Isaac Marion’s highly anticipated The Living has finally been released, but not in the expected traditional manner. The first book of the series, Warm Bodies, was released in 2011, and the movie of the same title, starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, followed two years later. Marion returned to the series with a novella in 2015 followed by The Burning World which hit shelves in 2017. The Living was expected to release shortly after, but Marion’s publishers dropped the series when The Burning World performed underwhelmingly. Marion, in light of this, released The Living independently on his website.
The Living continues the story of R and Julie as they fight to spread the cure for the zombie plague, take down the evil Axiom corporation and rid the world of the obstructing BABL frequency that has been jamming radios and all satellite communications for years. With the help of M, Nora and Tomsen, they race to recover the ones they have lost and rediscover the future.
The Living lived up to my expectations. Like Marion’s previous works, the prose is electrifying — it asks deep questions and isn’t afraid of the responses. The world is immersive and pulls you into R and Julie’s journey as they fight against Axiom, the Fire Church and the shadows of their own pasts. Marion presents a dark vision of humanity’s end: corrupted by our own sins.
At the end of The Burning World, R discovered the shocking truth of who he had been before becoming the zombie Julie fell in love with. The Living sees him shoulder that burden, using the past to make the future better. As always, we see R struggling to reconcile with the many aspects of being, which makes him continually appear more human. He is a man attempting to feel worthy of life and fighting to make amends at the end of the world.
The character with the most transformation is Nora. On the outside, she seems tough as nails, but deep down, we can tell she is broken. When a ghost from her past reappears, she has to face the memories she forced herself to forget. The plague has turned her into a different kind of person. Like R, she runs from her past until the moment that she can’t.
In Marion’s world, stories are everything — the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we tell others and the ones that make up who we are.
The Living is an engrossing conclusion to a piercing series. Marion’s descriptive, lyrical prose sweeps you up and carries you along for the ride until the very last page. R and Julie’s journey reminds us of what it really means to live, and it gives us hope that everyone is capable of fighting despair and making the world a better place.
Jessica Lussier is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.