Review: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell

September 2, 2010 Books, Reviews, TV 1 ★★★

Review: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden BellThe Reapers Are the Angels by 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 her heart. 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.
Series: Reapers #1
Published by Macmillan on 2010-08-03
Genres: Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
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I received this book for free from The Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

I will say off the bat that I have mixed emotions about this novel. It’s certainly an interesting addition to the zombie novel sub-genre that has popped up recently. Bell takes more of a “literary fiction” approach than most would ever dare attempt with zombies, focusing on the psychological impact of being born into a ruined world. The heroine, 15-year-old Temple, never knew the world we know so she can’t lament its passing; she just accepts it. This makes the book much narrower in scope, than say a book about how all of humanity battles the zombie menace (like World War Z) and works well with the on-going theme of appreciating the everyday miracles of life. I certainly think Bell has hit on something here because most zombie novels are about survival and not what it means to survive.

But I think there are parts of this novel that reach too far into the literary. Sometimes Temple comes off a too mature to be believable as an illiterate teenage girl (why would she reference things like a “five and dime” store?); I initially thought she was older. And Bell pushes the “Southern Gothic” grotesque to the extreme. I’m not sure hill people injecting themselves with zombie brain-matter makes sense scientifically or narratively. The only explanation I can come up with is that Bell saw Deliverance as a challenge, something he had to top.

Still, The Reapers are the Angels does have moments of true beauty, and that in itself is an everyday miracle that Temple would appreciate. Certainly, I would not be adverse to more zombie-lit heroines being more like the sassy and tortured Temple, and less like her counterparts in the teen-lit zombie novels, like Generation Dead and The Forest of Hands and Teeth.