I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies when I went with a friend to see Breaking Dawn: Part 2. The latter movie was surprisingly enjoyable in a "this is a bad movie, but dang if it's not hilarious and with far more decapitations than I expected" sort of way, but that's really all there is to say about it, so now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's move on. Warm Bodies, another zombie movie. Except... from the point of view of the zombie? That's pretty novel. And... there's a love interest? Well, this isn't the first time I've seen that. And the trailer in general seemed very snappy, full of quips that didn't fall flat and entertainingly action-filled.
So, at some point soon after I learned that it was based on a book, and on a whim I ordered it from the library. Came in pretty quickly too. Last night I was up late but didn't quite want to sleep yet, so I thought I'd crack it open. Two and a half hours later I turned the last page to the light of the rising sun. (Poetic license; I keep my windows firmly barricaded against any stray beams of natural light.) But anyway, I stayed up way later than I should have due to this surprisingly engaging novel.
So, first thing's first, while it definitely has a theme and message and all that jazz, and the main character is this rather philosophical zombie named R (that being all he can remember of his name), I never felt like I was being beaten over the head with any message of hope and what it means to be human. I mean, that was definitely in there, but it felt right, not forced. The writing was nice, didn't call attention to itself with any fancy gimmicks, just told a briskly-paced story. It's a nice tale of the apocalypse, dark and gritty enough to drive home just how plain terrible it'd be to live after the collapse of civilization, but what with the message of hope and the story not taking itself too seriously, the tone is just right. Same with the characters. None of them are saints, not R or his love interest Julie, but they're good people. Well-developed, too, and the romance is actually very believable, with the characters connecting over things instead of just being based off chemicals. And as for the zombies in general, it's just a darn interesting take on the monster, putting a new twist on why they do what they do and, really, what zombies are. It's hard to discuss without spoiling the journey of the book, including the ending which, somehow, actually worked for me. It's built up and plays out without breaking suspension of disbelief. I shouldn't buy the ending, but I do. This is a strangely good book. I think that says it best. It's a strange book, and I did not expect it to be as engaging as I found it.
One last thing. I think it's best saved until you've read the book yourself.
Basically, I was really pleased with how subtle the Romeo and Juliet thing was. I didn't even hit me until after I'd finished the book and was laying in bed, trying to fall asleep, and then it was all bam! I had noticed the nod to the Bard in the balcony scene, and I had appreciated it because it was very subtle and didn't feel shoehorned in, and then it only came to me later that, duh, two opposing groups (families) who fight to the death, and young people from each group fall in love even though it's probably going to kill them. And the character names, R and Julie. That had me feeling like an idiot when I realized it. I know it's not a big deal, but I just get really pleased when people don't ham-fistedly cram utterly transparent Shakespeare parallels into their works and instead do it with subtlety. (Reefer Madness aside, as they commit to the motif and go all the way with it. Gosh, I love that musical.)