Isaac Marion’s ‘The Living’: A grand finale for an epic tale of apocalypse and rebirth (and tons of zombies)

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With The Living, novelist Isaac Marion brings the Warm Bodies series to the only conclusion it could possibly have: one that’s equal parts grand, gory, and glorious. There’s maybe never been a better time for a zombie-based reflection on the meaning and purpose of humanity; whether you’re a long-time reader of Marion’s or are just discovering his work as this trilogy comes to a close, you’ll find something worth pondering.

To quote the advance press materials, The Living promises a story on “a scale both epic and intimate.” It’s a fitting description of a story that’s been growing in scope since Warm Bodies‘ first page. If that novel was an exploration of an intriguing approach to zombie lit — what if zombies could fall in love? — and The Burning World, the second volume, was about main character R rediscovering himself as the reader discovers more about the post-apocalyptic world, The Living is about the battle for what the world is going to become.

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Author Isaac Marion, holding a copy of The Burning World, the second novel in his Warm Bodies series. Photo via Instagram.

As Marion’s fans are aware, this battle has been raging in the author’s mind for quite some time. In fact, he expounded upon the theme in a TED Talk shortly after finishing the first serious draft of The Living. To an auditorium full of people who sounded about half-amused, half-bemused, Marion explained “Why We Need an Apocalypse,” daring us to “imagine the world as a blank slate — to give ourselves the freedom of exploring any idea…without this predetermined ceiling of what already exists.”

In terms of its approach to that battle The Living wears several different genre hats simultaneously. It’s still a post-apocalyptic novel; it’s something of a novel of self-discovery; it’s got elements of a love story. It’s also a road trip novel, as R and Julie and their comrades drive from the East to the West Coast in an RV to join the rebellion against the Axiom Group, the corporation that’s more or less taken over what’s left of the world and seek to impose the old, collapsed order back upon it.

(If you’re familiar with Warm Bodies but missed The Burning World, think of Axiom as the B&L Corporation from Wall-E. Except, instead of “cruise ships in space,” Axiom’s jam is militaristic oppression.)

I hesitate to share too many more plot details. The Living is a dense novel, especially if you’re coming to it without having read either or both of the first two novels in the trilogy, and it’s difficult to get into specifics without having to offer lengthy explanations alongside. (Plus, technically, Warm Bodies is not a trilogy; in addition to the three novels proper, there’s also prequel novella The New Hunger.)

Suffice it to say that if you’re already a fan of Marion’s work, you’re going to enjoy The Living. And if you’re unaware of his books, but you find yourself slogging through the daily news, shaking your head in disbelief at how close to collapse we sometimes seem — and maybe even wondering whether zombies would actually make our world *better* — Marion’s Warm Bodies trilogy is probably just the thing for you.

The Living is available for purchase via Isaac’s author site here. Hardcover copies of the book will ship on December 10th; ordering now also gets you an instant download of The Living ebook.

(Photo credits: Isaac Marion The Living via Isaac Marion, Instagram)

John Sharp is a Starcasm’s chief editorial correspondent-at-large. Tips: E-mail at or send on Twitter at @john_starcasm.

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