he lost concentration and control, leading him to blow his cover and forcing him to kill a guard in self-defense. Drunken zombies are a big no no.
  • Chastity Couple: R doesn't even kiss Julie until the very end. When he does, there are ... interesting effects.
  • Crazy Survivalist: General Grigio.
  • Cry into Chest: Julie does this with R when she explains how her mother died.
  • Death Seeker: Perry, since his father's death. Also, General Grigio, who refuses to fight off a zombie attacker in a fit of despair.
  • Dem Bones: The oldest zombies are just bones with sinew attached, endlessly reliving the last moments of their lives. They're also the biggest threat, as they've abandoned any humanity and cannot have their zombification reversed.
  • Despair Event Horizon: From the way R describes it, being a zombie has some parallels with being in a deep depression, with the only thing that can (temporarily) relieve them being eating the brains of living humans. It is later revealed that it was this trope on a global scale that caused the zombie plague in the first place, as mentioned below. "Boneys" have completely given up on their humanity and literally became walking, desiccated corpses that will firmly and violently reject any notion of non-hostility between Zombie and Human.
  • Dug Too Deep: Of an interesting metaphorical variety. Apparently, Zombieism came to be after humanity hit the bottom of the proverbial "emotion barrel," then grabbed a shovel and started digging. Chaos brought about, some dark force that causes the dead to rise and develop such a craving for human emotions that the effects of it are practically a narcotic. Since the only way for the undead to obtain these emotions is to consume the flesh of a living brain (reliving the previous owner's memories in the process) you can imagine how the Zombie Apocalypse unfolded from there.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Julie forgives R so fast for the whole 'eating my boyfriend' incident that one gets the impression that she didn't care much about Perry.
    • Somewhat justified in the film when she explains to R that it isn't that she doesn't miss Perry, but growing up in the freaking Zombie Apocalypse has made her used to losing people.
    • Further justified since she admitted herself that near the end they no longer loved each other, and she knew that he really wanted to die.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Inverted. It's the protagonists' passion for life that gives them the power to change their world for the better, while the antagonists' stoicism dooms them.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • R is put out that Julie does not see the "culturally sensitive implications" of the label "corpse". Sure, the Dead may use it among themselves sometimes, but that doesn't mean the Living get a pass. Interestingly, while one could initially understand why Grigio would see all zombies as feral, living-dead blights on humanity. The fact that he refuses to see R as anything more than such even as R is calmly and nervously speaking to him gives him some very deep shades of this.
    • The Boneys actively enforce this trope, making it clear that they will not tolerate anything but hostility between humans and zombies, and will even attack both sides in order to keep the status quo in check.
  • Ghost Amnesia: The protagonist has more of his humanity left than most zombies, and he can't remember much of his past, how he died, or even his own name, just that it started with the letter R.
  • Had to Be Sharp: Pretty much every human left after the Zombie Apocalypse fits this trope to some extent. They live in a Crapsack World and teach their children survival skills, The Spartan Way.
  • Happily Adopted: Played with: the child zombies were given to adult zombies, who look after them.
  • Hearing Voices: Complete with visions, actually. Apparently, Perry became an inmate in R's head, as did many of the other people R has eaten over the years.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: General Grigio eventually becomes just as lifeless as the Boneys he's fighting, winding up somewhere between this and the Well-Intentioned Extremist. Perry also becomes zombie-esque when he loses his will to live, giving up on all his passions.
  • The Horde: Of zombies, who go on the hunt for humans.
  • Horror Hunger: The zombies have a burning desire for human flesh.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: It doesn't take much positive emotion for zombies to be converted to the side of good.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: An interesting variation; it isn't a specific virus or plague that turns people into zombies, but their own emotions, via hitting the proverbial "bottom of the barrel" and unleashing some kind of dark force that turns them into a brain-craving undead. While a zombie can still turn other humans via a bite, there's no pathogen or virus involved.
  • Idiot Ball: Julie firmly grasps it when she tries to escape from an airport infested by zombies without a weapon (or a plan). R saves her, but she reveals her presence to the Boneys, necessitating a swift exodus.
  • It Can Think: R is the first zombie to string together more than four syllables, but even the Boneys are capable of philosophy.
  • Keystone Army: When the lead Boney is taken out, all of them just wander aimlessly.
  • Love Redeems: First it helps R regain his humanity and then largely cures the rest of the zombies outside the Boneys.
  • Meaningful Name: Several references to Romeo and Juliet. R is Romeo, M is Mercutio, Julie is Juliet, Nora is the Nurse, and Perry is Paris.
  • No Zombie Cannibals: Desperate zombies that have wandered alone for a long time and gone crazy may attack and eat other zombies, but normal zombies only eat living people to sate their need for life energy.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Perry states that him and R are both victims of the plague, and in the end there isn't much difference between the Boneys and Grigio.
  • Now or Never Kiss: R kisses Julie when he thinks they're both about to die.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: In this series, anyone who dies (be it of zombie bite, other violence, or natural causes) will become a zombie unless they are debrained. These zombies tend to lack personal recollections but are still capable of (very limited) speech and higher thought and retain a general cultural awareness. They generally lack the coordinated movements and fine motor skills of a living being, and must eat human meat to exist. They eat brains to get high off a person's memories. It is interesting to note that undead children apparently lack the killer instinct of their elders and must be taught to hunt. They apparently originated when the human race's negative emotions reached the bottom of the proverbial emotion barrel, then went through the bottom, unleashing some dark force that turned people into zombies after death. When a zombie (or human) finally, completely gives up all vestiges of humanity, they become a type of uber-zombie called a Boney, so-called because they're almost skeletal, and have no chance at redemption or humanity.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Julie's father is a workaholic and her mother is dead.
    • Nora's parents were drug addicts who abandoned her in the middle of a Dead-infested city.
    • Perry's parents died as a result of the apocalypse (Mom) and a construction accident (Dad).
  • Picky People Eater: To a degree. Body fat is useless and disgusting for zombies to eat, so a fatter person isn't more filling or delicious. R implies that the thought of eating fat completely grosses him out. However, it's unlikely that a zombie would outright refuse to eat a fat person.
  • Posthumous Character: Perry, who spends most of the book as essentially a ghost haunting R's body.
  • Posthumous Narration: The first person narration switches between R and Perry.
  • The Power of Love: It plays a major role in R returning to true life.
  • Pretend We're Dead: Average zombies recognize humans through smell and obvious mannerisms, so Julie is able to escape them by imitating their body language and letting R cover her in his blood. Inverted later in the book when R has to pretend he's alive - by imitating living posture, wearing makeup, and hiding his smell with cologne.
  • Pretty Boy: R as portrayed by Nicholas Hoult in the movie.
  • Race Lift: Nora is explicitly black in the books. In the movie, she's white.
  • Rebellious Princess: Julie is the daughter of the humans' leader. She deeply resents her father's stoic, survivalist, end-times mentality and policies.
  • Refuge in Audacity: R manages to infiltrate the humans' base pretending to be a live human chased by zombies.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: It's the only sure way to permanently kill a zombie, or prevent someone from rising as one. Barring the Dead just dissolving on their own, but that's an unpredictable event.
  • Sanity Slippage: General Grigio.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Zombie version: R is the sensitive guy while M is the manly man.
  • Tear Off Your Face: One zombie in the film who's in the process of Boney-fication is seen starting the transformation by tearing off a chunk of his own face, exposing the bone and muscle layer beneath. Presumably all other Boneys seen did this at some point or another as well.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Nice job showing R post-kiss, trailer.
  • The Undead: It's a story about zombies, so ...
  • Undead Child: They have no feeding instincts, so they go to school. Zombie elders also appoint male-female pairs of mature zombies to look after them.
  • The Unreveal: While M is given a full name in the end, R never is.
  • The Un-Smile: When R tried to smile, Julie told him to never do it again.
  • Zombie Advocate: Julie winds up becoming one after bonding with R.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: There's one going on. Nobody's quite sure what caused it.
  • Zombie Gait: By default—they can learn to imitate humans. As R points out, Julie's attempt to copy it is grossly exaggerated.