I seriously don’t know why I forced myself to read through yet another overindulgent novel by Isaac Marion, but I did, because, before all else, there is something to admire in his encumbered storytelling, and that’s his craft. At the very root of it, I cheer on his pure, unadulterated creativity. Because he has a lot of it. And I wish he’d allowed himself a simple line here or there to root us in it. For long passages of this book, I sort of felt like I was running around without a head.
The New Hunger is the prequel to Warm Bodies, a novel following R, a curious zombie drawn to the idea of existence, and almost comically romantic about his place in the world. The New Hunger follows three stories, each set of characters looking for a place, a purpose, and something to hope for.
It was hard to get through. As well as being stuck in his bogged down prose, the reader is now expected to not only keep track of the story, which is hidden under thousands of layers of prophetic words, but keep track of it from three different points of view, which didn’t switch back and forth often enough to keep you well-informed.
I had to go back several times to remind myself what happened in this person’s version of the world because I’m still stuck in two other versions of the world and can’t tell any of them from each other.
I’m struggling to understand how Marion’s editor let him get away with half of the stuff he got away with. Sometimes it’s easier and better to just say what you mean and remove the extra word accessories. For instance:
And, yes, he feels relief, a warm river of energy washing over his dried-up cells and reconstituting them, pooling in his chest and inflating him like a sad, sagging party balloon.
It would be such a beautiful sentence if the seventeen sentences before and after didn’t read and follow in the same manner. Just say he feels a sad form of relief. We get the point. Give our poor eyes a break. Your talent is stifling.
I think he navigated the prequel well enough for it to stand alone. I liked how the stories came together at the end, how all the paths began to merge, but they didn’t have the standardized Big Bang of an ending. It sort of came together just to fall apart, if that makes sense. Came together for one moment of intense speculation just to wither away in the coming years until Warm Bodies comes into fruition to remind you that these people are still people, they’ve just grown up and come to a new form of longing for something more than the world they’ve lived in.
I particularly liked the few pages involving music, and how music was sort of this symbol for normality, for the world that once was where people had the time and energy to create art. I loved Nora’s diatribe toward pop music. And I loved how Julie’s mother sort of fell away when the music gave way to static on the radio. It gave you a sense of longing for something that once was, and it gave you this intense appreciation for the world we live in today, where art is a luxury and something to be celebrated, something that endures and carries with it unimaginable hope.
This novella still stuck with the underlying matter of mattering to the world, and leaving it a better place when you’ve died. Despite the amounts of grief presented to our young narrators, they never stopped believing in a change, in a better future, and that’s something I think we can all relate to. At it’s very core, The New Hunger honors the present moment, and bounds us all together with the idea that no matter the sizes of our lasting impacts, if we touch a life, if we appreciate the goodness in ourselves, we’re giving something to the world it couldn’t have gotten without us.
She wonders what her friend’s voice sounded like, and if she died in panic or acceptance, and if her twenty-one years had any effect on the relentless spinning of the world.
She will search for years until she forgets this city and its horrors, until she forgets she ever had a family and begin to think of herself as something that sprouted unbidden and unwanted through the concrete of an empty parking lot.
And Marion did another excellent job of getting inside a zombie’s brain when he had R questioning what he was. Looking at a corpse and understanding he’s not like it, but then looking at an alive girl, and understand he’s not her either, and then sort of roving around like, well, then what the hell am I? And only understanding it once another zombie came along to basically say, you are like me. And like so much else, he just had to let that be enough.
I have to say my least favorite character was Julie’s mother. I’m glad I didn’t like her because she *SPOILER ALERT* dies based out of her own incapability to deal in Warm Bodies. She’s just too fussy, too irritable, too hard to please. And she acted like a petulant child, one that needed to be coddled back to life repeatedly by her twelve-year-old daughter. I grew to understand her like I never understood her in Warm Bodies, so I think as unfortunate as she was, she was gravely important in this story.
Before I end this review, I would like to share my favorite line, which was hard, because obviously, there were a lot of them.
They rest of the murky seabed of his mind, buried under sand and silt and miles of grey waves, patient seeds waiting for life.
He’s talking about emotions, which he feels for one transient moment and then loses. Pretty damn deep for a mindless zombie.