Below, I re-post a review for a book I read some years ago. Though my opinion of the story was mixed, it remains on my shelves and something about the tale must have resonated because I remember it well. Once, vampires were the beloved creatures to terrorise us and seduce us, whether in their seductive forms or by revealing their more parasitic natures as preferred by writers like Stephen King. For the last several years, zombies have become the new vampires in the popularity poles and it’s likely easy to see why. Most horror favourites associate with current events.
Hammer Horror and such notaries like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing popularised vampires when the sixties liberation and cultural changes were rife. Woman, in particular, had more sexual freedom, which was one attributing factor which helped pave a way for their social independence, and vampires represent not only the stalking horror but, in much the same way many declare dancing to be a vertical expression of a more horizontal performance, vampires have for so long associated with seduction and the thought of living forever, possibly with the one we love.
Zombies have gained popularity during a time where terrorism is rife, and much of the world seems ever more out of control. The popular monsters of the hour are an analogy for the genuine ‘monstrum’ of reality.
In THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS by Alden Bell, we’re invited into the story of a fifteen-year-old teenager called Temple and her journey across America, where she encounters other survivors of a post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak. Temple has never known a world any different — the outbreak happened so long ago there are people born after the disaster. The slugs, as she calls them, still inhabit the earth, but the art of existing in a world of zombies is only one small step on the road to survival. Constantly running from responsibility, preferring to be alone, and accountable for and only to herself in a brutal world, Temple stumbles across others who affect her life in myriad ways. Some she struggles to leave and doesn’t always succeed.
I liked this book but didn’t love it even though I wanted to. The Young Adult tone categorised this book for teenagers, but raised even one of my eyebrows at a fifteen-year-old girl having sex. Fine, these things happen, and should zombies ever roam then perhaps we won’t concern ourselves with such things too much, but in a book whose tone seems to fit younger readers, the content seemed a little off-key. Either that or the author and published aimed it at an older or more diverse readership, though the content doesn’t come across that way. Don’t mistake me — if underage sex makes sense and is a necessary part of the story, then I don’t feel a writer should avoid it, and at least it’s well presented and used acceptably, not gratuitously; however, the fact the writer got this by the publishing censors surprised me. Another problem is that some confrontations are predictable, although there were a few unexpected turns.
My main issues with the book, though, involve grammar and style. The story uses an omniscient voice that led it to feel as if I was sitting down being told about Temple’s adventure by someone sitting around a campfire. Unfortunately, it left me somewhat cold, as if the fire wasn’t lit. I can also forgive the use of ‘of’ in place of ‘have’ in speech (as in “I could of left yesterday”) but not in narration. And last, there are no speech marks. Not a single one. The entire book is ‘told’, including all the conversations. I’ll be the first to say it’s nice to find a writer pushing barriers and breaking rules, but I could see no need to avoid the use of speech marks, particularly if this book is YA, which surely calls for the best use of punctuation and grammar. I can only give the book a three, maybe three and a half out of five. It’s not bad — it just rather perplexed me. I can see many will love this story, but for me the style never quite gels.
Despite these faults, as I’ve already stated, it’s a book I remember and haven’t yet given away. Alden Bell appears to have written only one other novel, Exit Kingdom, which I may check out.