Last we checked in on my reading challenge efforts, I was whiffing a friend’s 2017 creation with just 10 piddly books. I mean, I’m not sure I’d call The Stand “piddly,” but I did attempt to pass off a 35-page ice cream cookbook as a novel from which I learned something, so six of one, half a dozen of the other! So when that same friend, working in partnership with a third blogging buddy, created a new reading challenge for 2018, I thought it prudent to try, try again. Second verse, same as the first and all that literary jazz. Or second verse, hopefully with more effort…than the first, and all that literary jazz (slightly less catchy saying, that!)
Last time I got quite hung up on completing each of the challenge prompts in the order in which they were listed. This time I just jumped into the deep end with whatever theme spoke to me first, which turned out to be number 26, “A book title that sounds like the cool name for a band.” And for this theme, I chose Isaac Marion’s The Burning World, the third novel set in the Warm Bodies zombie universe.
Some of you may remember that I read The New Hunger, a prequel to Warm Bodies, in satisfaction of one of the prompts last year. The Burning World, a direct sequel to Warm Bodies that picks up two months after the events of that novel, acts as a bridge between the original story and its prequel. It’s a fantastic framing device, particularly in light of the fact that if you’ve read the prequel, which introduces the main characters into each others’ orbits years before they ever meet face to face, you know things in this book that the characters do not. Watching the puzzle pieces of their deeply interconnected lives (and afterlives) click into place is half the joy of reading The Burning World.
And it’s just as well there is that joy to be had from this novel, because holy smokes, absent it, there is very little light or levity to The Burning World. If you’ve read Warm Bodies, you might remember its tone was one of a weary kind of optimism. It ended on an up note, if not necessarily a “And they all lived happily ever after” note. But The Burning World opens on a beleaguered community crumbling under the weight of trying to “fix” the zombie apocalypse, and it only gets much, much, much worse from there. Part heavy political commentary (zombies were just the final outrageous straw that broke the world’s back, after years of war, environmental destruction and political abuses), part road trip journey and part bald warning, The Burning World mostly jettisons the softer aspects of Warm Bodies – gone are R’s “boy zombie-meets-girl” internal monologues, replaced now with meditations on whether love is even something worth pursuing in a world where survival is paramount. So, too, is any sense of peace or rest or stability for our little band of wandering revolutionaries, who are left, at the end of 500-some pages, exactly where they started – on the run. And with one final book coming in 2018 to wrap up the story, it left The Burning World in an oddly truncated and abrupt place – I literally flipped the page and thought, “Oh, okay, so that really was it.”
Having said all that, this was a great novel – Isaac Marion is such an evocative writer, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of his works set in the Warm Bodies universe. Enough that I’ve managed to pull some decent nail art inspiration from even the bleakest of dystopian tales, this burning manicure being no exception. As for the tie? Well, that’s a bit of a spoiler, and on that intriguing subject, I shall say no more. 😉