Carol. 's Reviews > The Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
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's review
May 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: apocalypse, zombies, female-lead, friend-recommended, should-buy
Recommended to Carol. by: Trudi
Recommended for: zombie fans, apocalypse fiction fans
Read from September 07 to 08, 2012

Would it be a stretch to call it a Faulkner-esque zombie tale?

From the start, Reapers quickly distinguishes itself in the zombie apocalypse genre. Temple, our heroine, has found herself a deserted lighthouse when she experiences the miracle of the fishes.

"She left the lighthouse and went down to the beach to look at the moon pure and straight, and she stood in the shallows and let her feet sink into the sand as the patter-waves tickled her ankles. And that's when she saw it, a school of tiny fish, all darting around like marbles in a chalk circle, and they were lit up electric, mostly silver but some gold and pink too. They came and danced around her ankles, and she could feel there little electric fish bodies, and it was like she was standing under the moon and in the moon at the same time."

Temple has learned, you see, that "God is a slick god" and that there are still miracles to be found in the world. She was born since the world changed and though she feels she has darkness in her past, the new world is kind of beautiful. It is an unusual perspective in apocalypse fiction, a genre which is usually preoccupied with the horrific: the decline of civilization, the inhumanity of man, the bleakness of mere survival and the rise of the living dead. But the dead are just another kind of predator here. It is what it is, and zombies gotta do what they gotta do--behavior that is no worse than lions or wolves preying on the edges of the herd.

Our savvy and skilled heroine is delightfully self confident; she has no need to plan ahead for protection because she is so capable of coping with whatever comes. A zombie on her beach is a sign that tides and seasons will change access to her refuge. Confidently, without bravado, she leaves the lighthouse to head north, looking to see some sights. Unfortunately, in a group of city buildings taken over by survivors, she attracts the attention of the creepiest sort of guy. He tries a sneak attack, she kicks ass and soon his brother is tracking her, straight out of revenge fiction. She sees the fight as another sign of her general incompatibility with civilization, and decides to head north again. Brother follows her. On the way, she finds herself in an unaccustomed moment of pity and saves Lenny a mentally challenged man with a pack of zombies trailing behind him. Having him in tow brings up a host of memories, and gives an opportunity to learn more about Temple's past. As the book progresses, she continues to encounter a variety of situations that reflect the range of humanity's adaptation skills, and its worth noting the Bell's vision of the world does not entail humanity degenerating into Lord of the Flies (although I suspect we meet Miss Havisham).

The tone throughout is remarkable. It's hard to encapsulate what about this book stood out for me, but part was the easy, factual tone, a sort of emotionally removed description that acknowledges horror but also contains beauty. It's notable to find a heroine with a Zen state of being, general optimism, and lack of fear. Narration is in her inner 'voice;' while clearly undereducated, there is still subtlety of thought that lends subtext to her experiences. The narration highlights the changes in the world while giving her a sort of innocence.

A few comments on plotting that contain spoilers: (view spoiler)
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03/26/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Arielle Walker I've wanted to read this for a while but this perfect review has turned that into wanting to read it NOW!

And finally, sounds like a heroine who isn't useless and self deprecating. There is still hope in the literary world, perhaps!

Carol. Arielle, I'd love to hear what you think about the book. My reaction was... complicated, so I sat on this review a while. It is free of the usual young-adult angst. I admire Temple; she's self-reliant and open without being arrogant.

Krycek I never took this as a YA book. If it was I picked it up without realizing it was. But I did like Temple, even if I felt that her voice was older than it perhaps should have been. (admittedly, it's been a long time time sincI have been that age, and I have never lived through a zombie apocalypse).

I did find the prose beautiful. The homage to Cormac McCarthy, though, irritated me by its conspicuousness, but because of that I may have overlooked Bell's own Boise and message. At any rate, your review has given me pause to think about my own assessment of the book. While I liked it at the time, I am finding that the memory of the book is residing in my mind longer than most, indicating that it perhaps has had a much more significant impact on me than I previously thought. (BTW, forgive typos, pls...."typing" on an iPad..)

Krycek Bah! I meant "Bell's own voice," not "Boise." My finger's are too clumsy to type on an iPad....

Carol. Ha, Krycek, no problems on the typing.

I haven't read Cormac McCarthy because from what I've heard, it sounds too bleak for me. (and I might well have started reading it, pre-GR--I can't remember).

I found something in this book resided longer than it should as well. As a zombie-book fan, I pinned it on the overall mood and idea of the world as no worse, no better, but that's quite not it, either. Something about it seems folksy-classical. I welcome any more thoughts and discussion on it.

Krycek Certainly my familiarity with McCarthy probably had an influence in my opinion. I did read an interview with Bell once where he said that McCarthy was a big influence, so I appreciated that the similarity in style was more a nod to rather than a rip off. I mighty venture to say that Bell's thematic view as well is in line with McCarthy's bleakness (but he's not always so bleak-- and neither is Bell, I think)...

Sorry, this has just got me thinking! So I am rambling a bit. I believe there is going to to be a sequel to Reapers ( maybe its out already-- I don't keep up with things). I'm going to check it out and maybe re-read Reapers. I liked it overall, but something about it haunts me even now.... ( maybe it's just the title--- which is probably one of the best titles I can remember...)

Carol. Ramble away. I wasn't aware it was a big influence. I didn't think of this book as 'bleak,' which is why it stood out. There is indeed a sequel. I have not looked for it yet.

Krycek Yah, you're right, I may have misspoke when I said "bleak" because it isn't really, despite the milieu. It's not really what I meant, but I'm usually less articulate than I should be. I need to work on that.

Here is the interview (or conversation, rather) in which Bell speaks on his narrative style, if you care to check it out. I found it an interesting read.

Carol. Thanks, Krycek. That is an extremely interesting interview! I'm kind of proud I was able to pick up on the Faulkner--I stopped reading him after high school.

Best quote ever:
"And the zombies? To me, they’re like cilantro – if I can figure out a way to add them into the mix, I’ll do it."

Arielle Walker Carol wrote: "Arielle, I'd love to hear what you think about the book. My reaction was... complicated, so I sat on this review a while. It is free of the usual young-adult angst. I admire Temple; she's self-reli..."

Books that make you think deeply enough that a response is hard to articulate are usually the most worth it! This is all just making me wait so so impatiently for it to be sent to my library where it can then be mine (for while)

Remittance Girl "Would it be a stretch to call it a Faulkner-esque zombie tale?" Not at all. It's exactly that.

Pghbekka Prior to reading your review, I just described this book as: if Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy joined together to write a book about the zombie apocalypse. Glad to see it wasn't just me.

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