The Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden BellThe Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
Publisher: Holt
Number of pages: 225
My copy: paperback, ordered from Book Depository

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can’t remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

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I’ve been wanting to get The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell during the time I was so crazy for zombies in fiction, and that’s one of the reasons why I got this from Book Depository in the first place. I wanted to add every single book that had zombies in it, until it became a little bit too mainstream for my taste. That’s probably why I made this book languish in my TBR for a while, almost forgetting that I had this book with me until lately. Because you know, sometimes you have to dig through your TBR just to get some books out and get that number down.

The Reapers are the Angels introduces a world that is full of zombies, the kind that steel garages don’t really stop. There’s nothing really new about that, but then here comes Temple, a fifteen year old girl who’s turned herself into a vagabond after something happened in her past. She runs into a small community of survivors who take her in, but when she accidentally kills a man who tried to take advantage of her, she is back on the run now that his brother is after her. On her journey, she meets a group of hunters who take on a new way of survival, picks up a mentally challenged man who becomes her unwanted ward, stays with a rich family who refuses to acknowledge the state of the world and gets caught by a horrifically mutated group of people whose loyalty to each other leads them to kill. All this time, Temple fights the evil she thinks is in her while running away from the man who wants to kill her.

Or perhaps running away isn’t the right term. As the story goes on, it doesn’t really feel that Temple was running away — perhaps there was something else. It was almost like this chase gave her some kind of purpose, and it was interesting to read about that. Temple is a different girl and we know it right from the start. Why she chose to be alone is a mystery, and how she seemed to unafraid later on as she travels is another question. Her character makes this initially simple and typical zombie story come more alive. The Reapers are the Angels isn’t a story of zombies or the fallen world but a story of a person wrestling with her past and trying to atone for this. Temple’s brokenness makes her who she is — the hard, no-nonsense girl with awesome fighting skills — but it doesn’t lessen her compassion for others who need her help, even if she doesn’t really want to help at all. I found her unlikely “friendship” with Maury, the mentally challenged guy she helps and “adopts”, quite endearing and possibly my favorite part in the entire story.

But this book isn’t really an easy read. The lush writing helped a lot in making me want to read this, but this is a bleak book — not quite as hopeless as The Forest of Hands and Teeth and also not quite as action packed as The Enemy, but still pretty, well, not cheerful. There were also lots of philosophical talk, which makes this book really a story of survival and how humanity carries on after an apocalypse. I think what makes this book a little harder for me to read was the gross-out factor — like I said, I may have gone soft, and there were some scenes in this book that made me stop reading for a bit just so my stomach would stop churning. Oh Tina, what do you expect of a zombie book, anyway? Just…don’t read this while eating, especially for some parts.

Even so, I find that I loved The Reapers are the Angels, especially for how it ended. Sigh. –> That will be my one and only clue for you. I think The Reapers are the Angels is a beautifully sad but deep book, and I was a very satisfied reader when I finished the book. It’s not at the level of how much I loved Mira Grant’s Feed, my favorite zombie book of all time, but Alden Bell’s creation has made it into the list of zombie books I will recommend to people who want to read about them. This is a good one, folks — gross scenes aside, this is a zombie book that lived up to my expectations, and I hope it lives up to yours, too.

See, God is a slick god. He makes it so you don’t miss out on nothing you’re supposed to witness firsthand.

Rating: [rating=5]

Required Reading: February

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine

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