Author: Alden Bell
Series: Reapers, #1
Published: August 3rd 2010
Publisher: Henry Hold & Co.
Paperback, 225 pages
Buy: The Book Depository
The Reapers are the Angels is one of those books which I find extremely difficult to review because whatever I might say about it, it is never enough and it sounds banal.
Right from page 1, it was clear to me that this book stands in a category of its own in respect to YA lit - but then, can it even be considered YA lit? One sure thing I can say is that this is literature.
In fact, one of the traits which make this book really stand out is certainly the quality of its writing: metaphorical, evocative, set to convey, step by step, through flashbacks, Temple's mal de vivre.
Temple is our main character, she's 15 but she is no teenager. Born in a post-zombie world, she is a master of survival, a lost soul and she can't stay away from violence. She doesn't know a world before the advent of the zombies and to her, they're not even a problem, they're just a nuisance with which she has to deal on a daily basis, like an explorer living in the jungle and having to be careful about dangerous animals.
At the beginning of the book, we find her living on a small island, isolated from the rest of world. After a zombie tries to cross the channel to get to her, she decides to look for a safer place to live, so she goes on the road. Of course, Temple's quest for a safe haven is pointless, because what she is really looking for is some interior peace from the nightmares that torment her inside and of which she cannot get rid. Life has been unfair to her, has set her aside from society, yet when given the chance to redeem herself and be a part of a commune, she refuses.
The story reminded, in more than one occasion, of a Tarantino movie - I'd say Kill Bill with zombies. Its brutality and violence bordering almost on grotesque, represented as a part of daily routine and of human nature stridently clash with Temple's supposed age of innocence, which you can still detect in some part of her personality and behavior but that has been shattered by gruesome and traumatic events in her life.
As I am re-reading this review I notice I am starting not to make any sense here so I'll keep it short. I recommend this book because it is excellently written, because Temple is an extraordinary character you will not easily forget, because the story is simple but simply amazing and this is, in my opinion, the best zombie book out there at the moment.
My favorite passage from the book (but truly, there are many) to give you a taste of Bell's writing:
She leaves him sitting there, glancing back just once before she goes through the stairwell door and observing how the cloud of smoke from his cigar gets pulled in wisps out the dark gaping hole in the glass wall - as though it is his soul, too large for his massive frame and seeping out the pores of his skin and wandering circuitous back into the wilderness where it knows itself true among the violent and the dead.
Excellent book, I think I'll read pretty much anything this author publishes.
August, 2011 EDIT
While reading other readers' reviews, I noticed many people mentioning the fact that they thought Moses' vendetta towards Temple was pointless and it lacked a purpose. Since I didn't think so, this is my interpretation of the matter:
First of all, the choice of Moses' name. It means "savior, deliverer". We all know from the Bible who Moses was, how he parted the waters of the Red Sea and led the Israeli people toward the promised land. And isn't Temple looking for a promised land herself? To me, this is what Moses symbolizes in the story; he is person who is leading Temple towards her destiny, who is going, eventually, to save her from herself. Temple's inability to find a place in life derives from her inability to forgive herself for her role in her brother's death. Her quest is pointless in the sense that she is running from herself. Temple, coincidentally, also kills Moses' brother. You can see then how Moses, on another level, becomes a personification of Temple's conscience, from which she runs away but that she never quite manages to outrun and with which, at the end, she has to deal.
Temple will never be able to forgive herself for her brother and her promised land, her peace of mind, can be nothing but death.