On the surface, The Reapers Are the Angels is a beautiful journey across a post-apocalyptic America, venturing from the small resistant pockets of civilization to scenes of eerily entrancing desolation. This is a book about a girl, zombies, and a man chasing this girl. At face value, this is already the makings of a pretty great read. But why stick to only a pretty great read? After all this is far from being the first zombie story ever told. Well Alden Bell has taken it further and The Reapers Are the Angels is the entrancing result.
Older than her years and completely alone, Temple is trying to live one day at a time in a post-apocalyptic world, where the undead roam endlessly, and the remnants of mankind seem, at times, to retain little humanity themselves.
This is the world she was born into. Temple has known nothing else. Her journey takes her to far-flung places, to people struggling to maintain some semblance of civilization - and to those who have created a new world order.
When she comes to the helpless Maury, she attempts to set one thing right. If she can just get him back t his family in Texas then maybe it will bring redemption for some of the terrible things that she’s not proud of, and, along the road, she’s made enemies.
Now one vengeful man is determined that, in a world gone mad, killing her is the one thing that makes sense...
Having taken a look at surface details let us now take a deeper look. If one is to dig, The Reapers Are the Angels takes on a whole new mantle. From the taunting zombie story it becomes a tale about a girl who has to fight to survive in the only - extremely dangerous - world she has ever known, a girl that is troubled by who she is and about the intricate relationship she has with others. In essence, The Reapers Are the Angels becomes a haunting human tale even more worth your attention.
It helps that Bell chooses to set his novel at a significantly later time to the events that saw the rise of zombies or, as he calls them, “meatskins.” As such we get a pretty good glimpse at how things have developed in that time and allows for Temple to be placed in a more interesting place emotionally due to the circumstance in which she continues to survive. Much of the plot also relies on the strange relationship between Temple and her pursuer, Moses Todd, and the chosen setting allows for an incredible chase across the desolate landscape that Bell painted. That relationship and the one Temple has with Maury give an absorbing insight into human nature and its intricacies.
Bell’s prose is beautiful and minimalist. His descriptions are direct yet vivid and his way with words is often astounding. He even goes so far as to forgo traditional dialogue punctation opting for a fluid, words-flowing style that befits The Reapers Are the Angels better. Bell’s prose is a large part of what makes the novel so great as it brings out all that is good about the setting, the plot and the characters.
The Reapers Are the Angels is a very gratifying read. At a short 294 pages it is perfect to get lost in for an afternoon or two. This book will mostly attract those in search of a deeper read but really it can satisfy any or all reader - fan of speculative fiction or not. It is a truly entrancing tale and deserves all the attention it can get. Look for other books by Alden Bell in the future or go check out his other novel under his real name, Josh Gaylord, entitled Hummingbirds, a contemporary novel.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Alden Bell's Webstie: http://www.joshuagaylord.com/
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