Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

And then her mind crowds with other things—a noisy parade of memories that frustrate her because of the way they play themselves out. These memories—it feels like she’s back there in the moment, like she has the moment to do over and make different choices than she made. But she can’t, because they’re just memories and they’re set down permanent as if they were chiseled in marble, and so she has to just watch herself do the same things over and over, and it’s a condemnation if anything

I loved this book. Part of me just wants to leave it at that, but I'll try to explain why.

First of all, it is hands down the most beautiful zombie book I have ever read, and while that sounds strange it makes complete sense to me. The writing is gorgeous and evocative, and drenched in longing. It stands out to me for the gorgeous writing and unique circumstances. While I've read some criticism that the book is a pale shadow of other better works about a chase for justice across an apocalyptic land, I don't really care. It introduced some interesting ideas in a zombie wasteland to me.

But really I guess what makes this book stand out to me is the heroine Temple. I loved her. Temple was born after the zombies overran the land, she has never known a life other than one with zombies. She's illiterate but clever and fierce. She's small and carrying around the weight of the world on her shoulders, the desire to somehow make peace with the ghosts that haunt her. It's a huge burden she bears even as she attempts to survive. At first I was slightly put off by her rough ways, but suddenly at one point in the book, I realized I was so attached to her. There are all kinds of settlements in this apocalyptic wasteland that Temple encounters and at one, when a man tries to force himself on her, she fights him off and it results in his death which sends her on her own journey to get away from his brother who seeks justice.

Temple is a caretaker, in that she picks up a friend along the way and cares for him because he can't really look after himself. She manages to get herself out of scrapes, but is often troubled by the dark nature of what exists inside of her. She longs for beauty but is also a little bit frightened of it as well. She's haunted by the mistakes of her past. Temple meets people along the way and then they turn up again and there's always a sense of danger even while things seem relatively calm. There are zombie hunters and people who get high on zombie juice, and towns trying to rebuild, and zombies kept as pets...it's a unique assortment of situations Temple encounters.

Alden Bell like so many authors these days apparently doesn't believe in quotation marks, but I got used to it relatively quickly. The book is short and fast to read, but it's beautiful and painful as well.

Minor quibble I had with the book is that Temple sometimes stops at gas stations and Coke is still a thing that's around, but this is 25 years post-apocalypse and it's hard for me to believe packaged crackers and such would still be around. But I'm totally willing to overlook that, because it wasn't really that big of a deal.

Rating: 4.75/5
Things You Might Want to Know: profanity and sex and violence and zombies
Source of Book: bought it
Publisher: Henry Holt


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