“God is a slick god, and he knows things about infinities. 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.”
Sometimes you come across a story so different and so well written you find yourself using words to describe the horror of the apocalypse you never thought possible. In The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell* one of those words is simply “beautiful” in a dark way much like the 2008 film The Road.
It has been a few decades since the world has succumbed to the apocalypse and society has reached a stalemate with the undead. Loose pockets of civilization have been formed again but far from stable and with no working form of government to speak of. Electricity has reached a few places and some machinery has been fixed enough to become useful again like the occasional automobile. This story follows a 15 year old girl named, Temple. She’s a brilliant and introspective yet illiterate survivor who has learned to live alone in a ruined and very dangerous world. That description will likely make a lot of readers sigh but the good news is Alden didn’t write her as the overly tough girl persona that can be an easy pitfall with such a character. She is simply self-confident, capable and imperfect.
From the opening pages you get an instant preview of the entire book as you are met with peaceful serenity and absolute violence that defines the life of Temple. Temple has chosen to take refuge in a lighthouse by a shore and while strolling the shoreline enjoying the sights of the sun playing off the water a zombie washes up on shore. Temple calmly walks over to observe the zombie deciding that it is time to move again and then proceeds to use a rock to bash the zombies head to send it to its final death.
The book has a modern western feeling to it and reminded me very much of the Fallout video games if you took out most of the Mad Max elements. It was a fascinating journey seeing this new world through Temple’s eyes as she was at the wrong end of a chase that led her across the southern US through Texas which an oddly large number of zombie books seem to take place at some point.
While the story gets a farfetched with some of the mutant zombies we eventually come across that reaches over to the sci-fi style, I never found myself minding it as I don’t want to be reading about the same type of zombies over and over again. Variety is needed to keep interest up and as long as they are based on an interesting story any style is fine with me at this point.
My main problem with the book is a rather critical one, as I never bought into the character named Moses and his ultimate goal to kill Temple. Without giving too much away he simply seemed far too rational and noble to be hunting Temple down with the intent to kill her for ending the life of his brother in self-defense. It was an odd hypocritical stance for Moses to be taking that simply didn’t fit his character. Less severe, although a complaint nonetheless is that focus and clarity at times will be smothered in an avalanche of overly descriptive passages but one should note that Alden Bell has a PhD in English, so I guess he can say whatever he wants in whatever manner he wants but I wish he said more of it because I also found this to be a bit too short and it felt a bit incomplete.
While never fast paced or action packed the book is never calm or slow. The violence that takes place is much more personal so if you want a zombie tale with guns blazing you may not be satisfied but I would urge everyone to at least preview it if possible to see if you can get into it. Books like these are important to the genre as they are always good for depth and needed variety.
*Alden Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord