The other week I read a post by Isaac Marion. He’s the author of the best-selling WARM BODIES, made into a film. He’s a success. A writer who has ‘made it’ in the book industry, right? With a film (somewhat based) on one of his books, how could he not? Alas, being a writer is rarely that simple.
As I had already discovered, Warm Bodies is now the first in a trilogy. I read the second title, THE BURNING WORLD, this year after discovering its existence. I include my thoughts on both books below, but what I didn’t know until more recently is that the third title, THE LIVING, is burning a hole in Isaac Marion’s hard drive, the author having finished it almost a year ago.
Although the first book was on the NYT bestseller list, book 2 hasn’t done so well, and, unless it does, there may be a no go on the third title. If it comes to that, I can only hope the author will find another publisher or go the route so many writers have to and self-publish (if contracts allow, mind). I won’t go into the pros and cons of that in this blog, but I’m using it to illustrate one of the many reasons ‘why’ authors turn to self-publishing and why the perception that indie is purely amateur hour is false.
Not everything is as elementary as writers or readers would like to believe. This is a perfect example of the struggle writers face, of how ‘every’ book is as good as starting from scratch. Akin to an actor reading for a role, writers audition every time they submit a manuscript, and, if the work doesn’t meet expectations (which does not have to mean it isn’t good), the writer may have to climb a proverbial ladder again even if they’ve notched up a bestseller on any of the rungs close to the top.
That’s the truth, a simple, not-so-pretty fact about publishing. Unless the writer is a huge, well-known, consistently best-selling name (brand) often seen in the top 10, their next title will not automatically get snapped up. Even if under contract ‘to be published’ it may get pushed back or off a publisher’s list and, depending on the contract clauses, end up in limbo with the writer in purgatory. And I’ve known more than one writer to be in this position.
One thing I have to add is that I hadn’t heard a thing about the release of the second book or that one existed. This leads into one of the biggest battles writers deal with every day — the need for marketing, something too often left to writers in the present climate. Most publishers do not have huge marketing budgets; many have none. Writers have even less, but the expectation falls on them to get the word out. I only came across the second title because the question, ‘I wonder whether Isaac has written anything else?’ popped into my head.
As for those books: I first read Warm Bodies about 4 years ago. With my hands on the novella prequel and the novel sequel, I dipped in again. First, a word on the film of the book. It’s not bad, but it uses the more humorous parts to convey the author’s much more visceral idea in a too-light way. When I first saw trailers, I imagined the book to be a Young Adult ‘popcorn’ story, a jokey hoot. Do yourself a favour; if you’ve seen the film, regardless of whether you liked it, DO read the book. It’s a decidedly original experience.
With the characters of ‘R’ and Julie, the setting is a modern twist on Romeo and Juliet set in a dystopian future where zombies outnumber the living. Even many of the survivors seem dead inside, imprisoned as they are behind their safety barriers. Like many zombie books, this is a story that questions and reflects society, but skillfully. An unexpected read the first time around, and the second read was no less pleasurable. The book contains threads of something dark and disturbing, yet enlightening, will speak to some people, though not all; I hope it speaks to many. This is not a gory horror novel, not a teen rom-com spoof. Hidden within its pages, the tale celebrates life in all its messiness. The story is a metaphor for so many things, the state of the world, the meaning of life, civilisation out of control. It imparts the essence of almost every zombie story and life itself. It’s a book about living.
Where Warm Bodies stopped, the Burning World continues, and the story seems to speak on a wider basis, reflecting society, the way we view authority and vice versa, the way countries are run. Maybe because Warm Bodies felt like a complete read, I didn’t enjoy this as much, not that I disliked it. It’s definitely a worthwhile read, earns maybe one star fewer than the full score of the first title. I’ll be interested to see where the author is going with this series. Warm Bodies is a book about living. The Burning World reflects more on ‘how we live’, on the quirks of society and how it’s governed.
If you read Warm Bodies and are interested in following further chapters in R’s world then it’ll be worthwhile to help Isaac out by buying The Burning World (and no, I do not know the author before anyone asks, but I loved the first book, enjoyed the second, and long for the third).