The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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 and 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 an 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 and she goes on the road. Of course, Temple's quest for a safe haven is only useless, 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 of. 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, particularly Kill Bill, only 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.
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