First published back in August of 2010, US author Alden Bells novel ‘The Reapers Are The Angels’ formed the first instalment in the author’s zombie-apocalypse Reapers’ series.

DLS Synopsis:
It
s now twenty-five years after the zombie outbreak first hit, and sixteen-year-old Temple (Sarah Mary Williams to those she doesn’t know or trust) knows nothing other than this dangerous lonesome world.  She never knew her parents, and has lost the one person that she was close to, a boy named Malcolm.

Now, surviving purely by herself, she suddenly finds that she is forced off the island she had been living on when she gets sight of the undead beginning to find their way across the water.  Returning to the mainland, she now sets off in search of something…anything…perhaps even others.

What she finds out is that here on the mainland humanity has managed to claw back some form of a secure existence.  And with this, pockets of civilisation have sprouted up around mainland America.  Barricaded towns and fortified buildings are home to these survivors and their families.

However, upon seeking shelter, sustenance and protection from a community housed within a high-rise complex, Temple finds herself woken in her new room by Abraham Todd, who subsequently begins to force himself on her.  Fighting back, Temple manages to kill the man brutish rapist in the ensuing struggle.  But fearing the community’s reaction to this happening on her first night within their complex, Temple flees the complex.

However, Abrahams equally large brother, Moses Todd, now sees it as his duty to avenge his brothers killer.  And so the hunt for the surprisingly dangerous young traveller begins.  A hunt that will take Temple and her pursuer across the treacherous landscape of America.  Along the way Temple will meet many survivors; as many are good as there are bad.  In this dog-eat-dog world, flesh-hungry corpses are just one of the many troubles plaguing your every step…

DLS Review:
Cormac McCarthy has a lot to answer for.  Author Alden Bell is obviously quite taken with McCarthy’s work.  The prose seems to be almost moulded in the same cast.  No quotation marks appear anywhere in the text ala McCarthy.  Instead the text is delivered in a flat, ‘direct-to-the-reader
manner.  Alongside this is the plot.  Yes, McCarthy dipped his toe into a post-apocalyptic premise with ‘The Road’ (2006).  Did this inspire Bell?  Possibly, but probably not.  However, Moses Todds hunt for Temple, with their occasional run-ins and the respectful dialogue between the two, closely mirrors the basic blueprint of McCarthy's ‘No Country For Old Men’ (2005).  Indeed, the more you have McCarthy in your mind, the more you begin to see the similarities.  The mannerisms, the almost poetic passages, the ponderings on abstract visions, the delightfully over-the-top Southern dialogue; it's all there.  But this is not necessarily a negative thing.  Inspiration, whether knowingly or not, is always going to be present in a modern novel.  Its only drawback is that once recognised in The Reapers...’ the comparison can stay on the readers mind until the ‘very McCarty-esque’ ending.

The character of Temple is possibly the most intriguing (alongside possibly that of Moses Todd).  Temple is a well-developed and lovingly detailed cross between the likes of Lulu (Louise Alaric Pangloss) from Walter Greatshell’s ‘Xombies’ (2004) and Courtney Colvin from Travis AdkinsTwilight Of The Dead’ (2005) series; with a hefty slab of Southern Cormac McCarthy twang thrown in to boot.  Instantly likeable?…by all means.  A defining aspect of the novel?... most certainly.  Indeed, the sheer characterisation of Temple is one of the highlights of the entire novel.  God is a slick god - the girl is so damn quotable.

Now we come to Moses Todd, the unforgiving fellow whos pursuing Temple across the desecrated landscape of America in the name of some poorly-justified revenge.  This Anton Chigurh cast character may be described as having the physique of a guerrilla on steroids, but his mannerisms, traits and morals are far from brutish.  Unlike his (now dead) brother, Moses Todd holds morals in high regard.  Furthermore, when he gives someone his word on something, he will never break it.  There is dignity and respect in everything he says and does.  But there is also the question of his misguided duty in avenging his brother.  This sudden shift in the characters personality is as intriguing as it is necessary.

Along the way, amongst many other similarly well-developed characters, you will meet the mentally retarded mute, Maury, who falls snugly into the Tom Cullen (‘The Stand’ - 1978) character casting.  Maurys influence on the plot soon becomes one of the driving factors behind the storyline, which gives the general thrust of the tale a little more direction (something which is strangely lacking, but oddly seems not actually that necessary).

For post-apocalyptic fiction fans the novel is a breath of fresh air.  The McCarthy influences don’t detract from the numerous and remarkably original aspects of the tale.  Although much of the concept has been done before, Bells poetic prose gives the novel a new take on the genre.  The character heavy element to the tale plays well with the post-apocalyptic genre.  And the main plotline of Todd’s hunt for Temple allows the novel to steer itself away from the whole post-apocalyptic backdrop, to avoid getting too bogged-down in that particular side of things.  Indeed, there are so many aspects of the novel which shine of originality, in much the way that Walter Greatshells ‘Xombies’ (2004) did.

All in all this is a novel packed with exciting twists and turns, characters that leap out from the page, and a plot that will keep you perched on the very edge of your seat from the very outset.  No need to be apprehensive with thoughts of “yet another run-of-the-mill zombie-apocalypse novel” - this is something thats new and different.  You wont be disappointed!

The novel runs for a total of 304 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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