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Monday, July 20, 2015

The Reapers are the Angels (Reapers # 1) Book Review

The Reapers are the Angels (Reapers # 1)
Pages - 225
Year - 2010
Author - Alden Bell

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself - and keeping her demons inside. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.


Book Review (GR)

Over a hundred people have shelved this as a YA novel. This is not a YA novel! The prose is artful and does not condescend, there is a fair amount of (admittedly half-baked, being birthed in the brain of an illiterate fifteen-year-old) philosophy that does not bear directly on the story, but most importantly, it doesn't have a YA ending.

YA novels pretty much have to have a happy ending. Or at least a triumph. Sure, the author might kill off a kid sister or a friend or two, but ultimately the heroine is going to find some measure of peace and happiness, or at least safety. There is closure of a nature reassuring to the kids who read YA novels and the neotenous adults who prefer them to adult literature.

The Reapers are the Angels has closure, but not that kind.

Temple was born after the zombie apocalypse ended most of what passes for civilization, and doesn't remember the old world. She is a wanderer by nature, with no surviving kin, but by chance she comes across a mentally disabled man for whom, quite against her wiser inclinations, she takes up the burden of escorting on a road trip to probably no longer living family on the other side of a zombie-ravaged country. Why? She never explains this herself, but it seems she just really doesn't have anything better to do.

Along the way, they encounter any number of horrors, and a very small number of kindnesses. The "meatskins" are really the least of the dangers — Temple dispatches them quite readily with a gun or her Ghurka knife. But there are creepy ordinary folks in mansions, and even creepier Texas Chainsaw Massacre-type folks in the hills. And then of course there is Moses Todd, whom Temple irks by killing his brother. Even he admits that his brother had it coming, but now he has to kill her. That's just the way it is. And like a slightly more affable Anton Chigurh, he pursues Temple and her mute companion (whom she just refers to as "dummy") across a blighted American landscape.

It is written in Southern Gothic style, and the dialect of Temple, who was born after the zombie apocalypse ended most of what passes for civilization, has shades of McCarthy and Faulkner.
It has become something to her, that memory — something she can take out in dismal times and stare into like a crystal ball disclosing not presages but reminders. She holds it in her palm like a captured ladybug and thinks, Well ain't I been some places, ain't I partook in some glorious happenings wanderin my way between heaven and earth. And if I ain't seen everything there is to see, it wasn't for lack of lookin.

Blind is the real dead.
Plotwise, The Reapers are the Angels is derivative of Stephen King and any number of zombie novels; the story is good enough, but this is the sort of book you're likely to like, or else find annoying, because of the prose.

If you are not completely burnt out on zombie novels, The Reapers are the Angels is a short, literary take on this well-worn theme. Highly recommended for YA readers as well who might like to try something a little more upmarket.

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