If you loved Warm Bodies (the book and/or Nicholas Hoult movie), you won’t be able to stop yourself from devouring Isaac Marion’s sequel, The Burning World.
About ‘The Burning World’
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.
‘The Burning World’ review
Warm Bodies didn’t necessarily end with a cliff-hanger or a “happily ever after,” but there was always a sort of implication that R and co.’s story went on. That all of the people (zombie or otherwise) we had been following around and getting to know for 250-ish pages had more obstacles to face in the future but that, for the moment, they’d be alright. A sequel was never something that was truly necessary.
But then Isaac Marion published The New Hunger, a prequel novella to Warm Bodies that gave us glimpses into the lives of our favorite characters in the early days of the plague. It was at that point where I realized that I not only wanted a Warm Bodies sequel, but that I needed one. I needed to know how the characters’ pasts would affect their futures. How they would all mesh and live together after the danger of the plague started to abate.
The Burning World is both the sequel I wanted and the sequel I needed.
With the character-building Marion does in A New Hunger (which is a must-read before you dig into The Burning World, by the way), The Burning World is free to start exploring the implications of those pasts without needing to spend time over-explaining them again.
And boy, do all the characters’ pasts really come into play. For a sizable portion of Warm Bodies, R kept repeating how he didn’t care about his past and that he’s choosing the life and identity he’s living now that he’s met Julie. In the context of that novel, that was okay. But once The Burning World begins, it becomes obvious that that can’t happen. That for R to try to ignore his past is not only ridiculous but also dangerous.
In The Burning World, each character’s past (not just R’s) affects and even threatens the present. Julie, Nora, M, R, and even a few already deceased characters’ pasts rise from the ashes of the plague to stir up trouble and introduce new hardships. The experience of The Burning World is sort of like going back to Warm Bodies and The New Hunger and seeing different cracks and important details that you never knew to look for. It’s fascinating.
Another fascinating (while also eerie) aspect of The Burning World is the way in which it connects with current events in the real world. It’s frighteningly timely and relevant. There are a few passages sprinkled throughout the book that hit incredibly hard because they could be used to describe the world at this very moment. Though Marion finished this novel a few years ago (before the world became what it is now), these similarities to the real world make the atmosphere of the fictional world that much more compelling and the story more intense.
In terms of plot, The Burning World is very much a sort of adventure/”on the road” story that expertly weaves the personal character struggles with a much broader view and exploration of the plagued world. So while the characters are traveling from one coast to another and discussing the broader implications of the plague on the world (and not just the United States), their pasts stop them in their tracks at every turn. It’s almost like the characters are taking a “greatest hits” roadtrip of important places and people of their past.
Speaking of characters, all of the still living main characters (and a few important supporting characters) from Warm Bodies return in The Burning World. Not only do they return but all of the characters gets a good amount of attention, not just Julie an R. In addition to the characters we already know and love, Isaac Marion introduces quite a few new and interesting characters that really expand the world and add nuance. These new characters fit seamlessly into the story and into the pre-existing relationships from the moment they’re introduced.
Isaac Marion’s The Burning World is more than worth the years-long wait. It’s equal parts heartwarming, thrilling, and mysterious. Fans of Warm Bodies (the book or the movie) won’t be able to put down this installment. Beautifully written and expertly crafted, The Burning World is Isaac Marion’s best work yet. I, for one, can’t wait for the final installment, The Living.
The Burning World, the sequel to Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local independent bookstore. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!