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Bane of Kings reviews the awesome, post-apocalyptic zombie novel entitled The Reapers Are the Angels, written by Alden Bell and published by Tor Books, which (this edition) was published in September 2011.
“A horrifying, spectacular, well crafted and emotional tale that should not be missed. Zombie fans will love this.” ~The Founding Fields
Some of you may recognise Russell T. Davies as being the man responsible for bringing back to life the longest running sci-fi TV series ever, the British -born Doctor Who in 2005, after the original series stopped in 1989. He’s lead Doctor Who through four spectacular series, and has even gone on to create darker spin off Torchwood, which has recently completed its fourth series, Miracle Day. Being a fan of the New series of Doctor Who, and after seeing Russell T. Davies’ endorsement on the front of the cover for The Reapers Are the Angels, I craved in, and brought the novel off Amazon, and it was the first thing that I read out of a choice between Star Wars: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn and Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. And, did it live up to the hype?
You can bet it did. The Reapers Are the Angels was an awesome novel, and I loved it, despite a few minor issues that I had with it – ALden Bell has knocked the ball out of the park, and has created something that every zombie fan should read.
Older than her years and completely alone, Temple is just trying to live one day at a time in a post-apocalyptic world, where the undead roam endlessly, and the remnant of mankind who have survived, at times, seem to retain little humanity themselves.
Temple has known nothing else. This is the world she was born into. Her journey takes her to far-flung places, to people struggling to maintain some semblance of civilization – and to those who have created a new world order for themselves.
When she comes across the helpless Maury, she attempts to set one thing right, if she can just get him back to his family then maybe it will bring forgiveness for some of the terrible things she’s done in her past. Because Temple has had to fight to survive, along the road she’s made enemies – and one vengeful man is determined that, in a world gone mad, killing her is the only thing that makes sense…
The first thing that you’ll notice about The Reapers Are the Angels is that it’s not your usual zombie novel. Most zombie novels start within two to five years of the original zombie outbreak, maybe even during the initial outbreak itself, and that’s what makes The Reapers Are The Angels so different to the normal post-apocalyptic zombie novel. It’s set an astounding 25 years after the initial outbreak, and what makes this more interesting is the fact that Temple, the main character, knows nothing else. She does not know what life was like before the dead walked, which is a concept that I haven’t seen explored that often in post-apocalyptic stuff before, as most zombie novels such as The Return Man by VM Zito, have the main character experience some sort of life before the outbreak. However, Alden Bell’s novel is different in this aspect. Temple doesn’t get the chance to explore the innocent-ness of childhood as most protagonists of zombie novels have in the past, and she’s thrust into this life with only one goal in mind, and that is survival. After all, in a post-apocalyptic America where the dead have risen, dying is easy. It’s living that’s hard.
The Reapers Are the Angels is also odd in the fact that the novel has no speech marks when the characters are talking. Once I got over my initial thought of that the editor or the author had been a bit forgetful, the more I started to see that with no speech marks, Alden Bell’s début novel just worked better than it would have with them. As you can tell, it’s the first exposure that I’ve had to a novel with no speech marks, but this is one of the things that the author has pulled off to make the novel flow better. You get to learn more about the thoughts of Temple, and the novel is told almost entirely from her third person POV perspective.
The writing is a masterpiece. The prose is well constructed, and Bell gets into the mind of Temple and shows us the extreme measures that she’s had to take in order to survive in the wastelands of America. This is certainly a bleak novel, and more along the lines of I am Legend than Sean of the Dead (A film, but still…), and you will come out of this novel feeling emotionally drained. It’s not an uplifting read – and it’s a deeply depressing one.
The novel is a pretty fast moving one, as Bell takes the reader on a terrific journey, not just for the character but for the reader. Temple is a memorable character, as well as being a strong heroine. The action is very much centred on Temple, and although other characters aren’t as memorable as her, she certainly leaves a pretty good impression. The Reapers Are the Angels, whilst short, is a page-turner, and you’ll get through it very quickly. I couldn’t put it down, and I don’t think you’ll be able to.
More by Alden Bell: The Reapers Are the Angels, Somewhere I have Never Travelled, Exit Kingdom (September 2012),