The Burning World: On the road in the zombiepocalypse

 

The Burning World by Isaac MarionThe Burning World by Isaac Marion fantasy book reviewsThe Burning World by Isaac Marion

When we left R, the recovering zombie, and his human love Julie at the end of Warm Bodies, things were looking hopeful. But not so fast: becoming fully human again after years of zombie-hood isn’t as quick or easy as R hoped. His body is still stiff and clumsy, and his memory of his prior life is still a blank to him (in fact, he’s not at all sure he wants to remember his prior life). The recovery of the other zombies that have taken over America is equally tentative, one small step at a time, with many zombies not recovering at all, and others backsliding. R has no idea what to do next. It’s a spectrum: Living, Nearly Living, Mostly Dead, All Dead, with unsettlingly fluidity between them.

If this weren’t difficult enough, a new group, Axiom Corporation, shows up in force at the stadium where R and Julie live. Axiom has weapons, helicopters and lots of very disturbing minions with plastic smiles, ready to take control and restore order. In fact, the Axiom people are insistent on it, smiling all the while, and willing to do almost anything to get their way. When R, Julie and their friends end up on the wrong side of Axiom, they go on the run with the somewhat reluctant help of Abram Kelvin, a renegade Axiom employee who is the older brother of Perry ― Julie’s old boyfriend who was eaten by R at the beginning of Warm Bodies. But are they escaping to a new life somewhere else, or running into the jaws of more trouble, or going on the attack against the forces of evil? And let’s not forget the innumerable zombies.

The Warm Bodies Series by Isaac Marion

The Warm Bodies series

The Burning World (2017), Isaac Marion’s sequel to his 2011 Romeo-and-Juliet inspired zombie tale, left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, Warm Bodies felt like a stand-alone story. I didn’t feel like it needed a sequel and I’m not certain that Marion originally planned for one at the time he wrote Warm Bodies; it feels a bit like an afterthought. On the other hand, The Burning World doesn’t simply rehash the same story and issues raised in the first book. Marion expands this world dramatically, both in setting and thematically.

The Burning World fleshes out the characters from the first book, but takes them and the plot in a wholly different direction that opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities. It’s an on-the-road adventure … with zombies … and a truly horrific, power-hungry corporate entity that exhibits a dog-eat-dog mentality taken to extremes. The reader is left with the indelible and uncomfortable impression that humans can be, and often are, worse than zombies. As R begins to recover some of the memories from his human past, his “first life,” the horror that men can sink to begins to take on added meaning for him, and for us. Julie’s human flaws become more apparent as well, as she endangers those around her in her single-minded quest to find and save her mother.

There are several interlude “We” chapters that are told from the viewpoint of an unspecified, omniscient group who watch the world and the people and creatures in it. They float through the earth and the sky like a collective consciousness, watching us with concern. It’s interesting to speculate on who this nameless, intangible “We” is … though I’m not certain there’s a single, specific answer.

The adventures of the characters are gripping, but The Burning World is largely a grim book with only brief glimpses of hope and joy. It exhibits much less of the underlying sweetness that imbued Warm Bodies, while upping the ante on grittiness and violence, and exploring the darkness in men’s souls.

The Burning World is part of a novel that grew too large and was broken into two separate books for publication. As a result, it ends inconclusively, leaving most of the plot threads hanging, along with the fates of our characters. The second part of this story, The Living, is due to be released later in 2017.

Published February 7, 2017. The New York Times bestseller Warm Bodies captured hearts worldwide in twenty-five languages, inspiring a major film and a cult fandom. Now R the reluctant zombie continues his journey in this much-anticipated sequel. Being alive is hard. Being human is harder. But since his recent recovery from death, R is making progress. He’s learning how to read, how to speak, maybe even how to love, and the city’s undead population is showing signs of life. R can almost imagine a future with Julie, this girl who restarted his heart—building a new world from the ashes of the old one. And then helicopters appear on the horizon. Someone is coming to restore order. To silence all this noise. To return things to the way they were, the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak. The plague is ancient and ambitious, and the Dead were never its only weapon. How do you fight an enemy that’s in everyone? Can the world ever really change? With their home overrun by madmen, R, Julie, and their ragged group of refugees plunge into the otherworldly wastelands of America in search of answers. But there are some answers R doesn’t want to find. A past life, an old shadow, crawling up from the basement.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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4 comments

  1. I have to agree with you, Tadiana — I’m not sure Warm Bodies needed a sequel, and I’ve only seen the movie. At no point did I feel a burning need to know more about the people and their world. Hopefully the third book will tie up those loose ends and bring back more of the sweetness of the first.

  2. Sandy Giden /

    I enjoyed Warm Bodie but only read about a third of The Burning World before I gave up on it.

  3. Well, I only saw the WARM BODIES movie and I enjoyed it thoroughly, so I think I will try to read it *and* this book, because this series has captured my interest now.

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