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Review: The Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels Book Cover

The Reapers are the Angels
Alden Bell (aka Joshua Gaylord)
Henry Holt & Company
August 2010
240pp

The Short of It:

A dark, grisly little tale of a world taken over by zombies. But, the bright spot lies within its heroine, one of my faves, right up there with Lisbeth Salander.

The Rest of It:

Temple, a fifteen-year-old girl, wanders the broken landscape of a destroyed world. Although it’s never clear what transpired, it’s assumed that some sort of nuclear event wiped out most of civilization. What’s left are ruins. There are small pockets of people here and there trying to put the world back together, but in addition to these colonies, there are others. Mainly, those that return from the dead.

Zombies, slugs, meatskins. They lurch through the streets and crawl upon the ground. Although they are a nuisance, their lack of speed allows for easy disposal and Temple can’t remember a time when they didn’t exist.  Along the way, Temple meets some interesting characters. Self-sufficient to a fault, she realizes along the way that people matter, that SHE matters and it becomes a journey of self-discovery.

I was completely surprised by The Reapers are the Angels. Just a few pages in, I was thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” The opening was gritty and sort of sickening and another blogger even mentioned to me that she couldn’t get past the story’s opening. But there was something there that kept me going. I do believe it was story’s heroine, Temple. She’s endearing in a backward, kiss-ass way.  A diamond in-the-rough, so to speak. She reminded me a lot of Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium Trilogy. Temple is tough, but inherently good and she doesn’t even know it. This innocence is what reminded me of Lisbeth.

As Temple makes her trek across the country, she runs into all sorts of interesting and sometimes, vile characters. At times her interactions with them are uncomfortable. I say uncomfortable because their intentions are not always admirable and she knows it and sort of talks out loud about what is going on. There is one scene with these giant, mutated people. This particular scene is  incredibly disturbing. Not disturbing in a graphic way (well, maybe a little), but twisted, backwoods, disturbing. It reminded me of this scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre where they are all at the dinner table “eating.” Remember that scene? Dysfunctional with a capital D.

There were times where I felt this book was just wild!! Other times, there was this quiet, beautiful thing going on and I would actually linger on the page a bit longer to enjoy it. This is one of those books that you cannot peg at first glance. It has zombies in it, but it’s not a book about zombies. It’s about good vs. evil, trust, responsibility, regret, appreciating what you have and there are larger themes here dealing with death and religion and life after death.

Here are some passages from the book. My copy is an advanced reader’s edition so the words may vary a bit in the published version:

The World is pretty much what she remembers, all burnt up and pallid—like someone came along with a sponge and soaked up all the color and moisture too and left everything gray and bone-dry.

~~~~

Sometimes when there’s no light to see by, that’s when everything comes sharp and clear.

~~~~

Infinities are warm places that never end. And they aren’t about good and evil, they’re just peaceful-like and calm, and they’re where all travelers go eventually, and they are round everywhere you look because you can’t have any edges in infinities.

The Reapers are the Angels does contain some violence and will turn your stomach in some places, but if you can get past those moments, I think you’ll be just as surprised by this book as I was. In this sense, it’s very similar to The Road. It’s tough to read in places but what you take away from it makes it worth the effort.

Some have asked me if this book falls into the category of dystopian fiction. It has a dystopian feel to it and you certainly get the feeling that a collapsed government is what caused the devastation, but there is no repressive and controlled state that is typical with dystopian fiction. It’s not straight thriller either. It’s definitely a hybrid of a few different genres.

Source: This ARC was sent to me by the publisher.

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