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The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel Paperback – August 3, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Born into a crumbling society plagued by zombies, all 15-year-old Temple knows is to kill or be killed. When she is assaulted at a safe house, she murders her human attacker, Abraham Todd, and runs from his vengeful brother, Moses. Temple soon acquires a traveling partner, a slow mute by the name of Maury, and begrudgingly takes responsibility for his care, remembering a young boy she swore to protect but couldn't save. Fleeing Moses, the "meatskins," and her own battered conscience, Temple still finds moments of simple joy in the brutal world. Bell (a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, author of Hummingbirds) has created an exquisitely bleak tale and an unforgettable heroine whose eye for beauty and aching need for redemption somehow bring wonder into a world full of violence and decay.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“If you loved Justin Cronin's The Passage, this summer's vampire hit, you'll get a charge out of The Reapers Are the Angels. It's a literary/horror mashup that is unsettlingly good.” ―USA Today
“The Reapers Are the Angels is a knockout, a fresh take on the zombie novel, with a heroine you can't help but root for as she braves the land of the living dead and the dead living, pursued by a foe far more dangerous than flesh-eaters and with the beacon of redemption flickering ahead. Alden Bell will snatch your attention and keep it until long after you close this book.” ―Tom Franklin, author of Hell at the Breach
“Alden Bell provides an astonishing twist on the southern gothic: like Flannery O'Connor with zombies.” ―Michael Gruber, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Air and Shadows
“Alden Bell has managed something improbable and striking: a disconcertingly beautiful tale of zombie apocalypse. The Reapers Are the Angels is soaked in all the blood that any horror fan could desire, the effluvia rendered in a high Southern Gothic style as redolent of rotting magnolia as anything written by William Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy.” ―Charlie Huston, author of Sleepless
“... This is a must-read for those who like their literature both brain-specked and philosophical.” ―journalstar.com
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This is a post-apocalyptic story, but set apart from the norm of the genre as it is not told from the point-of-view of a survivor, or of a group of people trying to undo or escape from what has occurred. Instead, it is told from the POV of a young woman born after the apocalypse and who is perfectly adapted to, and appreciative of, the world in which she lives. This creates the chilling, yet beautiful, nature of this book. The main character is not civilized as we might view civilization, and she (and kindred characters) can be brutal and chilling. But at the same time she has a spirituality and appreciation of beauty and life that comes from actually living in her world, however imperfect from our perspective. Bell is excellent at showing her strength, even as the harsh world draws an inescapable net around her. Don't pity Temple, Bell shows us. Pity those people who haven't been able to let go of what was in order to live in what is; pockets of regret and fear shrinking in on themselves and surviving only in a physical sense in a world that has left them behind. Yes, there's probably a message lurking in there for modern America, but it's subtle and never overwhelms the story or the characters.
Alden Bell also infuses the story with a modern languid Southern Gothic voice that perfectly compliments this new world. Harsh, unforgiving, filled with principled characters that are neither good nor evil, as the zombies are neither good nor evil, the poetry and imagery will stay with you long after you set it down. A zombie story that is as much or more about the triumph of life as it is death or undeath. This is a rare book that may polarize or scandalize, but only because of its undeniable emotional and intellectual impact. And that is a rare feat, to appeal to both the head and the heart in equal measure. In short, this is a book worth reading.
An unusual aspect of the dialog was that it is not in quotes, instead almost looking like thoughts. I don’t believe that I have seen this before and I liked it. Since the ZA had happened some years previously the grammar is poorer. This was the first depiction that I’ve seen of life well after the ZA and the inevitable erosion or even disappearance of structured education. The result of this would include some no longer being able to read or write for example.
I did find that some infrastructure elements like water, power, some gasoline stations and vehicles still operating were unexpected given the passage of time. I don’t believe that the original cause was discussed which I appreciated because that is covered excessively in most other books on the subject. Not to include any spoilers, I only mention that the Z and some survivor depictions also included differences that I have not seen before that added to the interest.
If you are looking for ZAF that is thought provoking and different this is an excellent example and I recommend it.
And you shouldn't necessarily expect a Zombie novel to be so expressive, metaphorical, and engrossing. And this is certainly a five star Zombie genre novel.
I grabbed this book since it was heralded as perfect for fans of The Passage. What I found is a book with more meaning than The Passage, it makes The Passage look just a little bubble gum.
You all know the drill; a post-apocalyptic world where the dead come back to life, try to eat the living, and they have been fairly successful destroying the population except for pockets here and there. The main character, who has never known the world before the "slugs" came, is struggling for a safe place to stay. She journeys around the landscape, unable to feel safe anywhere so is always moving on, once in a while she finds joy and comes to the conclusion that "god is slick":... but her real battle is she can't feel safe inside her skull for past deeds, so she can really never find rest.
"Am I evil?" the main character wants to know and shed her shame.
The reader wants to scream, "no, you're not evil... you are just angry and hurt and grieving"... and the irony is, instead of the reader telling her this, it is the man who is hunting her down trying to kill her who feels she is special.. The same man who respects her and sees her for what she is, is the one who tracks her down like a gun slinging Valjert.
As the novel unfolds, its seems the human race is asking itself "are we evil? Do we deserve redemption?" With every character the girl meets, the reader wonders if they are friend or foe. The zombies are just barriers, it's her fellow humans who are the real danger. I couldn't help but think of Huck Finn traveling across the countryside who, finally decides "all right, I'll go to hell." Temple from 'Reapers' never gets past her angst to any such conviction.
The novel is full of beautiful prose, beautiful paradoxes, and flows sweet and deep. The dialogue in the novel is not in quotes, but stuck into the paragraph of the first person main character which sucks you even deeper into her world, and the dialect is written in short, memorable phrases such as "I'm gon kill u."
The landscape, much like the world of "The Road," is a character in its own right, only in The Reapers there seems to be the possibility of redemption and rebirth dotted across the countryside, as either hope or reminders of what is lost, or what can maybe be rebuilt. Civilizations start to pop up, heroes emerge gathering people to safety, although the people are injured or maimed and full of despair and it's clear any new world will have the scars of the old on it forever.
To dance around the spoilers, expect a thrilling, deliciously readable novel where vengeance is gained but by the wrong hands, magnificent sights are finally seen but by perhaps the wrong eyes, and the Best Hill-Billy group since The Deliverance.
God is a slick God, and so is this author.(less)