Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels

by Alden Bell

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation, smart reviews for modern readers on Sirius XM Book Radio. The book is The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell, the pen name of novelist Josh Gaylord.

I can come right out and say this is the most literary, gorgeously written, and most suspenseful book about a fifteen year old girl who happens to fight zombies you are likely to ever read. Allow me to explain.

There isn’t a lot of zombie literature — you can’t compare it to books written about other supernatural creatures. Zombies, since they can’t have monologues, are largely a visual menace. There’s no romantic angle, (if there is I kind of don’t want to know, actually) and although these were once human, now deceased, doomed to rely on the living for sustenance, they just don’t have the shiny — shall we say sparkling — allure of our good friends and sometime lovers, the vampires. We know them, you can have a conversation.Ê Zombies seem simply dead, the ultimate Other, from which you can only turn away.

Into an already apocalyptic American South, Alden Bell drops his heroine, a young woman born after the end came. Temple lives a lonely but rich existence, finding beauty in this very broken landscape. Her language, and those of the wanderers, killers, children, heroes and madmen she encounters is…I want to say Deadwoodian, if not Shakespearian. It’s Southern Gothic at its most grand, in fine contrast to the desolation all around them.

The Reapers are the Angels follows Temple as she makes a pretty big mistake, and spends the rest of the book paying for it. She’s helped and hindered by a big guy named Moses (yes, we’re noticing the names), meets some folks who appear to be the exact end result of the Westboro Baptist Church mating with lobsters, and she kills a whole bunch of zombies. Interestingly, she’s not afraid of these shuffling monsters, she doesn’t hate them, she doesn’t wonder why they were sent or how to eradicate them. That’s not the world she lives in. Her fears come from her own behavior, not from those who have no choice what they do.

The last third of this book is almost unbearably suspenseful, with a shocking (to me, anyway) but ultimate satisfying ending. Alden Bell names Buffy, Deadwood, William Faulkner and George Romero as his influences, and from the first page, his writing simply shines.