Isaac Marion’s Zombies Redux

The Seattle author’s hit novel “Warm Bodies” is getting an ambitious sequel.

When Isaac Marion finished his 2010 novel Warm Bodies, his zombie hero, R, had just opened up a new chapter in his life. The author, though, was ready to move on.

Then a funny thing happened. Warm Bodies got huge, a well-received 2013 film adaptation starring Nicholas Holt pushing the novel onto the New York Times bestseller list. Considering that Marion was discovered by the agent responsible for the Twilight series, and that the author of that gargantuan series blessed Marion’s book with a cover blurb, his zombie story seemed destined for the trilogy treatment. Marion resisted at first, but eventually gave in.

“I just stopped caring about my status in the writing world,” says the young, tall, bearded, and tattooed Seattle author while sitting at a Pioneer Square coffee shop. “I realized that it wasn’t going to happen anyway; I’m not going to be the hip literary Brooklyn author. I just decided to do what I want to do, whatever is compelling to me.” What was compelling was to pick up the story of R, who at the end of the first novel is (spoiler alert) liberated from death. And so this week, six years later, a sequel, under the title The Burning World, arrives in bookstores and the manuscript for a third is on his editor’s desk.

But where Warm Bodies was concerned with the internal life of its zombie hero—a stand-in for the author himself—The Burning World is aimed at much more ambitious subject matter: the resurrection and transformation of human society. In the novel—twice as long as Warm Bodies and lacking in much of the romance and humor that made that a relatively lighthearted read—R and his community are faced with the burnt-out husk of a failed society. There are remnants of what readers might see as a realistic and dark future, Marion even writing in the existence of walls at the United States’ northern and southern borders, making this likely the first novel to feature Trump’s proposed border wall (though that was not by design, the author says). “I kind of had to take on ideas that were beyond my ability to solve: big world issues and human nature,” Marion says. “I don’t know if I can find a way to complete this arc without solving the human condition itself.”

It was a difficult process, the author says. Marion moved to Portland at one point, thinking it would help unlock some answers. He talked to friends and family and went for long walks and long drives—at one point traversing the West in an RV for weeks just to contemplate R’s journey. He even brought his characters with him to the therapist. “The number-one problem on my mind was, ‘How do I solve this character’s dilemma?’ ” he recalls. “So I asked if I could tell them about my characters and get some feedback. They were surprisingly game.”

Whether readers or movie studios will be game is yet to be seen. “I’ve been worried about whether the audience can go there with me,” Marion says. “And they may not, but I decided to go for it.”

More in Arts & Culture

Pick List: Ellen Forney, ‘The Nether,’ ‘Crippled Symmetry’

Seattle’s best entertainment events of the week.

The Conquistador Fever Dream of ‘Zama’

The Argentinian film follows a hapless cog of colonialism disorientingly seeking escape.

Illustration by Taylor Dow
Collapse and Rebuild

Mars and Pluto collide and the Moon is full in Scorpio.

UW’s Storefront Studio Project Revitalizes Historic Northwest Streets

For 15 years, the student-driven program has given new life to thoroughfares in Northwest communities.

Joaquin Phoenix in Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. Photo by Alison Cohen Rosa/Amazon Studios
‘You Were Never Really Here’ and the Unsmooth Criminal

Joaquin Phoenix captivates as a disheveled hitman in Lynne Ramsay’s hypnotic thriller.

Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg serve up food chatter and laughs on Spilled Milk. Photo by Morgen Schuler
Laughing Over ‘Spilled Milk’

How the comedic Seattle food podcast became a tasty audible treat.

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
Seattle 4/20 Event Picks

Your calendar for all thing stoner-riffic!

Illustration by Taylor Dow
Serious Questions

The Sun enters Taurus and Pluto goes retrograde.

Hear Top Northwest Drummer Chat for Free at KEXP

The drumming podcast ‘The Trap Set’ heads to Seattle on April 12 with drummers from Pearl Jam, Death Cab For Cutie, and more.

<em>Peggy Platt (left) and Lisa Koch send up country kitsch as The Spudds. Photo by Joe Iano </em>
Pick List: Frankie Cosmos, Lindy West, Film Festivals Galore

Seattle’s best entertainment events of the week.

The Moondoggies is a hoot. Photo by Jason Neuerburg
The Moondoggies Push Against Rock Escapism with ‘A Love Sleeps Deep’

Frontman Kevin Murphy discusses how drastic life changes reshaped the local band’s outlook and sound.