Book Review: The New Hunger: The Prequel to Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion (2013)

January 24th, 2014 12:08 pm by Kelly Garbato

Come Fly With Me*

five out of five stars

“Thirty-four miles north of the police station, a young girl who recently killed a young boy is watching beige houses flicker through the headlights of her family’s SUV. Her father’s eyes are tight on the road, her mother’s on everything around the road, pistol at the ready should anything incongruous emerge from this idyllic suburban scene. They are traveling later than they usually do, later than is safe, and the girl is glad. She hates sleeping. Not just because of the nightmares, but because everything is urgent. Because life is short. Because she feels a thousand fractures running through her, and she knows they run through the world. She is racing to find the glue.

“Thirty-four miles south of this girl, a man who recently learned he is a monster is following two other monsters up a steep hill in an empty city, because he can smell life in the distance and his purpose now is to take it. A brutish thing inside him is giggling and slavering and clutching its many hands in anticipation, overjoyed to finally be obeyed, but the man himself feels none of this. Only a coldness deep in his chest, in the organ that once pumped blood and feeling and now pumps nothing. A dull ache like a severed stump numbed in ice – what was there is gone, but it hurts. It still hurts.

“And three hundred feet north of these monsters are a girl and boy who are looking for new parents. Or perhaps becoming them. Both are strong, both are super smart and super cool, and both are tiny and alone in a vast, merciless, endlessly hungry world.

“All six are moving toward each other, some by accident, some by intent, and though their goals differ considerably, on this particular summer night, under this particular set of cold stars, all of them are sharing the same thought:

Find people.

(pages 129-130)

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Set roughly five years before the events of Warm Bodies, The New Hunger follows the story’s protagonists as they make their way through a world fallen to ruin. Twelve-year-old Julie Grigio is immersed in the road trip from hell, traversing the country with her parents in search of an enclave of survivors. Abandoned by their addict parents, a sixteen-year-old Nora Greene is scavenging the wreckage of dying world, trying to keep her and her seven-year-old brother Addis alive for another day. And deep in the forest, a newly zombified R. is making tenuous acquaintance with the monster that now lives inside him. In a twist that’s both serendipitous and perhaps defies credulity (then again, this is a zombie story!), all roads lead to Seattle – where our travelers’ paths will converge, however briefly.

With the wit, wry humor, and lyrical prose of Warm Bodies – but a more melancholy tone than its hope-filled predecessor – The New Hunger is pretty much THE perfect prequel. We learn more about R., Julie, and Nora, and get a glimpse of what’s to come: where their unique, unparalleled natures might carry them, and why.

In particular, Nora’s interactions with a tall, bald-headed, especially morose zombie (could that be Marcus?) – she spares his life; he later saves hers – offers some context regarding her subsequent willingness to believe that R. is metamorphosing in Warm Bodies. Likewise, a semi-human R. stumbles upon young Julie – and is so enraptured by her singing that eating her brain never enters his.

We also learn more about the zombies’ transformation from human to monster; a rebirth of sorts, the walking dead struggle to hold onto memories and emotions of past lives. Some seem to accept the transformation only with no small amount of prodding by the Bonies. (Yup, the series villains make an appearance as well! And they grow even more nefarious as they thwart a possible cure devised by future-scientist Nora and her ill-fated brother Addis.)

While the chapters alternate focus between R., Julie, and Nora, this is really Nora’s story. Her relationship with her brother Addis is beautiful, touching, believable – and at turns downright endearing. Their bond, forged in shared circumstances despite a significant age difference, is a lovely thing to behold. When it comes time to say goodbye, you will cry like a baby.

If you enjoyed Warm Bodies even half as much as I did, you owe it to yourself to check out The New Hunger. To date it’s only been published in print in the UK, but is available from various third-party sellers on Amazon. The ebook is available exclusively from Zola Books. Either way.

* Aeroplane-themed Sinatra reference for the win!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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