The Reapers are the Angels
by Alden Bell
What makes a good zombie novel? Some would say the level of gore, the heart stopping action sequences, the edge-of-your-seat page turning, all brought about by the onslaught of hordes of zombies. There does seem to be a certain recipe to most zombie themed novels, I suppose there’s not much deviation when it comes to a zombie induced apocalypse: zombies rise (supernatural or scientific causes), panic ensues, protagonist sets off on mission to safety/ to family/ to utopia (all three), lots of running from and fighting against zombies, make it to safety/family/utopia (all three), alternative ending of everyone dying. SO on my search for a good zombie novel, I am always drawn to the stories that are less based on the zombies and more centred on the journey of the characters, the exploration of humanity in an exceedingly inhuman world.
The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell is a good zombie novel and a perfect example of Southern Gothic. It is set 25 years following the first zombie outbreak, which allows the novel to focus on plot and character development in place of dealing with the initial outbreak and explanations of its source. Zombies have been around for 25 years by now so they are very much part of the scenery.
The protagonist is Temple, a fifteen year old girl (although this is by no means a young adult novel). Temple is a gurkha wielding class A warrior, she can’t read but she sure knows how to survive. Having entered the world post-apocalypse, she has no understanding of the world prior to the zombies and the barren wasteland of what remains is all she knows.
Temple is a wanderer, we encounter her as she sets off on a new path North, but along the way she encounters a helpless man and despite her ‘’me against the world’’ attitude, she decides on returning him to his family as means of repentance for all the terrible things she has done in the past. Despite Temple’s warrior capabilities and survival instincts, her determined exterior is a protective shell for the guilt-ridden soul of the interior. Endlessly searching for a means of atonement, Temple is a complex character whose determination and humanity captures the reader from the very first page. Along the way she gets into a spot of bother, this leads to her being pursued by someone she has wronged, someone intent on killing her. And so the cross-country journey begins.
What’s wrong with it?
Well, there are a few things fellow readers have complained about. The first is style; there are no quotation marks. If you are unaccustomed to this particular style of writing then you might struggle to mentally separate speech from storyline. This didn’t bother me, as it is a style I am familiar with and while it could be confusing at first, you eventually get used to the flow of the narrative.
The story is set 25 years after the apocalypse, but luxuries like packaged food, cigarettes and coke seem somewhat readily available, as is gasoline. Now, I know this is a novel about zombies, and we technically can’t really speak about likelihoods, but what is the likelihood of all these things being readily available should the apocalypse actually occur? I’m guessing slim to none.
The zombies really take a backseat on this one, so if you don’t like anything veering away from the standard zombie plotline, then keep well away from this.
Finally, there was one big thing that bugged me. Earlier criticisms aside, I still think this book is brilliant BUT there is a whole section of the book that I would willing tear out and ignore. I cant really say much as I don’t want to spoil it for you should you decide to read the book, but when you get to the part with ‘Mama’, you’ll know what I mean.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Reapers are the Angels, except for that ‘Mama’ bit, but on the whole if you’re looking for something a bit different, then you should give this a try.