A Review of the Novel “Warm Bodies”

First of all, I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This is not to say it was necessarily a well written book, because it very much was not. Despite being an aspiring writer, I do not require perfection in my literature. I really love a little adventure fantasy with an interesting concept. I can do a good popcorn read here and there. However, I don’t have to turn my brain completely off or try to justify the media’s goodness to do so. Not a good book, just a fun one.

It plays with what it means to be a live, the definition of living and it’s a gorramn Zombie romcom adventure! What’s not to love? Little bit dark but not unbearably so, especially as zombie apocalypses go.

(Note: The comedy aspect of the book is understated. Don’t go in looking for a bucket of laughs, it will disappoint you if that’s what you want. I just think of it as a technical romcom.)

The author I will posit, has not done a whole lot of thinking on sexism beyond what is expected of our generation (Hint: If that’s all you’ve done you’re not doing it right, we’re not quiiiite passed the hateful binary as a culture, and it bleeds through. We all have to heal from that.) He also has instances of fat shaming and has a few instances of smashing the concepts of the world into his audiences skulls with a bold lettered two-by-four.

TRIGGER WARNING: If you cannot handle any mention of molestation / want to avoid any mention of sexual mistreatment in your light fiction, stay away from Warm Bodies. It is not a huge theme but it is a part of one of the characters back story. It is simply mentioned in dialogue but it feels noteworthy. I can handle buckets and buckets of gore, but that can get to me if it’s gone into AT ALL.

Continue on if you have read it or don’t care about plot spoilers

There is a quiet, but inherent sexism to the work hidden in little lines. I think it does avoid some of the inherent sexism to the monster-protector, because as it is a zombie apocalypse, the “Danger” she is running into is everywhere. She is not simply a waif that he has to inexplicably protect from him or herself, nor is the danger she needs protecting from not contextually appropriate. Any romance/family in a zombie apocalypse that lacked the element of protection simply doesn’t contextually make sense. Also, never in the novel is he a danger to her, so it manages to escape some of the implications of spousal abuse that often come with the monster inside the man. He is always kind to her, from day one. He saves her from his kind and cares for her, and when it is time for her to go, he helps her leave. Simple as that.

There’s a single line acknowledging that Julie is competent enough to fight, but this never comes into play. He still rescues her when she is cornered by zombies. He still does any of the fighting that comes in the later parts of the book. Though to be fair, they do greatly outnumber her AND she is more delicate. because she is alive. Though this shows up in other aspects as well. Despite her being a better driver than R, he always drives, even in life or death situations. Even when he is still learning how to drive! Of course, this was to highlight he’s becoming more human, he’s able to be alert enough to drive. But why on earth would Julie assume that when her life’s on the line? If a character is given active traits but still acts totally passive, then they are not an active character. She still comes off as the typical, delicate female victim. It is not inherently problematic to have characters who are not super competent, super strong etc. However, seeing the same roles over and over and over and over–especially done so thoughtlessly–it gets both cliche and no small parts sexist. The book credits them both with starting something, their love bringing humanity back to the dehumanized, human and zombie alike, but her only part in any of it is being the one who likes him back. Sharing herself. Which is no small feat, but I crave women in action/horror/fantasy/ALL FRACKING stories who go beyond this. When 1/10 characters is female, and those other 9 characters can fight, hold their own, by themselves? It’s not right.

This on it’s own may not be enough to conclude a sexist tone, but there are little lines and oddities. Sex itself is portrayed strangely in the novel. It’s clear that perfectly nice relationships in the human society are not celibate. Even implied that sexuality is part of being alive. However both of the females of the story are supposed to be likeable have very negative promiscuity as a part of their past. As part of their confusion, drug use and depression.This is contrasted with the highly virginal super-importance of the first kiss. (This may be forgivable though, considering how the cross the boundaries life and death nature of said kiss is). It does give the sort of initial impression of a sex-negative view. Which may or may not have been intended.

Also noteworthy during this novel’s version of the wet clothes scene (because only women ever have to change, of course) the main character, R the Zombie, contemplates that she seems tense to have him there, despite inviting him to stay the night platonic-ally with her. Speculating as to her tension, he thinks something to the effect of perhaps she is worried he would do “what any other man would do” in that situation. This very blatantly implies that most men are a little bit to a lot rapey. Perhaps this can be justified for the overall theme of humanity’s downfall, but as a reader, I keep feeling like this author is just not very socially aware. At least when it comes to sex and gender. I am grateful that at the very least the lead is not the virgin in contrast with her slutty friend (the usual stereotype), rather basically all the creatures of the world are acknowledged to be sexual creatures. Yet I am still left with the overall impression that sex is bad, which is not very culturally progressive. I am sure the message was much more supposed to be society is bad, people can be good even with bad parts, if they just try. However it just makes the female lead Julie seem like a victim to be rescued. (Though to be fair, she had a presumably perfectly pleasant romantic and sexual relationship with her first boyfriend.)

Then of course, there’s a little bit of blatant fat shaming thrown in, just for flavor. Pointlessly. Yes, for those of you who have read it, I am claiming that a zombie refusing to eat fat people is in fact anti-fat. The scene where it happens has Julie making fun of fat people’s clothing, and R claiming that fat is gross and muscle is better because the fat is “too dead”. For, of course, stored food in our body that keeps us alive is So dead. That makes all the sense (sarcasm font, sarcasm font). The scene is supposed to be cute but it’s just so shaming. Also, unnecessary. (However the line about him being a food snob did make me laugh.)

While we’re on the subject on appearance-policing, there’s also R constantly commenting on how much uglier Julie gets as the days go on. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I will agree that when I wake up in the morning sometimes my hair basically looks like a ratsnest. My partner has bad morning breath, and no human looks perfect from every angle. So having Love where there’s a feeling that, no, not everyone is perfectly beautiful is all well and good with me. This seems flippantly done, though. Perhaps it is unique to me to supplement “X human is not attractive from the profile” with “But they have beautiful eyes”. However it seemed unbalancedly represented, I had to add in my own context to see his comments of Julie’s degrading physical state while they were on the run as in any way non-judgemental. I feel the ideal with romance is “they don’t have to be perfect to be a beautiful human being”, not “she’s pretty but not all the time”. I suppose this is only a tonal discrepancy, but it felt noteworthy.

In a book where the whole point of the zombies is to serve as a metaphor for the downfall of civilization and then coming back as something different than human, and better. It simply feels sloppy to have appearance, sexuality and gender explored ineffectively.

The book also has problems from a purely writing-quality standpoint as well as the values. The whole Perry talking directly to R just feels completely heavey handed. I could have forgiven it if it were a dream, or if it had happened only once, however in several of the flashbacks Perry just talks to R. In fact, the whole change of R becoming more alive is originally posited by Perry despite all of the foreshadowing to that effect already in place. Sure, not everyone is a super critical reader, but it is simply unnecessary to just spell out the biggest theme of the book so blatantly for literature for kids older then 8. Seriously dude, give your audience some frackin’ credit.

I do love the tone of the deadness though. The first chapter and the lack of care in R’s early zombie life is fascinating. I love the concept of “What does it feel like to be a zombie?” and their “lifestyle” of deadness, not caring about anything. Barely able to communicate, feeling isolated even when surrounded, and too far dead to mind. It’s a fun idea to entertain for awhile. The zombies as more of a metaphorical deadness–and not an unsolvable one–keeps the book from having some of the depressing airs that so often come with the apocalypse stories. Even these good parts of the book were not exactly handled brilliantly, after all we’re slightly beaten over the head with YES R IS CHANGING, but the concept itself was enough entertainment to make up for all of the books short comings. At least for me.

One of my classes skype-called the author of “Warm Bodies” with some questions. Unfortunately I can’t truly capture that at all, so I’ll just talk about an interesting impression it left me with. I listened to Issac talk about how he had spent nine months of his life writing Warm Bodies (which explains a lot in my mind, I’ve been writing my book for six years and only now am I starting to think of the metaphorical implications of gender roles in my book and making sure I’m sending the right messages as I entertain). He answered all of these questions about the writing process and how the book got published and subsequently made into a film. It was just fascinating looking at this human being talking so seriously about work that I so did not respect as “Good”. Entertaining, yes. But never good. To see that something that I personally felt so superior too–much as I hate to admit that–was the product of another, real author. A professional author, even. Someone who’s life was also about writing. A flawed, human being doing their best. We all grow, we all make things that we loved at the time even though looking back we’re so much better at them now it’s hilarious. I at least, still love my broken stories. things that will never be fit for the public eye.

One doesn’t have to be perfect pitch to sing a song worth hearing.
One doesn’t have to have perfect prose to write something worth reading.
One doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be a good person, trying their hardest.

Excellent things to think about.

I look forward to seeing the film, I’d love to see these concepts more polished. As one might imagine, I don’t care how differently the film handles the story. (After all I am hardly a loyal fan.)As long as it’s entertaining in its own right with something interesting to think about, I’ll be happy to see it.

Werewolf Lore and Hunter Lore Building

In our great land, there were once many ways to defend against the nature of things. Traditions, treasures and gifts commonly carrier by the wary traveler of the plains.

Witches were of the first. Sometimes a problem in their own right—they frequently began as consorts of devils, which sometimes addled and confused them—they were also the only allies of humans with any power. They consorted with the fae, and learned magic words and runes to harvest the powers of nature the fair folk represented.

These men, women, and other were the first and oldest fighters of the shadow children.

They gave us charms, and spells that made us seem flavorless to the shadowchildren who rise from the Mists of the Undying Sea, and toys to distract the fair folk. They wrote lore, to teach us to deal with devils, run from the mer, flatter elves, not to wake the trolls, sacrifice to the goblins, and to distract the fairies and run. Taught us to combat the shadowchildren with weapons forged by the mountain-beasts or elven-wood. Taught us of the oft cursed line of the shadowchildren, and ways to trick their strange obsessions and weaknesses.

However there were not enough of them to help. Those that were so often turned to seclusion and madness from the touch of the fay, that those who would defend us knew that the witches alone would not be enough.

A fay witch of the devils’ fire captured the noble spirits of strong wolf family heads. Alphas, as they are now called. Under a blue moon on the 24th of December with the blood of a white wolf, they turned men’s blood to beast, and their souls to noble protectors through love.

The brothers took to their task of protection well, they learned to hunt and to track and to guard lands. They became gifted and learned to share their gifts by sharing blood in friendly scraps. They bore proud scars, though they healed quickly.  There are many generations of noble wolf families, father passing to son passing to son, growing with strength and ability with each coming generation through both training and their gifts of blood.

We who are given highest duty

Coldest curse

We whose blood howls of wolves slain

We whose minds ache with the desire to hunt

We who must look into the yellow eyes of those not strong enough—and slay them

We weep

We prevail

We are strong

 

It used to be that every high family and every village had a wolf, but sometimes the young babes were ill and died, or men’s ambition for glory tainted them. Sometimes the new spirit they held’s pain was beyond them, and they went feral.

               
Wild Wolves had no less strength than their Noble brothers. They often killed whatever they came across when hungry, slaughtering men and livestock alike. They were hunted with silver, poisoned with wolfsbane, and they were angered. For those who had done this to them sought to destroy them on site.

The survivors of the cleansing of the wild beasts bore rage towards mankind, strengthening with each generation and fallen clan member. Their fear and rage and pain passed onto those that changed with their fangs. Some generations of the wild became too encompassed by beast rage to more than kill, and some simply killed whenever a pure moonlight struck their flesh.

 

From time to time, noble wolves would try to tame their wild brothers, give them back their reason and their order. Sometimes this works. But the blessing is mixed. For sometimes the legacy of pain and the legacy of protection blend, and the new generations have wars in their minds and hearts difficult to sort. Sometimes this is circumvented by not bringing the wild wolves into the family while still helping to tame them, but the danger is always there.

Wild wolf packs are rarely families. They are angry gangs with top dog bully alpha at the top, and bullied omega at the bottom. All enforced by violence. They cared for each other sometimes, but the abuse in wolf (and human) forms remains too often constant. 

Thus there had to be men, women and other to hunt the wolves. Borrowing from witch lore. Soon, the traditions began to take on the lore of the witches to learn to kill the shadowchildren, and even some of the younger fair folk. Families were established around the hunting, for protection of the land, for sport, for the supremacy of humanity. Some simply take to it like a business, most are some of both.

Today there are estimated to be five families of nobleborn wolves, and the feral wolves are commonly hunted by the orders of protectors and nobleborn wolves alike.

Thus, we hunters do what we can. Trying to balance knowing magic is our greatest resource with not getting owned by it. For once you tie your success to your blood there is only death to follow. We have to stand on our two feet, against all the odds.

We often die, but every person has to eventually. Or else rise from the Undying Sea as something…else

World Building Poem

A city gleaming golden bronze 

With curling steam and great black smoke 

A bolt and pipe, metalwork and brick home 

to the cityfolk of the land

Merchants, nobles, artists buisnessmen

Here the land is soaked with oil, and the tears of gold 

 

Beyond the city, the land fades into country 

A village, risen of earth, hay and brick 

here the land is filled with the root of crop 

The people mark the stars, and know the moods of the sky

Farmers, weavers, folk of the land

Who put down plots of stone for those who wander to far into the grass 

 

Beyond the grain there is the grass

The plains are a strange land

Where man, beast and spirit are free to walk 

Empty but for ruins and flowers 

and impromptu graves 

The ground is full of paths to nowhere, the crumbling remnants of settlements eons past, and slumbering magic 

 

To the east mountains can be seen, and from them sometimes comes great fire 

The screaming beasts who guard it have left it mostly unwalked upon by man

Though those who return come with eyes shining with light 

 

To the west there is a great mist

Cold as fear, and soft. 

On hot days one can almost see the blackness of the Grey Spires 

Or even the Undying Sea 

Men come here when their lives are over, and walk through the plains 

Trying to reach the undying sea 

When the men of the land are lucky, 

The dead do not return 

Here the earth is cold and dead. Filled with ash and bone. 

 

To the North is the strangest place of all 

An adventurer’s eyes there will meet the Fair Forrest 

Alive and sparkling with bright greens, dusky reds, yellows and oranges of nature 

Pools so blue like bits of the finest sky shimmering still on mossy earth 

The mists here are soft and friendly 

The lights dance with the eyes 

Men return from here are not the same.

Mad, or dazzled such they cannot eat of the earth proper

Or worse, from centuries long ago, fresh fleshed

Or having danced their feet into bone 

The earth here is made of blood and music

Most of all, power

It is feared most of all 

My Life in 24 More

Inspired by Tara Hardy. We were encouraged to write a poem in the same style. I wrote two, in different styles

My Life in 24 Words
Bipolar
Art
Love
Hugs
Poly
Friends
Chains
Sex
Nerd
Fantasy
Escape
Filth
Illness
Drowning
Hope v. Hopeless
Lies
Fiction
Endurance
Exhaustion
Weary
Wandering
Eyes on Today
Tomorrow

My Life in 12 Words
Bipolar
Exhaustion
Art
Tomorrow
Fantasy
Lies
Chains
Escape
Drowning
Eyes on Today

My Life in 6 Words
Exhaustion
Art
Tomorrow
Fantasy
Lies
Escape

My Life in 3 Words
Exhaustion
Art
Tomorrow

My Life in 1 word? That’s the question though. I want to say exhaustion but I choose:
Art

My Life in 24 Words

Inspired by Tara Hardy. We were encouraged to write a poem in the same style. I wrote two, in different styles

 

My life in 24 words

At four I doodled a horse to walk on the clouds

At five I wanted a father

But as I grew he faded away

 

My Life in 12 Words

I made art

Consumed Art

Found love

So as to survive today

 

My life in 6 Words

Dragged me down as he drowned

 

My Life in 3 words

Notta

Fucking

Life-Jacket

 

My Life in One Word

Free

Panic

It’s bizarre in moments like this that I never realized how afraid I get. Panic. I want to say panic but panic isn’t right. Paralyzed is closer. If dramatic. But I’m dramatic. So.

That moment where everything rises in my chest and the only thing keeping me from shaking or crying is staying absolutely fucking still.

This moment that happens to me any time I really contemplate work, or any time I learn about some other graduation requirements. Any time I learn there was something I was already supposed to have done.

I feel like my heart is going to projectile vomit itself out of my chest, and I never knew I got anxious.

Funny, how stupid I can be for a smart person.

Here’s to hoping I haven’t fucked up too many times to succeed.

woo.