Title: The Reapers are the Angels
Author: Alden Bell
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5
Temple is a girl just trying to get by in a cruel, barren world. Before she was born, a plague swept the world and turned all the dead into zombies. Anyone bitten became one of them. Now there are just pockets of people trying to survive, and Temple is one of them.
When I first heard about The Reapers are the Angels, three things attracted me to it. First, it’s a dystopian novel, which I enjoy. Second, Alden Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, who wrote Hummingbirds, a novel I really liked. And third, early reviews said it was very literary and compared it to The Passage. (I have to say, though, while I can see the comparison, I don’t really agree with it. The Passage was huge and complicated, while this novel is much simpler. It’s also tighter, with twists and turns around every corner. It doesn’t have the meandering nature that so many disliked in The Passage).
Having finished The Reapers are the Angels, I’m still not entirely sure what I thought of it. It’s a complicated, layered book packed into a very small package. I did like that, though Temple is 15, it didn’t have a YA feel. There was no love interest. Instead, this book is about survival, plain and simple. Can Temple save others, or is survival only about yourself?
This book is also very well-written. Bell writes beautifully about the most horrible and obscene of circumstances. The dialogue isn’t set off by any punctuation, which makes it hard to follow at the beginning, but eventually I got used to it. While this type of stylistic choice usually bothers me, it really seemed to fit in this case. The formatting and language of the book was just as spare as Temple’s surroundings.
Temple experiences some horrible things along the way, though she takes everything in stride. The circumstances of this novel are difficult, to say the least. The world is almost unrecognizable. Though human kindness and decency still exist, there is little room for these emotions. Though Temple can be ruthless, she does the best she can.
While I did really like some aspects of this book, there were others that left me wanting. My main issue was that there was absolutely no explanation of the zombie outbreak. The entire book is told from Temple’s point of view, and as I mentioned before, her goal is survival. She doesn’t have the inclination to ask people what happened and about the past, and it makes sense in context. But as a curious reader who loves dystopian world building, I can’t help but wish that information had been included in the book.
The Reapers are the Angels was a very interesting book, though difficult to read at times. I appreciated that it was a fresh take on the dystopian zombie novel. Fans of dystopian books will definitely appreciate this book, though it is much grittier than what I’ve been reading lately. Still, this is a well-written novel, and I’ll be on the look out for what Gaylord/Bell comes up with next.