Reaping the Shadows: Unveiling the Secrets of “The Reapers Are the Angels”

Not every zombie novel has to focus heavily on the undead themselves. There are many topics to explore beyond the mindless cannibals lurking around every corner, even in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by them. Some zombie tales are best when the lumbering menace is used merely as a lens to look past the blood and violence on the surface and reveal more pressing contemporary issues. With that in mind, “The Reapers are the Angels” by Alden Bell is a prime example of such a story.

The Reapers Are the Angels

The novel is post-apocalyptic fiction in which the world has been largely overtaken by zombies, although pockets of human resistance remain. The protagonist is Temple, a 15-year-old girl navigating a precarious life. Temple has an unusual yet beautiful philosophical outlook that allows her to see beyond the zombies’ grotesqueness and accept their existence as part of God’s plan, strengthening her appreciation for any beauty she comes across in the devastated world.

There is no explanation for how the zombie outbreak began 25 years ago. However, zombies have been around for quite some time since Temple was born. Aside from occasional magazine photos, she has no concept of what life was like before the plague. The novel doesn’t explore the zombies’ origins, focusing instead on Temple’s circumstances and the post-apocalyptic world as she knows it. Nothing could have prepared her for this struggle, yet so far she has survived just fine.

As in many zombie tales, the most dangerous enemies Temple faces are fellow humans. She encounters other survivors periodically. They are usually holed up in fortified areas to keep the undead at bay. Older people likely have fond memories of a prettier world filled with playgrounds and laughter, but Temple has no such recollections. She also doesn’t like staying in one place for long, so she wanders and fends for herself. Though not without challenges, she is agile and fast enough to stay safe.

The story takes a dramatic turn after Temple encounters a group of survivors in a blighted city. At first, the small community is excited to have her around, until one man tries to take advantage of her. In self-defence, Temple kills him and flees. Moses Todd, the murdered man’s brother, has only one thing on his mind: revenge.

The novel provides background to highlight the contrast between Temple and Moses. Temple is endlessly tormented and conflicted by the murder. On the run, she meets Maury, a mentally challenged man, and desperately seeking atonement, decides to help him reunite with his family in Texas. In contrast, the older Moses holds a twisted code of honor likely shaped by memories of the pre-apocalyptic world. He knows Temple killed justifiably and that his brother deserved it, yet believes taking revenge is the proper way to resolve the dispute. While Moses is set on murder, Temple seeks redemption.

As soon as Temple and Maury hit the road, “The Reapers Are the Angels” shifts pace and becomes a road novel. Their long journey involves strange episodic detours off the highway, introducing a cast of eccentric characters that provide insight into Temple’s personality and worldview.

Temple is nonjudgmental, having lived her whole life in this broken world without any other frame of reference. She makes the best of each day and doesn’t even see zombies as evil, but rather just animals. Her spirituality and ability to find beauty and faith in the bleak surroundings seem innate, not taught. Temple’s perspective differs from survivors like Moses who knew the pre-apocalyptic world.

“The Reapers are the Angels” offers one of the most fascinating recent zombie stories. Though about survival amidst the undead, Temple’s adventures might change your view of zombies, portraying them with more dignity and compassion. Themes of love, beauty and faith are poignantly woven into the dreary setting.

Overall, this novel uses zombies as a backdrop to explore the human condition and moral ambiguity in dire circumstances. Temple is an engaging character who finds meaning and even inspiration in a world many would consider hopeless.

Have you read The Reapers Are the Angels? If not then buy it here!

Other things you might want to know:

Is “The Reapers are the Angels” part of a series?

It is part of the “Reapers” series consisting of only two books, the other one being Exit Kingdom which is a prequel focusing on Moses Todd.

Other books by Alden Bell:

· Somewhere I Have Never Travelled (2012)

· When We Were Animals (2015)

· Hummingbird (2009)

Note: Alden Nell is a pen name of Joshua Gaylord

Zombie books to read if you like The Reapers are the Angels:

· The Rising by Brian Keene (2003)

· Monster Island by David Wellington (2004)

· Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry (2006)

· World War Z by Max Brooks (2006)

· Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry (2009)

· Day by Day Armageddon by J. L. Bourne (2009)

· Dust by Joan Frances Turner (2010)

· The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer (2010)

· The Becoming by Jessica Meigs (2011)

· Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore (2011)

· Zone One by Colson Whitehead (2011)

· Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory (2011)

· The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater (2012)

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