This week’s book review features The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell.
Quick plot synopsis: Temple is a fifteen-year-old girl on the run. She wanders a fallen America, ravaged by zombies, populated with only small pockets of survivors. These insulated communities are all she has ever known, it’s always been like this. While resting at a safe house, she is assaulted – but Temple lives in a kill or be killed world, so she murders the man, Abraham Todd. His brother Moses, seeks revenge, and chases her to the limits of the remnants of society. Her past haunts her, her present terrifies her and the future holds only bleak wastelands. This is the story of her life on the brutal frontier as Temple fights for survival and ultimately her own personal redemption.
My thoughts: I wholeheartedly think this book is one of the best stories to come out of the zombie/post-apocalyptic genre in a long time. Alden Bell’s writing style feels really lush, however, he does some unusual stuff with punctuation (no quotation marks for example). The way he constructs the narrative, the reader is always on the same level has the characters – we don’t know how the apocalypse happened or how pockets of humanity survived. We only know that this is the world, and that’s a great thing in my opinion. It makes the world more immersive and it prevents the story from being bogged down with tedious faux-science and history.
Temple is one of the most instantly likeable protagonists I’ve read in a long time. She has all of the prerequisite traits of a zombie book hero- tough as nails, soft spot for people in need, etc. But Temple’s way with words, her frankness, makes her both engaging and relatable. She’s not well educated, but her simple eloquence sets the tone for the book in many ways. All of the characters have distinct voices and believable motivations – even the most gnarly members of societies have systems of logic behind their existence. Bell did a very good job conceptualizing and contextualizing his world and Temple’s story.
This is perhaps one of the few zombie books that really addresses the ideas of the ethics of zombie killing. As Temple progresses through her story, she starts to explore this morality and seek her own answers. It’s the inclusion of these themes that sets this book apart from even something like Dawn of the Dead and more closely aligns Bell’s work with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (one of my personal favorites).
Bell crafts a beautiful story in a bleak world, and Temple’s journey is not one I’m going to forget any time soon. I highly recommend this novel whether you love zombies or not.