November 26, 2018
“…because the Library is not a collection of people but a collection of moments, experiences, thoughts, and sensations, and we have only one goal: to elevate the whole.” – Isaac Marion, The Living
From a single organism to an entire ecosystem…
That is how the Warm Bodies series seems to me. From a simple love story that developed into so much more, Warm Bodies, The New Hunger, and The Burning World all provided the necessary components to create the epic finale that is The Living.
The final book of the series not only wrapped up the stories of our favourite characters but also the character of the world itself. It showed that the apocalypse is not the end, but merely a beginning in a new light. A way to start over as long as we notice and accept the change.
The Living took the world of R and Julie and expanded it beyond its initial reaches while still providing that strong connection that I fell in love with in the first novel. The world is much bigger than them, but they may be the only ones to save it, or rather, push it in the right direction so it can save itself.
“Before he was a flesh-eating corpse, R was something worse. He remembers it all now, a life of greed and apathy more destructive than any virus, and he sees only one path to redemption: he must fight the forces he helped create. But what can R, Julie, and their tiny gang of fugitives do against the creeping might of the Axiom Group, the bizarre undead corporation that’s devouring what’s left of America?
It’s time for a road trip.
No more flyover country. This time they’ll face the madness on the ground, racing their RV across the wastelands as tensions rise and bonds unravel—because R isn’t the only one hiding painful secrets. Everyone is on their own desperate search: for a kidnapped daughter, a suicidal mother, and an abused little boy with a gift that could save humanity… if humanity can convince him it’s worth saving.
All roads lead home, to a final confrontation with the plague and its shareholders. But this is a monster that guns can’t kill. A battle only one weapon can win…”
When I reviewed The Burning World back in 2017 (you can read the review: HERE) I quoted Thomas Keneally and for the final book, I have chosen another quote from Keneally that, to me, sums up R’s journey as well as a few others during the second half of the novel. The quote is:
“The principle was, death should not be entered like some snug harbor. It should be an unambiguous refusal to surrender.”
These books, book three, in particular, is about how these characters are choosing to live rather than succumb to the plague around them. It is a fight and a will that lives inside them. This “sickness” is so much more layered than we think and I think Marion does a beautiful job through symbolism and metaphors and imagery to provide answers about all of it. I’ll let you read about that for yourselves!
The characters from R to Nora to Julie to Marcus, even the kids are all tested in one way or another. Whether that be physical or emotional, it was a joy to read all of their journeys and see how far they had come from their initial introductions.
While R has been the main focus since book one, another character really shines during The Living. That is none other than Nora Greene. I really liked Nora in Warm Bodies, but it was when I read The New Hunger and learned about her background that I yearned for more of her story. Nora’s journey is incredible in the final book. I don’t want to give too much away, but it pulls on your heart strings a bit. R and Julie may be the leaders of their little caravan, but Nora, she is the linchpin that holds it all together. Whether she knows it or not. Even when she is fighting and doesn’t think she can go on, she does, for her family, for her parents, for herself and for that I admire her character a lot.
As for R and Julie, they go through some deep moments throughout. A lot of character development on R’s part and Julie gets a bit stripped down so we can see her vulnerable side, but don’t worry Grigio still kicks ass whenever she can. We’re all very proud of her for that.
Within the novel, just like the previous one, there are two point-of-views. The “I” chapters that are told from R’s perspective and then there are the “We” chapters that I just LOVE. The omniscient narrator gives the story a feeling of unease, almost as if the world is walking on a cracked river of ice, just waiting to fall in. And to me, that was brilliant.
There are two main villains throughout the story. One is overconfident while the other is unhinged. And in a way, if you reverse those adjectives, they could work for either or. You can classify many themes within this novel when it comes to the villains from “illusion of power” to “hierarchy of nature” or even “death and rebirth”, but it all stems from an overall theme: Idealism. Both organizations want a perfect world, both are willing to do whatever it takes to do it, and both are somewhat delusional when it comes to fixing the apocalypse. And let me tell you, it was fantastic reading about both. I just love overly confident villains and ones with mastermind plans, even if they are bit deranged.
So many things made me cry while reading this, not all of them sad, but man did I FEEL THAT. I am struggling to keep this spoiler free, but I will say this: this is the best bundle of writing from the entire series. As a fan of R and his journey from page 1, I got really emotional as I closed the book on his story. I never thought that I would become so invested in a ZOMBIE character, and yet here we are. But he is so much more than that and he figures that out throughout all the books, but especially this one.
This novel is pretty special in that it really exposes the truth of the world and the truth of our heroes. From the darkness to the beginning of a new dawn, The Living provides so much for the lovers of horror, zombie fiction, dystopian, and has that perfect amount of humor that breaks up the overall dread of the apocalypse. Marion keeps readers interested and reintroduces characters and setting throughout all of it. Never letting us forget those from before and those new to the world.
Overall, I give the conclusion to the Warm Bodies series a full five stars and I cannot wait to own the hardcover to add to my collection. If you have been following these books for as long as I have then I hope you decide to finish them. And if you are unsure about whether you want to start them or not, just pick up the first one and see what happens. The Living is one for the books and I can only thank Isaac Marion for writing this series and ending it in the most beautiful way.