Review: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell

Zombie Week continues here at Badass Book Reviews with a joint review by AH and Regina

The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell

[box color=blue]Synopsis from Goodreads: Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can’t remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.[/box]

AH and Regina’s Thoughts:

So what was the writing style?  Did you like it?

AH – The writing style was different and it caught me off guard. It took a while to get used to the lack of quotation marks. At first I had to reread some of the text just to understand if it was a conversation. I did get used to it, but I didn’t really like the writing style. (Can you call it 3rd person passive voice? Not sure of the grammar term for it). I did see a benefit to this style – it allowed the writer to give a bigger picture of the world, not just the main character’s point of view.

Regina – I loved the writing style from the first paragraph.  I think it is third person passive.  The lack of quotation marks was not really noticed by me (haha — passive voice there — did you catch that? 🙂 )

Is this book just about Zombies and life after the apocalpyse?

AH – I didn’t really see it as just a Zombie story. It was more a story of a young girl’s journey through a very dangerous world. As she travels, she learns more about herself. She was quite alone in the beginning, but by the end she had made many friends.

Regina – My take is that the author used Zombies and the fall of the world to tell a tale about a young girl attempting to come to terms with something she had done, which she desperately feels guilty about.  I saw it as an allegory.  Can we accept who we are?  Can we forgive our past acts?  Should we pay through retribution for those acts?

Did you see the influence of other books in this book?

AH – I don’t see the influence of other books, but a few scenes with Moses kind of reminded me of Aaron in Patrick Ness’ book The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Regina – The entire time I was reading this book I thought of the classic apocalypse story Earth Abides.  It also is told in a very removed and observational manner.  The world is empty of people and the protagonist travels about exploring and foraging.  The style of each of these books was very similar.

So Temple is pretty Badass, what did you think about her?

AH – Don’t mess with Temple. First of all, she carries a big gurkha knife. Second, she is a seasoned killer. I found her to be quite bright and resourceful, despite her being illiterate. I also found that she had a heart. She had many opportunities to kill Moses, but she let him live. She saved Maury from the parade of zombies. She took care of Malcolm for as long as she could.

Regina – One of the things you said makes me think of a comment that is off topic.  I was struck at how the majority of people Temple encounters are decent people.  With a few (dangerous) exceptions, most of the people are trying their best to survive and willing to help others.  This is an unusual angle for a post-apoc novel to take and again *ta da* it reminds me of Earth Abides.  And this feels right to me.  Maybe I am an idealist, but I do think that human nature drives people together and in the event of a crisis like this, people would want to help those around them.

But yeah, Temple is badass.  At times I found it unbelievable that she had such a skill to survive.  However, given the fact that she was 15 and grew up in this world — the only way she was able to get to the age of 15 was to survive.

Real or not Real? Were there any plot holes that bothered you?

AH – Yes, there were things that bothered me.

    1. We are never told what caused the zombie apocalypse
    2. Temple’s background is so vague – How did she get on the island? How did she know how to swim? How did she survive without parents?
    3. We are not really told how she learned to survive.

Regina- You are right, those things are missing from the storyline.  I think because, Temple herself wouldn’t know any of those answers.  So we never know more than she does.  The absence of this information never bothered me, but I can see why it would bother others.

What bothered me were some things just seemed so unbelievable.  I do not think the food and gasoline would still be around and still be usable 25 years post the zombie rising.  I do not think that electricity would still function or train lines would still run – – given the fact that everything had fallen.  Additionally, by the descriptions, I did not see the zombies (or meatskins) as very dangerous.  In fact, they seemed easy to kill and easy to avoid.  How the heck did they take down the world?  But in the end, that brings me back to my original theory — this is more a tale about guilt and redemption rather than zombies.

AH- I found it hard to believe that this world had so much electricity readily available. Who was manning the generators? How did they keep safe from zombies. Also, I found it amazing that the gas stations still had gas and that the pumps worked. Correct me if I am wrong, you do need electricity to run a gas pump?  Also, have you ever tried to start a car after it has been left abandoned for a few years. Most likely, the battery would not work.

Regina — I think it involves pressure, but I am not sure.  However, I would think the pump itself (at least modern pumps) operate on electricity and I think  that electricity degrades over time.  I agree about the generators — and in general, the lack of fear that was present.  In fact, based on everything we see in the book I am not sure why Temple felt the need to leave her island.

AH – Checked and you do need electricity to pump gas at a gas station.

Temple seemed to interact with men/boys more than girls.  I believe there is only two interactions with other female characters.  Why do you think this is?

AH – Temple had no female role models, she was raised by an “uncle” and took care of a young boy. It appears to me that she used her “femaleness” as a currency with the men. She didn’t really have anything to do with the women. Remember the dress and the pretty pink nail polish and how awkward she felt.

Regina -Great point about how awkward she felt.  I also think that her awkwardness had to do with the fact that the nail polish and dress were these weird hold overs from the past but had no application to the modern world.  They are no longer practical.  I guess they are not practical now – but we don’t need them to be practical.  And you are so right, she never had any women in her life.  I am wondering if this is purposeful or just the result of it being written by a male author?

Was the post-apocalpytic world in this book realistic to you?

AH– It’s hard to gauge how realistic a post-apocalyptic book could be. Most of the book speculates about a world with zombies. The Really Big people – that was a little far fetched for me. I think the author portrayed the zombies well. I was expecting more anarchy, I guess. And possibly more guns.

Regina I guess I sort of answered this above in the plot hole theme.  Anarchy and despots are such a common theme in post-apoc books.  I like the working together and helping each other out idea much more.

Gross or Not Gross–

AH-Keep in mind that this is definitely not the kind of book to read while eating! There are some grisly scenes and quite a bit of blood, guts, and gore. Mutant Millie and her family were really gross and scary. I would not want to meet those Really Big Mutants anywhere.

Regina Ugh — yes it was.  The rangers Temple meets along the way — well, I will just say there are some really gross scenes there.  This was a gross book and several times I was eating during a gross scene.  Bleh.

What I liked —

AH – I think my favorite scene is when Temple and Maury board the train heading west. Again, a little out of the realm of believability – a diesel train (fuel?) in a post apocalyptic world gathering survivors and killing wayward zombies and gathering supplies.

Regina That was a nice scene.  I loved the recurring characters.  I loved the words and the way the story was written.  The text was simply beauttiful.  I loved the observations of the world, the observations of nature and the hope that appeared on almost every page of the story.

The verdict — Our rating

AH – For me, the writing style detracted from my enjoyment of the book. I felt that the first 100 pages or so dragged and I was almost ready to DNF (did not finish) the book. I trudged along and did end up enjoying the book, but not as much as Regina.

Regina  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I hated the ending and I hated the ultimate moral that I thought was conveyed.  So despite me loving the story and the style of writing, I only gave it 4 skulls.  Man that ending pissed me off.  But, I still think the story is absolutely worth it.  It is so beautiful.  I am definitely going to seek out other works by this author.

AH – Yes, that ending. Hated that ending too.

AH’s Rating:  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ (3.5) – B+

Regina’s Rating:  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  – A

So there you have it – AH and Regina’s Thoughts on The Reapers Are the Angels. 

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Comments 6

  • I love that you ladies did this, it was a fantastic idea! I actually always recommend that people get this one on audio, I think it’s much better. I first listened to it and then read it after a while, and I think doing it in that order helped.
    As for influences, it seems to me that Cormac McCarthy was the strongest influence here.
    I just sent a copy of this book to Mexico to a person whose opinion I care a lot about and I can’t wait to hear her verdict. I hope you’ll do more of these posts soon.

    • Thanks, Maja. I think listening to an audio version of this book would be a great idea. At least that way, I would have understood that there was a conversation happening. I must look into it. I never thought of Cormac McCarthy – I haven’t yet read his book, but from what I’ve heard, it would be a good comparison.
      We have a few more of these kinds of reviews to come. We really enjoy reviewing books this way, especially when we have differing opinions.

  • Love the double review! So much fun to read.