rachel's Reviews > The Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
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Jul 20, 14

bookshelves: sci-fi-fantasy, of-the-south-or-its-environs, 2011
Read from November 11 to 12, 2011

One of the thoughts that has been cemented pretty firmly in my mind for a while is that despite loving literature of the South, I do not love Cormac McCarthy. I love to hate his snobbery about comma usage and his disdain for flowery writing (which I am sure is code for "women's writing," as it often is with these self-important men). The humorlessness of the author gets superimposed onto his work, extending my annoyance to not only his opinions but his books too.

So as soon as the characters in The Reapers are the Angels start talking about fate, and Moses keeps talking about how he "has" to kill Temple even though it's clear he has little heart for the brother she killed in self defense and that he respects her drive, I'm like, "Oh great. Here we go. We're going to be knocking off McCarthy now." And clearly that is my FAVORITE THING EVER.

For the majority of the book, this opinion remained unwavering. I started to full-on hate it when Temple finds mutants in the swamp, because do we really need to add to that stereotype of the South? (See? Told you I get unreasonably annoyed with the McCarthy knockoffs.)

But by the end of the book, something about Temple's love for America the Beautiful had gotten to me, just as it got to Moses. Because that is another opinion that is very close to my heart, the love of our landscape of palm trees and swamps and lighthouses and skyscrapers and deserts. And waterfalls. Temple fantasizes about someday seeing Niagara Falls, and her wanderlust is a reason that she can't ever settle down in a safe house or city and why she heads back out onto the road, zombies and all. This is one aspect of the zombie book that I never thought of: for those of us who'd lose our minds if we had to stay in one place forever, how strong would that urge be post-apocalypse if our lives were at risk?

I am also glad that I read reviews while reading that pointed out the allegorical roles of Moses and Maury. Temple is obligated to save Maury because she failed to save the boy Malcolm who depended on her, that I got. But those of you who understood that Moses is a metaphor for her personal demons, her inability to let the mistakes of her past go -- thank you for helping me to appreciate the book more, to be less annoyed at what seemed the purposelessness of his pursuit.

I try to rate books based on how successful they are at being what they are. This is a successful zombie book and also a successful replication of McCarthy's themes and style (but with fewer made-up words and a more mainstream folksiness), and my personal prejudice is towards liking one of those things but emphatically not the other. And that's why it's three stars.
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