Monday, November 28, 2011

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

In which a teenage girl fights zombies and flees from a man trying to kill her.

Temple has known nothing but a world infested with zombies and largely devoid of living humans.  She has survived so far, generally staying in underpopulated areas and figuring out how to survive alone.  In The Reapers are the Angels she tries out civilization briefly, and is forced to flee just ahead of a dangerous man determined to kill her.

This book is really unusually in the way it unfolds Temple's story.  She starts out alone and describes things really strangely, as you might expect of a girl whose entire life has been post-apocalypse.  She describes her past in snatches, some of which aren't revealed until very late in the story.  Much of the book is devoted to her descriptions of the setting.  The dialogue is not even punctuated like normal dialogue, it's just there and very sporadic.  There is weird lack of explanation on things that seem important like the setting, certain cultures in it, and Temple's unusual fighting ability.  It just is, it isn't explained!

The zombie apocalypse is never described much.  It's just sort of the way things are for Temple, she has no basis to compare it to our current zombie-free world.  It's origins are never really gotten into.  I guess at this point we've all seen enough zombie movies that we can sort of extrapolate and decide for ourselves.  It's weird how few people are in the United States in the story though.  This must be an unusually potent zombie plague!

Not to give stuff away, but the ending is also odd.  It's somehow both the only ending that would make any sense and not what I expected.  I think endings often seem abrupt when I am reading on my Nook because I don't have a physical reminder of how many pages are left.  But this one seemed extra abrupt!

Apparently this book is classified as young adult.  I hesitate to accept that label, it's pretty dark and has lots of violence.  Rape, as you might expect, is a constant threat for a 15 year old girl in a lawless society.  The book wasn't horrifying to my delicate sensibilities, but I would hesitate to recommend it to a non-adult reader.  Maybe I am deluding myself regarding what's appropriate for kids, but this doesn't seem like it!

I enjoyed reading this book, and I like the risks the author took in the story.  It's really unusual and interesting.  It has all of the checklist items of a zombie story, and somehow defies the more irritating stereotypes.  I would definitely recommend it to fans of dark fiction or science fiction!

4/5 stars

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