R is a zombie. He can’t remember his name so he is down to one letter. R lives in an old airplane and collects pieces of his crumbling civilization. He loves Frank Sinatra and the Beatles and listens to them on old vinyl records. He reminds me of Pixar’s Wall-e. R is in the early stages of decay so he doesn’t look too bad, but he does eat brains. He grunts and groans, he shrugs, and he shuffles in classic zombie fashion. A typical male, he is a man of few words. Although it is hard to be a fan of the walking dead, Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies charmed me and also made me think about what it means to be human. We sometimes need monsters to remind us of our humanity.
R points out the irony of being a zombie: “...everything is funny but you can’t smile because your lips have rotted off.” He is dead, but he has learned to live with it. Being dead has relaxed him. I can see R when alive as a crazy-busy, Jerry Maguire-type--always traveling. As a zombie he is wearing a suit and tie as his last fashion statement.
It wasn’t a fungus or virus that caused the zombie apocalypse in this novel; it came from a deeper place in us. The Boneys--the skeletons of what is left after humanity decays--are against living.
As R succinctly puts it, “Changing.” He meets a girl named Julie who is alive and falls in love. In a Shakespearean moment, we see R & J as star-crossed lovers, and they even have a balcony scene. Her father is definitely against the match--another strike against R is that he has eaten the brains of Julie’s boyfriend. But this book is more than boy stumbling then chasing a girl--R goes from wanting change to taking it. The novel’s movie adaptation came out in February and will be available on DVD in June. As the promo poster says of R, “He’s still dead, but he’s getting warmer.”