In reading this book I feel I have broken a cardinal law that I established for myself when I took up the mantle Book Worm. I have to say that it’s not a pleasant feeling, but I think I’ll get past it once I start reading my next book. I read out of order!!! Dun-dun-dun!!!
The Living by Isaac Marion is the third book in the Warm Bodies series, the fourth book written in the Warm Bodies Universe. Again, this was a case of my not being aware that a movie was actually based off of a book prior to my viewing it. I really should just assume all movies come from books at this point until proven otherwise. It would help prevent awkward moments such as this in the future.
While I never read the first or second books, Warm Bodies and The Burning World respectively. Nor have I read the prequel novella, The New Hunger, and yet I managed to get my hands on the third and final novel in the series. Now, I had some concerns right from the jump, such as, would I understand what was going on? I mean, sure I had seen the film and loved it, but that was supposedly based on the first novel. Since then two other novels had been published. A lot can happen in two novels. There is no other way to say this except that I got lucky. Who knew that the first time I dare to read a series out of order that the author would provide a handy “previously on” reference guide in the book before the story even started. Isaac Marion, never change.
If you have read the series up until this point you might find my review a bit lacking with understanding. You see, despite Marion’s lovely summary of the previous books there were still things that I just could not grasp in this novel. Particularly some characters that I assume are key players in the second book.
So I will begin where this book begins, in an R.V. with R, Julie, Nora, Marcus, and the first character I don’t know, Huntress or Tomesen. We are also briefly introduced to Abram who is separated from the main group, but it seems to be a recent development as he literally passes the R.V. while riding a motorcycle down the same stretch of apocalyptic highway. It takes some run around of dialogue to finally conclude that they are in search of some children, but not just any children, R’s children.
I had to do a double take here. I was unaware that zombies could have children, but then of course I went through the whole thing of, “well technically he’s human again so I don’t know what the science is in regards to that process.” Then came the question of how much time has passed because these are not babies they are discussing, but like elementary school aged children. It was at this moment that I realized how much of mistake I had made in picking up a third novel in a series I had read nothing else of.
Things get cleared up though, as R explains through flashbacks and exposition that these are his adopted children. They were taken by the Axiom group (typical government like corporation that tries to take over the world post apocalypse, same-old same-old) along with another child named Sprout who is in fact Abram’s bio-child. We don’t get much in way of explanation as to why Abram has abandoned the group since they are seemingly out to fulfill the same goal. The only thing I could surmise is that Abram’s a dick who wants to do things alone. This inevitably causes problems later.
Throughout this long awkward road trip we start to understand both R and Marcus’ pasts, because apparently this is an issue that has not yet been dealt with. Let’s start with Marcus because he honestly is the easier of the two. When he was full zombie he killed Nora’s brother, this is a potential problem because Nora is now I guess his lover/girlfriend. It’s not super clear, but there are subtle hints at this. They find their way miraculously into Nora’s old neighborhood where she just happens to find her brother in their old house after…ten years…I think that’s what the character says. It’s here that she finally realizes who Marcus is and she straight up attacks him, leaves him for dead, takes her brother and runs.
This was bothersome as it felt like a cheap way to simply introduce the Fire Church, a group of religious fanatics that want to see the world burn instead of regain any sense of civilization. There are hints that the Fire Church and Axiom are working together – sort of – until now, because Axiom doesn’t trust the Fire Church, which is a good call because they want to burn them down. I mean that’s something they had to know when they first made this deal right? That’s like the Fire Church’s entire MO.
GOOD POINT: As convoluted as the story became in having both an evil corporation and an evil religious sector, I was kind of all in for it. It was like chaos coming in at all sides. This book really could have ended with everyone dying and would still have impressed me.
Now, back to R. His past includes both Axiom, as he is the grandson of it’s CEO, and the Fire Church as he was a co-founder. I couldn’t help but laugh at all this information. Like, R you are fucked no matter what you do. Understandably all he cares about is how his loved ones see him. Julie takes the information hard, as one would, but forgives him because this is a series about growth and being a better person. Or at least that is what I have surmised from my one reading of the third book in the series.
This is where things start to jump around and not make any logistical sense. We are at the Axiom compound called Post where everyone except Julie and R have been captured. Axiom has found a way to munch down the bones of the completely dead “bonies” in order to make a goop like substance to turn humans in to zombie-like slaves. Not much is explained as to why this is occurring. I mean as a reader you kind of just have to shrug and say, “Evil’s got to evil.”
A battle ensues between Axiom, what remains of the Fire Church, the bonies, and the rebels. It’s a hot mess when you think about it, but I give props to Marion for managing, for the most part, to keep it straight. I was a bit confused, but not enough that I couldn’t continue the story. So R has a bomb (don’t ask) and he plans to plant it in BABL (something I hope is explained in the second book) that runs the “news” being distributed across the country? World? Not really sure.
R was bit and then shot multiple times, so he lives. Abram was shot then bit, so he dies. (I think I figured that out finally) Axiom is seemingly destroyed and the Fire Church just kind of disbands, which is weird. There is some “after credits” scene where it’s implied that Julie is set up to be the next leader of the living, so fuck yeah!
(Actually Julie as a character was bothersome and if she’s the new leader the human race won’t last long. Don’t vote for Julie!)
GOOD POINT: I was waiting to mention the writing so I good gush as much as I possibly needed to. My god, this author can spin a word. There were times where I was confused as to what the story was doing, but I did not give a flying fuck because of how god damn gorgeous that prose was. Marion is so talented and I have no problem in admitting my obvious jealousy at his craft. Bravo to you good sir, you are something else. Honestly, I would recommend this book to everyone just to read his writing. I do hope he writes other things and to be honest I am so strongly tempted to go back and read the other books in the Warm Bodies universe just to experience that again.
BAD POINT: Your religious zealots were not nearly crazy enough.
4 Out of 5 Stars
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