The Daily Monocle

Critical book reviews from a literary skeptic.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

Posted by J. P. Wickwire

Don't forget to read our interview with author, Alden Bell!

I never thought a zombie novel would make me cry. But, The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell did just that.

It's been a quarter of a century since the zombie apocalypse, and the ravaged Earth is the only home fifteen year old Temple has ever known. Years after losing the only people she loved, she wanders the bleak landscapes where hunt or be hunted is the only option

But when Temple kills a man in self-defense, she finds herself up against an entirely new sort of enemy. The ruthless Moses Todd will avenge his brother's death regardless of the costs. And so Temple finds herself on the run, caught between a man, the zombies, and the knowledge of her past sins.

This struggle is part of what makes Temple so realistic. She believes that she is truly evil, and carries this burden with her during her travels. In her short life, she's seen more death—caused more pain—than most of us could ever imagine. She lives a harsh, cruel existence, but it's the only existence she's ever known.

I've asked myself over and over again if Temple could be considered human by today's standards. She is a new creature, of a new species so profoundly different—and yet so strikingly similar—to our modern day selves, that we as readers become captives to her plight. She acts as though she is ten or twenty years older than she really is, and that in itself is kind of unnerving. Part of the power of Reapers, is the fact that everything feels so ordinary, that we can't help but believe whatever Bell tell us.

The Earth is just a shell filled with cutthroats, hunters, and people who are afraid to look out their windows, and Bell's prose captures this flawlessly. I can't quite explain the texture of his writing. Haunting. Lyrical. Macabre. Southern poetry, perhaps? He paints a bleak, but beautiful, picture of the empty Earth, and the light of life that struggles to survive inside. And although the offbeat present-tense, limited third-person view point takes a few pages to get used to, it's well worth the effort.

The Reapers are the Angels is different than any other zombie book saturating the market today. It's not a tale of valiant soldiers defending the public from an onslaught of undead monsters; it's not a tale of tortured scientists attempting to redeem themselves after unleashing madness on humanity. Heck, it's not even about the apocalypse itself. Rather, it's a riveting account of humans who become refugees in their own world.

Whereas a lot of zombie books are comical, Reapers is harsh. I wish I could conjure the language I need to properly discuss this book, but every time I try, the words escape me. Fans of World War Z, Edgar Allan Poe—fans of horror, sci-fi, guts and gore—literary muses and geeky teenagers alike: this book is for you. This is one of those books that could almost be considered YA lit—but ten times better, written without the condescension, simplicity and fluffiness of what you usually see in teen literature.

Like I said, I never thought a zombie novel would make me cry. But, thanks to its raw emotion and clarity, The Reapers are the Angels did just that.

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell hits the shelves on August 3rd. Mark your calendars!

Author's Website
Read an Excerpt
Buy it on Amazon

Posted on July 19th, 2010

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