Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Review|The Reapers Are The Angels - Alden Bell

My copy of The Reapers Are The Angels arrived on Saturday, and I was immediately enraptured with the book. However, before I continue, let me just say that the book in question is essentially a post-apocalyptic zombie story - and it's absolutely fantastic.

Now, normally I dislike this particular subgenre, but The Reapers Are The Angels adds what can only be described as "beauty" to the formula. A slim novel, its - admittedly somewhat sparse - prose tells the story of Temple, a lone girl in an America divided into enclaves against the "slugs" - zombies, but mostly treated with contempt. The novel is entirely told in the present tense. Again, a quirk I normally dislike, but with this particular novel, it works very well.

At heart, The Reapers Are The Angels is the tale of a journey against this bleak landscape, and an exploration of the people living there: because it's their responses, rather than any horror elements, which are the focus of this story. You have people who hoard jewelery, now worthless, against a return to society. There are those living in gated communities - and in the past. And then there's Temple and Moses - two people on very different sides who, oddly understand each other, but have no choice.

The characters are Bell's real strength. Although Temple is well fleshed out within the story, it's Moses and the residents of the estate who really shine. Admittedly, though, some are rather less enjoyable - Temple's foster brother, seen in flashbacks, and some of the gated communities seem just a little generic in their personalities, though certainly not enough to bring down the novel's overall quality. Even the side characters have their own quirks, and James, the son of the estate's owner, is particularly enjoyable: he no longer shares his family's "delusions" and is looking for a way out.

To say any more would ruin the book for anyone reading, but it's very reminiscent of other beautiful post-apocalyptic novels - much more so than any zombie fiction. However, it does have a single flaw: at only a little over 200 pages, it feels remarkably short for the experience! Anyone reading the final chapters had better be prepared, though: there are no happy endings here.