Fans of Isaac Marion’s novel Warm Bodies have a treat in store: Marion is releasing The New Hunger, a prequel novella, on Oct. 6, to tide you over before the full-length sequel to Warm Bodies, The Living, is released next July. The New Hunger was originally self-published as an e-book in 2013, but this update contains fascinating new chapters.
The New Hunger follows 16-year-old Nora as she looks after her young brother, the siblings having been abandoned by their parents in the eerie, but not quite empty, ruins of Seattle. We also meet “R,” a man who awakens to a mysterious hunger… and must figure out how to feed it. Check out EW’s exclusive cover reveal and excerpt below:
THE NEW HUNGER by Isaac Marion
This is not the beginning.
The beginning is darkness and fire, microbes and worms—the very first of us, killing by the billions on their way up the ladder. There is little to learn from the beginning. We prefer the middle, where things are getting interesting.
Who are we? We are everyone. We are every thought and action. Time is just a filing system for the vastness of our Library, but we linger in the present with the unfinished books, watching them write themselves. The world is changing. The globe is bulging and straining, erupting and blazing with miracles, and we don’t know what shape it will take when it cools. Even with all of history inside us, we don’t know, and this is a little scary.
So we narrow our focus. We zoom in on a country, then a city, then the white rooftop of a stadium, where three young people are sitting on a blanket.
The sky is dark. They are the only ones awake for miles around. It’s hard to catch a sunrise in the middle of summer—the sun barely sets before bouncing back up—but today the need to see beauty was urgent. They have seen too much ugliness. Their lives are smeared with it like blood and shit, so thick they can barely breathe, so today they’re on the roof in the cold morning air, waiting for the sun to wash them.
Who are these people? Why do they interest us? They are not special—no one is—but there is something in them that draws our gaze. A short, pale girl full of strange dreams. A tall, dark girl with a promise carved on her heart. And a half-alive man whose head buzzes with voices, who talks to us and listens without knowing we exist.
We want them to know we exist. We want them to read our Library and share it with the world, because there is nothing sweeter than being known. But first we have to know them. We are books that read our readers, not a story but a conversation, and we open it with a question:
Who are you?
We circle around them, peering in the windows of their souls.
What’s in there? Where did it come from? Show us and we’ll show you.
Up and down the Library, from its bright ceiling to its black basement, pages begin to flutter.
THE NEW HUNGER
A dead man lies near a river, and the forest watches him. Gold clouds drift across a warming pink sky. Crows dart through dark pines that hover over him like morbid onlookers.
In the deep, wild grass, small living things creep around the dead man’s face, eager to eat it and return it to the soil. Their faint clicks mingle with the rush of the wind and the screams of the birds and the roar of the river that will wash away his bones. Nature is hungry. It is ready to take back what the man stole from it by living.
But the dead man opens his eyes.
He stares at the sky. He feels an impulse: move. So he sits up. His eyes are open but he can’t see anything. Just a blur that he doesn’t know is a blur, because he has never seen clarity.
This is the world, he reasons. The world is blurry.
Hours pass. Then his eyes remember how to focus, and the world sharpens. He thinks that he liked the world better before he could see it.
Lying next to him is a woman. She is beautiful, her hair pale and silky and matted with blood, her blue eyes mirroring the sky, tears drying rapidly under the hot sun. The man tilts his head, studying the woman’s lovely face and the bullet hole in her forehead. For a brief moment he feels a sensation he doesn’t like. His features bend downward; his eyes sting. Then it fades and he stands up. The revolver in his hand slips through his limp fingers and falls to the ground. He starts walking.
The man notices that he is tall. Branches scrape his scalp and tangle in his matted mess of hair. The tall man notices other things, too. A leather chair floating in the river. A metal suitcase hanging from a branch. Four more bodies with holes in their heads, sprawled out limp in the grass. These ones are not beautiful. They are pale and spattered with black blood, regarding the sky with strange, metallic grey eyes. He feels another unpleasant sensation, and he kicks one of the bodies in the head. He kicks it again and again, until his shoe sinks into the putrid mess of its brain, and then he forgets why he’s doing this and keeps walking.
The tall man does not know who he is. He does not know what he is or where he is, how he came here or why. His head is so empty it hurts; the vacuum of space is twisting it apart, so he forces a thought into it just to ease the pain:
He walks away from the blond woman. He walks away from the bodies. He walks away from the column of smoke rising out of the trees behind him.
Find another person.
A girl and her brother are walking in the city. Her brother breaks the silence.
“I know who you like.”
“I know who you like.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yeah I do.”
“I don’t like anybody.”
“Do too. And I know who it is.”
Nora glances back at Addis, who is such a painfully slow walker she wants to put him on a leash and drag him.
“Okay, who do I like?”
“I’m not telling.”
She laughs. “That’s not how blackmail works, dumb-ass.”
“It’s when you know a secret about somebody and you threaten to tell people unless they do what you want. But it doesn’t work if you don’t say what you know.”
“Oh. Okay, you like Evan.”
Nora fights a surprised smile. The little shit’s got eyes.
“You do!” Addis crows. “You like Evan!”
“Maybe,” Nora says, looking straight ahead. “So what?”
“So I got you. And now I’m gonna blacknail you.”
“Blackmail. Okay, let’s hear your demands.”
“I want the rest of the Teddy Grahams.”
“Deal. I don’t like the chocolate ones.”
“And you have to carry the water an extra day.”
“Fine. But only because I really don’t want anyone to know I like Evan.”
“Yeah, because he’s ugly.”
“No, because he has a girlfriend.”
“But he is ugly.”
“I like ugly. Beauty is a trick.”
Addis snorts. “No one likes ugly.”
“I like you, don’t I?” She reaches back and grabs a handful of his woolly hair, shakes his head around. He laughs and wrestles free. “Okay, so are we good here?” she says. “Do we have a deal?”
“All right, but only one, so you better make it good.”
Addis studies the pavement scrolling by under his feet. “I want us to look for Mom and Dad.”
Nora walks in silence for a few sidewalk squares. “No deal.”
“But I’m blackmailing you!”
“Then I’m gonna tell everyone you like Evan.”
Nora stops walking. She cups her hands to her mouth and sucks in a deep breath. “Hey everyone! I like Evan Kenerly!”
Her voice echoes through long canyons of crumbled highrises, gutted storefronts, melted glass and scorched concrete. It rolls down mossy streets and bounces off piles of rusted cars, frightening crows out of a copse of alders that sprouts through the roof of an Urban Outfitters.
Her brother scowls at her, betrayed, but Nora is tired of this. “We were just playing a game, Addy. Evan’s probably dead by now.”
She starts walking again. Addis hangs back a moment, then follows, still scowling. “You’re mean,” he says.
“Yeah, maybe. But I’m nicer than Mom and Dad.”
They walk in silence for five minutes before Addis looks up from his gloomy study of the sidewalk. “So what are we looking for?”
Nora shrugs. “Good people. There are good people out there.”
“Are you sure?”
“There’s got to be one or two.”
“Do I still get the cookies?”
She stops and raises her eyes skyward, letting out a slow sigh. She slips off her backpack and pulls out the bag of Teddy Grahams, hands it to her brother. He shoves the last two into his mouth and Nora studies him as he chews furiously. He’s getting thinner. A seven-year-old’s face should be round, not sharp. It shouldn’t have the angular planes of a fashion model. She can see the exhaustion in his dark eyes, creeping in around the sadness.
“Let’s crash,” she says. “I’m tired.”
Addis beams, revealing white teeth smeared black with cookie gunk.
They set up camp in a law firm lobby, wrapped in the single wool blanket they share between them, the marble floor softened with chair cushions. The last red rays of the sunset leak through the revolving door and crawl across the floor, then abruptly vanish, severed by the rooftops.
“Can we make a fire?” Addis whimpers, although the night is warm.
“In the morning.”
“But it’s scary in here.”
Nora can’t argue with that. The building’s steel skeleton creaks and groans as the day’s warmth dissipates, and she can hear the ghostly rustle of paperwork in a nearby office, brought to life by a breeze whistling through a broken window. But it’s a law firm. A place utterly useless to the new world, and thus invisible to scavengers. One threat out of a hundred checked off her list—she will sleep one percent better.
She pulls the flashlight out of her pack and squeezes its handle a few times until the bulb begins to glow, then gives it to Addis. He hugs it to his chest like a talisman.
“Good night, Adderall,” she says.
“Good night, Norwhale.”
Even with the powerful protection of a two-watt bulb against the creeping jungle of night, he still sounds scared. And she can still hear his stomach, growling louder than any monsters that may lurk in the dark.
Nora reaches across their makeshift bed and squeezes her brother’s hand, marveling at its softness. Wondering how mankind survived as long as it did with hands this soft.