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Reapers #1

The Reapers are the Angels

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Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself - and keeping her demons inside. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

225 pages, Paperback

First published August 3, 2010

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About the author

Alden Bell

4 books265 followers
Alden Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, whose first novel, Hummingbirds, was released in Fall '09. He teaches at a New York City prep school and is an adjunct professor at The New School. He lives in New York City with his wife, the Edgar Award-winning mystery writer, Megan Abbott.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,712 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,994 reviews171k followers
July 10, 2018
book two of "october is zombie month" was so much better than book one. sooo much better.

i was intrigued by this book, until i read mike reynolds' devastatingly negative review of it, and it got shunted to the mental back burner. but eventually i remembered that i am not as smart as mike reynolds, and i am content with playing with little glass paperweights refracting in the sunlight while giggling, so i read it. and i loved it.

(see, pretty!)

but it's good - i lovingly thumb my nose at the negative reviews. and then duck.

this isn't a YA novel, although many people on this site have decided it is. and that's fair - the protagonist is fifteen, and the pacing matches that of a YA novel. but my barnes and noble overlord classifies it as adult, and we all know they would never make a classification error. so let's call it an adult novel so as not to scare off the old stuffy types, and the rest of you, i will just "shh, yeah, i know."

and i have to admit, i have only read one flannery o'connor book (for shame!!) although i have seen wise blood because, well, duh:

but so as far as the "derivative" accusations go, i am as clean-wooled as a baby lamb. but i plan on reading more of her soon, i swear.

this is basically the kind of book i love - the gothic-western justice-novel, but with some supernatural spice. it is more or less true grit with zombies. temple speechifies in roughly the same biblical manner - with a mixture of retributive old testament and a soft sticky center of love thy (deserving) neighbor, jesus-style; a mixture of poor grammar and poetic resonance. i love her character. she is eminently capable, running from her past and her mistakes which haunt her way more than any slow-shambling zombies, which act more as set-pieces than as any real threat.it is fairly episodic, and the basic theme is about the path to forgiveness and redemption, and the progression of that kind of grieving, healing process, but let's not forget, there are also zombies, so it isn't all whiny mitch albom stuff.

what is great about this book is that temple was born into this world. she has never known a world without desolation, without monsters, without danger or the necessity of moving on. she is unattached and detached, but retains some inherent glimmer of humanity that constitutes her own moral compass. and it is gorgeous to watch a girl operate under the weight of her guilt and the necessity of her survival instincts. she does not take any shit, but she is not without empathy. nor without understanding of other people's personal moral code, even as it works against her.

also great is that, starting the way this one does, in the waning years of an infestation, we do not have to read any boring scenes where people have a slow dawning realization of the situation. we are thrust into a world that is, not that is becoming.

i love it i love it i love it.

it is exactly what i needed to be reading - a "horror" novel that has more depth than just "braaaaains," one one whose themes are smack in my area of interest. plus, tom franklin (my new love in life) blurbed this puppy.

and it turns out, this guy is married to megan abbott, who i have been meaning to read for forever.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,788 reviews34.2k followers
June 21, 2011
4.5 out of 5 stars This is a gruesome and beautiful book. This allegorical tale of a 15-year-old girl wandering a barren wasteland should not be beautiful, because she's fighting off zombies and a guy who's dead set on executing her. But it is. The writing is lush and gorgeous, the kind that makes you want to sink down and roll around in it until some small part of it is absorbed into your skin.


It was deep night when she saw it, but the moon was so bright it cast hard shadows everywhere on the island...a school of tiny fish, all darting around like marbles in a chalk circle, and they were lit up electric, mostly silver but some gold and pink too. They came and danced around her ankles, and she could feel their little electric fish bodies, and it was like she was standing under the moon and in the moon at the same time.


And that is just the first page. Six pages later, Temple stands over a zombie on a beach and crushes its skull with a huge rock. This author does not spare the terrible violence of encounters with the undead, and each confrontation is absolutely brutal and wince-inducing in its savagery. But there are some things you just have to do in order to survive.

Temple is also one of the most unforgettable fictional characters I've ever come across. She is bold, fiercely independent, and terribly damaged. Left on her own by an infected uncle and parents she doesn't remember, she encounters all kinds of people in her travels: a commune of frightened survivors, a group of men who have resorted to creative ways of finding food, a band of vicious mutants, a pitifully tragic family wasting away in their elegant manor, and a mute, helpless man she takes on against her better judgment. And of course, there's also the guy who's tracking her, hell-bent on justice because she dared to kill his brother in self-defense. It's an interesting situation when you have to fear both the living and the undead...as well as the mistakes you've made in your past.

This is a fairly short novel that is written almost like a post-apocalyptic western, but it is one that is packed with incredible power. It's been a few days since I finished reading this book, and I can't seem to forget the bleak intensity and magnificence of its imagery. I suspect that I never will.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 6 books250k followers
June 17, 2019
The field is the world; the good seed are the children of
the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the
wicked one;
The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the
end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire;
so shall it be the end of this world.

There are people who are not going to read this book just because they don’t read books with zombies. They may not read it because it is horror, fearing that they will be exposed to graphic violence or maybe they won’t read it because it is about a fifteen year old girl; and frankly, teenagers are annoying. Whatever reason you might be thinking about using for why you are not going to read this book...well...put that thought on a back burner.

The book does have zombies called slugs. It does feature a fifteen year old girl; and yes, some people have found her Southern voice annoying, but what they miss when they say that is the absolute authenticity that comes through in every sentence and every paragraph. I’m not sure how a girl that can’t read who has never been educated except with on-the-job-of-living survival skills is supposed to talk. She colors her words with wisdom, self reflection, pain, and dogged truth. She has an undisciplined mind, honed by fire, bristling with desire to see the world, and experience what others are too afraid to try. She is Temple. She is Sarah Mary.

See, there’s music in the world and you got to be listening otherwise you’ll miss it sure. Like when the she comes out of the house and the night-time air feels dreamy-cold on her face and it smells like the pureness of a fresh land just started. Like it was something old and dusty and broken, taken off the shelf to make room for something sparkle-new.
And it’s your soul desiring to move and be a part of it, whatever it is, to be out there on the soot plains where the living fall and the dead rise, and the dead fall and the living rise, like the cycle of life.

The apocalypse happened twenty-five years ago so Temple was born after the world went to hell. She is of this world, and is not encumbered with memories of a life before of manicured lawns, bicycle paths, going to school, hanging out with friends, family dinners, or watching television. Unencumbered that is until she meets Maury. She calls him dummy because he doesn’t talk or show that much at all is being processed through his brain. She has thoughts of dumping him off at the first available moment, but then he shows her a slip a paper that was balled up in his pocket.

Hello! My name is Maury and I wouldn’t hurt a fly.
My grandmother loves me and wishes she could take
care of me for ever, but she’s most likely gone now.
I have family out west. If you find me, will you take
me to them? God bless you!
Jeb and Jennie Duchamp
442 Hamilton Street
Point Comfort, TX

Temple carries her own burdens of failure and getting Maury back to his family becomes a quest that she feels will lift some of the blood from her soul. She doesn’t really understand it, but feels in the doing maybe she will.

She has made enemies and one in particular keeps finding her like an angel of death. She can’t shake him. He is Moses Todd.

My gut tells me that’s my old friend Moses Todd, who’s got some business he’s gonna want to finish up with me. It’s a wonder how he’s trackin me, but you can’t put nothin past these southern boys. They just sit around waiting for somebody to kill their brother so they can get started on some vengeance. It’s like a dang vocation with them.

Temple finds moments of sanctuary, but knows, like a clock in her head keeping time, that she needs to keep moving or she will be found. She is nervous living in safety, walled away from slugs, but also from the wide open space of her world. Her feet start to itch and windows are reminders of what lies beyond.

She wonders how people can live this kind of life, trapped inside a house with windows everywhere showing you where else you could be.

Slugs are just a part of her world. They aren’t evil. Even men who find her attractive are but another component of her world that she is prepared to deal with. She does fear that there is evil inside of her. A darkness that comes out when she fights, when compassion disappears, and she is inflicting death as casually as a middle aged man at a lunch counter smacking flies with a flyswatter. In a scene that could have been lifted from a Cormac McCarthy novel she emerges victorious, but stained deeper than skin deep.

Amid the hot stench of fresh offal, she rises to her feet like the dreadful ghost of a fallen battlefield soldier, her hands tacky with the thick pulpy dregs of death splayed wide. The echoes of the clamour having died on the puddled ground, the only sound in the room is the thin insectoid buzzing of the three exposed bulbs suspended in ceramic sockets from the ceiling.
Even the imprisoned slugs themselves have paused in their perpetual movement to gaze with acquiescent eyes upon the scene of the massacre, as though in harmony with the inexorable and silent melodies of grim decease--as though in deferential recognition of the community of the extinct.
She rises to her feet and blinks, her eyes like bleached wafers set against the brown mizzle of blood already drying in flakes on her cheeks and lips and neck. She raises no hand to cleanse herself, marked as she is with a violence, ritualist and primitive, like those hunters who would decorate themselves with the ornamental residuum of their prey.

In a scene that is reminiscent of something out of a William Faulkner novel she is talking to an acquaintance who is trying to tempt her to go to California with him where things are rumored to be almost normal.

You get old, Temple. The wide world is a pretty adventure for a long time, it’s true. But then one day you wake up and you just want to drink a cup of coffee without thinking about livin or dyin.
Yeah, well, I ain’t there yet.
Goddamnit, girl, what happened to you? You got things to tell. You could tell me.
Maybe so, she says. But I ain’t there yet either.

There is a reason why Alden Bell’s writing is being compared to other accomplished writers because he wrote a great book full of wonderful introspection, a character to rival Katniss Everdeen for cunning and survival skill, and a plot that kept me turning pages long after my family had nestled down to sleep. Bell is married to Megan Abbott, a lauded writer in her own right. There is magic to the way he played with me in this one. He had me dangling from his fingertips, my mind churning and rippling with anxiety, and the air crackled with the burnt rubber smell of fear.

Highly Recommended!

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Beverly.
887 reviews348 followers
March 12, 2023
Temple is traveling on her own through a zombie blasted world, but she doesn't fear death and takes pleasure in God's miracles along the way. She is only fifteen and has never known any other way of life, as this bleak house has been around for longer than she has. She used to have connections, but those have come uncoupled from her for obvious reasons. Never stopping long in any place, Temple wants to explore the wondrous and take vengeance on the unholy.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,451 reviews11.5k followers
August 8, 2011
I just finished reading probably a couple of dozens of the book's reviews and feel like there is hardly anything left to add. Except maybe that The Reapers Are the Angels is one of the very few zombie books I have ever finished and pretty much the only zombie book that I finished with pleasure and emotional involvement. Most likely because this novel isn't really about zombies. It is about us, people, whose conscience (and not external circumstances) often is our most dangerous and relentless enemy.

In The Road-like fashion (I have to say, Alden Bell was undoubtedly very heavily and obviously inspired by Cormac McCarthy's works), the post-apocalyptic setting is nothing but a backdrop for exploring the matters of human soul. Bell doesn't dwell on detailing his world, and correctly so. Some authors (Lauren DeStefano in Wither, for instance) make a mistake of over-explaining things when they don't need to. And Bell doesn't need to tell us how this zombie business works. Because for his main character, 15-year old Temple, zombies are the least of her problems. For Temple, they are a part of the natural environment, like, let's say, animals. Survival in this infested world is easy, dealing with what is inside her mind and heart - guilt, doubt, loneliness - that is hard.

Others have already said it, Temple is the one who carries this novel. She is a remarkably well realized character. She is self-sufficient, strong, capable, caring, and honorable, but with a gaping hole in her soul. I dare you not to empathize with her and her search for self-forgiveness and sense of belonging. Does she find it? I wished for a different ending, I won't lie.

There are still some lingering questions that I haven't found the answers to, even after reading other reviewers' opinions about the novel. I never quite understood the main antagonist, Moses. Is he another lost soul looking for a purpose and who finds a very strange one? His vendetta is so... pointless. Your thoughts are very welcome.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,549 reviews241 followers
November 1, 2021
I am currently on my 'Zombie-a-thon' so will do the reviews for previously read zombie books too.

Well this is absolutely amazing and one of my favourite books ever! The fact that it has zombies in it is just a bonus. Temple is one of the most raw, honest , and insightful characters I have ever come across in a YA novel. I felt so much emotion reading about this brave girl and her simple views on living in this ruined world.

“Truth be told, the inward gaze is something she's not too fond of. But there are secrets that lurk in the mind, and she doesn't want any of them sneaking up on her. Sometimes it pays to take a deep look inside even if you get queasy gazing into those dark corners.”

The writing is so beautiful which creates a wonderful juxtaposition to the horrors Temple faces in this ugly and infected land.

“...and she's thinking of rage, like an ember or a burning acid swallowing up her knotted viscera. Blindness like the kind that leads men to perpetrate horrors, animal drunkenness, the jungles of the mind."

“It has become something to her, that memory—something she can take out in dismal times and stare into like a crystal ball disclosing not presages but reminders. She holds it in her palm like a captured ladybug and thinks, Well ain’t I been some places, ain’t I partook in some glorious happenings wanderin my way between heaven and earth. And if I ain’t seen everything there is to see, it wasn’t for lack of lookin. Blind is the real dead.”

"Blind is the real dead". Honestly people, the book has so many wonderful observations like that.

It was this book that started me on my "Zombies are metaphors" crusade. Because they are guys! They totally are! Zombie stories are often an analysis of the human condition, whether it be in relation to the origins of the zombies (a result of apathy, greed, military arrogance etc) or in the way humans respond in times of crisis (self-preservation, survival of the fittest, communities coming together etc).

Anyway, this book won't be for everyone because at the end of the day it is simply about a girl making her way across a devastated country and encountering different types of people on her journey.

I loved it.
Profile Image for Navessa.
449 reviews9 followers
February 17, 2016
I had this crazy dream about zombies the other night. I can’t remember a goddamn thing about it now, and the aftermath is a little fuzzy, but apparently when I woke up I was convinced that they were in the house, because I shot straight up in bed and screamed, “THEY’RE COMING UP THE STAIRS!”

My fiancé had no idea that I’d been dreaming and thought that someone had broken into the house. Chaos ensued.

Now before you go thinking, “Oh that poor man” let me tell you that this is rare for me. Like maybe once every three years do I do something like this. He does this shit to me all the time. Four months ago, I was up late reading, and his eyes flashed open. His hand closed around my wrist in a vice-like grip, and he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m drawing a circle and a what the fuck.”


I tried to get him to explain himself, but all he said was, “It’s important, don’t ever forget it, Navessa”. He promptly fell back asleep. When he woke up, he had no recollection of it.

Great. Just fucking wonderful. So now it’s four months later, and that memory is seared into my consciousness. I blame M. Night Shyamalan. What if it is important? What if, in some way, that midnight utterance is the key to saving the human race from an alien invasion?

Reading this book is a lot like dreaming. You’re thrown into the middle of it with no warning, given no information on how you got there, and are forced to suck it up and deal with it the best you can. It’s gorgeous, horrific, uplifting, and disturbing. And when it’s over, it lingers with you, leaves you unsettled and questioning the meaning of it all.

This review can also be found at The Book Eaters.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews7,272 followers
January 9, 2015
It’s like all the best parts of The Road, The Walking Dead and Winter’s Bone.

Temple is a fifteen year old girl who has grown up in the ruins of America following the zombie apocalypse. She wanders the remains like a post-apocalyptic tourist looking at the wonders created by a 'slick god' and encountering a variety of people along the way. Supremely capable and confident, Temple has little problem surviving and dispatching the 'meatskins' she runs across, but she winds up with a determined killer on her trail.

This is one of those books that fuses genre with literature, and it’s one of the best I’ve read that’s attempted that trick. Incredible writing not only establishes a completely new society and an unforgettable heroine as well as a rich supporting cast that’s well-plotted, it’s also all done is less than 250 pages. I got way more out this than the hundreds of pages of Justin Cronin’s bloated version of a monster apocalypse or Mira Grant’s overstuffed and repetitive take on the aftermath of a zombie uprising.

I found it a bit unbelievable that over a decade after the zombies took over that Temple can still find edible supplies in convenience stores and working cars so easily. Also,

These are relatively minor gripes about a haunting story that’s going to stick with me.
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews822 followers
April 13, 2016
I’m glad I read Megan's review, or I might have overlooked this slim but very satisfying post-apocalyptic story.

If you are looking for thrills, mad and ravenous zombies, and intense gore, look elsewhere. You won’t find it here. Not that there isn’t violence or zombies, it’s just that they don’t overpower the story.

Without family or a place to live, 15-year-old Temple wanders around a bleak and barren landscape ravaged by zombies. Many of the human survivors live in groups, sheltering themselves from the outside world.

Nothing is mentioned about how the zombies came to be, but that’s OK. This is not their story, after all. This is a story about Temple, her grief, the things she must do to survive, her thoughts and reflections, her loneliness, her self-loathing, the people she meets, and the beauty that can be found in such grim circumstances.

It’s not a book you’ll easily forget.

Profile Image for carol..
1,627 reviews8,864 followers
December 5, 2012
Would it be a stretch to call it a Faulkner-esque zombie tale?

From the start, Reapers quickly distinguishes itself in the zombie apocalypse genre. Temple, our heroine, has found herself a deserted lighthouse when she experiences the miracle of the fishes.

"She left the lighthouse and went down to the beach to look at the moon pure and straight, and she stood in the shallows and let her feet sink into the sand as the patter-waves tickled her ankles. And that's when she saw it, a school of tiny fish, all darting around like marbles in a chalk circle, and they were lit up electric, mostly silver but some gold and pink too. They came and danced around her ankles, and she could feel there little electric fish bodies, and it was like she was standing under the moon and in the moon at the same time."

Temple has learned, you see, that "God is a slick god" and that there are still miracles to be found in the world. She was born since the world changed and though she feels she has darkness in her past, the new world is kind of beautiful. It is an unusual perspective in apocalypse fiction, a genre which is usually preoccupied with the horrific: the decline of civilization, the inhumanity of man, the bleakness of mere survival and the rise of the living dead. But the dead are just another kind of predator here. It is what it is, and zombies gotta do what they gotta do--behavior that is no worse than lions or wolves preying on the edges of the herd.

Our savvy and skilled heroine is delightfully self confident; she has no need to plan ahead for protection because she is so capable of coping with whatever comes. A zombie on her beach is a sign that tides and seasons will change access to her refuge. Confidently, without bravado, she leaves the lighthouse to head north, looking to see some sights. Unfortunately, in a group of city buildings taken over by survivors, she attracts the attention of the creepiest sort of guy. He tries a sneak attack, she kicks ass and soon his brother is tracking her, straight out of revenge fiction. She sees the fight as another sign of her general incompatibility with civilization, and decides to head north again. Brother follows her. On the way, she finds herself in an unaccustomed moment of pity and saves Lenny a mentally challenged man with a pack of zombies trailing behind him. Having him in tow brings up a host of memories, and gives an opportunity to learn more about Temple's past. As the book progresses, she continues to encounter a variety of situations that reflect the range of humanity's adaptation skills, and its worth noting the Bell's vision of the world does not entail humanity degenerating into Lord of the Flies (although I suspect we meet Miss Havisham).

The tone throughout is remarkable. It's hard to encapsulate what about this book stood out for me, but part was the easy, factual tone, a sort of emotionally removed description that acknowledges horror but also contains beauty. It's notable to find a heroine with a Zen state of being, general optimism, and lack of fear. Narration is in her inner 'voice;' while clearly undereducated, there is still subtlety of thought that lends subtext to her experiences. The narration highlights the changes in the world while giving her a sort of innocence.

A few comments on plotting that contain spoilers:
Profile Image for Rhianna Schoonover.
56 reviews57 followers
May 19, 2011
Absolutely one of the WORST books I've ever read. The plot is inspired, but its butchered by piss poor authorship & the biggest fuck up of an editor on the planet! It makes the book not even worth the paper that you wipe your butt with!

25 years AFTER the zombies rise we still have electricity, Coke, ice, power enough to run elevators, & plenty of gasoline.Diesel engines still cross the country. The power grids are all still intact, apparently humans don't need to like, SERVICE the machinery of power or anything! Hell, even electronic "tracking devices" still work when applied to cars, as do their receivers! Entire cities stand untouched, minus minor water damage and some lawns gone shaggy, the dead just mill around doing no damage to anything nor did those who died damage anything or even those fleeing the onslaught of the dead. Oh, lets not forget the dust - made up of 90% human skin & very little humans to shed it but there's dust.

Apparently EVERY weather factor on the planet ceases. No hurricanes, Houston is pristine minus some garbage in the gutter (like I said, pristine). No tornadoes, no major damage to roads. A few collapsed overpasses is about all the damage to the US infrastructure in 25 years of the undead & humanity surviving in only small pockets. No floods, the US Gulf coast is near to untouched, if abandoned.

The sun sets in the East! Apparently its an alternate reality in which an editor of a book can't be fucking bothered to actually READ the shit they're putting their name on. Anymore so than the author can be expected to do anything other than talk about lobsterized human-zombie hybrids, made by distilling zombie brain gunk & shooting up, who happen to be inbreed hicks! It seems the most incontrovertible facts of nature - the sun rises in the East & sets in the West, no longer apply!

The rich live in opulent homes & apparently grow their own mustard plants & produce their own mustard, in addition to so many other things from civilization. Let's not miss the booze that's only 6 years old! They must be distilling their own alcohol too!

No one actually SPEAKS in this book. They apparently all use mental speech as there is not ONE DAMN QUOTATION MARK around one single, solitary fucking conversation! A total & complete butchery of the English language. If this is the shit that got published, dear gods I don't want to see the 'manuscript', its probably a bigger steaming pile of shit than this book!

I've read some crappy zombie books. Ones that make me want to rush out & burn every copy on the planet just to save humanity from their crappiness. This one isn't this bad, but if someone else burned it I wouldn't bother putting it out.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,016 reviews1,902 followers
May 26, 2011
The harvest is the end of this world,
and the reapers are the angels.

I've read countless books in my life and through them I've been introduced to literally thousands of characters. Some of them I forgot almost instantly. Others I need to be reminded of and even then remember only faintly. Then there are some I remember clearly because a part of them was important to me. But there is also a very small number of characters that stay with me always, characters that follow me around like shadows... shadows that once taught me an important lesson I'll never forget. One of them is Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne. Alden Bell's Temple is another.

This woman, this young girl, this child, is sixteen characters folded into one, and yet on the surface she is as simple as a girl can be. She is a character that makes your heart ache and your head spin. She is someone you have no choice but to love... someone you'll do your best to understand... someone you'll always want to be.

At first I was expecting a paranormal YA novel... I didn't read any of the reviews and I guess I just made a stupid assumption. Temple IS fifteen years old and the book really HAS zombies, but that's where the similarities with all the novels we usually read end. The Reapers Are the Angels is NOT a YA novel! It's post-apocalyptic fiction at its best. Actually, it's not a novel that people under the age of 18 should read. It has violence, sex and more violence and it's scary and horrible at times. But it is also wonderful and deep and mature and not to be taken lightly at all. The psychological developement of Bell's characters is astonishing, almost incredible.

If you have a strong stomach and you want to take a break from all the predictable fiction that surrounds us, The Reapers Are the Angels might be the novel for you. It doesn't follow any rules, it will make you skip dinner, and it will definitely make you cry. But most of all, it will surprise you with its simplicity and its depth and it will probably teach you a thing or two about yourself... and about who you want to be when world as we know it comes to an end.


Alden Bell's gorgeously written and bloody tale, which mutates from a zombie story into something of beauty and meaning. . . . Bell clearly owes great literary debt to Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" and the Southern Gothic school of Faulkner and O'Connor, but The Reapers Are the Angels shows the reader that they need not settle for mere blood 'n' guts when horror tales can, and should, go many extra miles.
—Sarah Weinman, Summer Reading Pick, Salon.com
January 30, 2012
From the beginning this reads like an author trying desperately to write an intelligent and literary young adult book. If only the execution had worked. It read like a clumsy attempt at so-called beautiful writing in that way where you're envisioning the people who write with a Thesaurus open on their lap and change every other word to make their writing something it's not.

The story was weighed down by the purple prose. It was a clunky read, only made worse by the "style" the author adopted in which those pesky quotation marks really only get in the way of dialogue. So the reader must wade through the excessive, flowery writing only to be taken further out of the story by having to figure out if the characters are talking to each other or if the protagonist, Temple, is thinking/talking to herself.

Yet, in all of this, attention to detail was lost. This is set some 25 years after the zombie apocalypse. Nevertheless, Temple is able to find gasoline at gas stations? And there is still running electricity? There was a lot of basic science that was ignored in this book.

Early in the story the blaring lights of a nearby city prompted Temple to investigate and she found a well-formed society of survivors that welcomed her. Of course, safety and comfort are not meant to be and soon she is on the run again only now she has a man, Moses, chasing after her . These are the way things go in a dystopian society. But I was still enraged by the way the other adults simply shrugged at what happened. And found no real problem with this grown man's grudge against a child.

There is nothing really wrong with Temple herself. She is 15-years-old, has lost everyone who meant anything to her, and is imbued with the fierceness one must have to survive in the zombie apocalypse. The biggest issue I had with her were the names she called a companion she picked up along the way. Although, her actions after she had to flee the first group – – had me screaming, "Oh, my God, what is wrong with you?!"

On the run from her stalker she ends up in yet another unlikely situation. This was my breaking point. Already frustrated by the writing, grammar, and ridiculous plot elements we're hit with Temple . I don't care what kind of society I'm reading about, that will never be okay with me. I'm sure it's fine for many people, since we seem to live in a time where "young adult" really means "children characters in adult stories." That's simply not how I roll.

So here is where I parted ways with this book. I did go looking for a synopsis of the story to see what happens and I was incredibly happy that I did give up on it. She ends up in one unlikely and ridiculous scenario after another (and keep in mind this is a zombie book, so it broke my already suspended belief). And the ending, especially Moses's over-wrought philosophical view of what had occurred, would have had me tearing my hair out.
Profile Image for Lou.
880 reviews906 followers
October 8, 2019
A girl who’s traveled the land, her mind filled with people, sights and words, with sins and redemption. She’s only 15 and has killed many the rule is kill or be killed. A desolate land of death and zombies, she did not choose this destiny. Amongst the contagious spreading of zombies, she hides from many in the shadows and is well equipped to fight twice her size equipped with her Gurkha knife. This story is written well, a story so bleak about death and survival and love has some beautifully written lines, written in eloquent prose that makes the zombie story that so much better.

The story is about death and redemption and one girl’s eventual outcome amongst darkness, at times heart-breaking.
The island, The Lighthouse, The Moon and The Miracle of the Fish.

"And, too, a carnival of death, a grassy park near the city center, a merry-go-round that turns unceasing hour by hour, its old-time calliope breathing out dented and rusty notes while the slugs pull their own arms out of the sockets trying to climb aboard the moving platform, some disembodied limbs dragging in the dirt around and around, hands still gripping the metal poles—and the ones who succeed and climb aboard, mounting to the top of the wooden horses, joining with the endless motion of the machine, dazed to imbecility by gut memories of speed and human ingenuity. And the horde, in the blackout of the city night, illumined only by the headlights of the car, everywhere descending and roiling against one another like maggots in the belly of a dead cat, the grimmest and most degenerate manifestation this blighted humanity on this blighted earth—beasts of our lost pasts, spilling out of whatever hell we have made for them like the army of the damned, choked and gagging and rotted and crusty and eminently pathetic, yes, brutally, conspicuously, outrageously pathetic."

The Books Behind The Reapers Are The Angels
As I suspect is true of all novels, The Reapers Are the Angels is cobbled together from the fragments of other books. Any but the most passive reader will collect certain baggage from the books he or she reads—lingering impressions that stick like burrs in the back of the brain and sometimes, especially if the reader is also a writer, plant themselves in the imagination like seeds that grow into other books entirely. For me, these influences can range from a narrative style that I wish I could emulate, to an unforgettable scene, or a perfectly written sentence, or even an ideally chosen and placed word (like the word "thrapple" in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian). For a writer, those are the things that brought you to literature in the first place—a fascination with artful storytelling—so it's not surprising that the things you admire most make their way in sometimes insidious ways into your own writing.I've heard this process referred to in a number of ways: everything from plagiarism to artful thievery to homage. But I think I like Tolstoy's metaphor best: art is a contagion. It infects you with its brilliance, and you feel inspired, however humbly, to recreate it and infect somebody else with it.

Even though it is, without question, a zombie novel, Reapers traces the source of its literary infection back to the Southern Gothic tradition and the classic stories of the American frontier. Here are some of the contagious books that have contributed to The Reapers Are the Angels.

The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner. The more I write, the more I find myself in debt to Faulkner. The unquestionable master of the Southern Gothic, Faulkner is an icon for writers because he is unafraid to go big: he does not hesitate to launch into epic considerations of good and evil, womanhood and manhood, sin and corruption, nobility and redemption. You could accuse him of being melodramatic, but in an age when so many books seem to be written in a snickering, self-deprecatory style, I personally would rather see someone err in the direction of grandiosity rather than modesty. Some small homages to Faulkner in Reapers: Temple's name, which comes from Sanctuary, and the figure of Maury, who is based upon Benjy in The Sound and the Fury. Also, the Grierson episode evokes the short story "A Rose for Emily," about a woman (Emily Grierson) who refuses to make the transition from the past to the present.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain. Reapers is structured as a classic American road novel, the form of which has its roots in Huck Finn. It is episodic, and we are drawn forward by an overdetermination of motives: an escape from whatever imprisonment is behind the hero and a pursuit of whatever freedom lies before the hero. Temple is, I think, a version of the pragmatic, earnest Huck Finn. The pseudonym she uses, Sarah Mary Williams, is the same one Huck Finn himself uses when he dressed up as a girl.

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy. For my money, this is one of the great American books of the second half of the twentieth century. Its storyline makes it more of a Western, but its style is pure Southern Gothic. The primary conflict is between an unnamed "kid" and a man who seems echo the expansive, chatty evil of a Faustian devil. I think my character Moses is a kinder, gentler version of that antagonist. In addition, a number of the scenes of vast violence in Reapers are inspired by those from Blood Meridian, particularly the infamous Comanche attack scene.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston. You wouldn't normally associate Hurston's lovely, poetic, romantic novel with zombies—but she does tap into a folkloric kind of mysticism that has always fascinated me. My term for zombies, "meatskins," actually comes from Hurston, but she uses it simply to describe puny human beings: "meatskins dancing around the toes of time."

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell and Smonk by Tom Franklin. These are two masters of the contemporary Southern Gothic genre. My character of Temple is inspired by the tough, relentless heroines of these two novels. Both of these authors create teenage girls who have managed to survive in brutal surroundings, who have actually grown accustomed to violence and corruption. But what both these authors admire about their characters (you can feel it in the affectionate way they write about them), is their ability to maintain a certain purity within their own individual codes. These girls survive because, even though they live on the rough and tumble margins of society, they are driven by a personal idealism that tells them what to do.

And it would be remiss of me not to mention two television shows that have contributed a great deal to Reapers: Deadwood, which is the perfect representation of a violent, blustery, and wholly beautiful frontier lifestyle, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which represents a landmark in tough, intelligent, complicated and sympathetic young female protagonists.
Alden Bell's Top Ten Zombie Movies

10. I Walked with a Zombie
Jacques Tourneur's 1943 classic illustrates the voodoo roots of zombie mythology. The stiff melodrama of this film fits perfectly with the hypnotic movements of the zombies themselves and the decaying gothic sensibility of the setting. This is a different kind of zombie: there are no half-rotted walking corpses here—only haunted figures wandering in authentically creepy trances.

9. 28 Days Later
This seems to be the movie that changed the genre. Suddenly zombies were driven by fury more than hunger, and they ran after you with surprising athleticism rather than loping with a stiff, corpse-like gait. Personally, I'm a fan of the more traditional slow zombies, but I admire this movie for the way it uses the zombie backdrop to portray a very gritty story of human frailty.

8. Night of the Living Dead
What George Romero did with this movie was show that zombies make a marvelously accommodating metaphor for whatever political, social or philosophical point you want to make. He shows us that modern zombie stories aren't, for the most part, about zombies—which is beautifully illustrated by the opening scene where the zombie doesn't jump out at you but lingers, unfocussed, in the background for quite a while.

7. Zombieland
I love this movie partly because it is reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead in its playful fascination with post-apocalyptic landscapes but also because it features a cast of characters all of whom have already learned to be survivors. Whether through brutality or trickery or avoidance, these characters have learned to live in the midst of a zombie infestation—and their masterful handling of a blighted world is deeply satisfying to watch.

6. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
I have no excuse for this one. I saw it as a kid and thought it was the height of wit. How could the movie be so irreverent to something as deadly serious as flesh-eating zombies? It was my Noel Coward. As a teenager, I had the movie poster fixed permanently above my bed. A grinning skull gazing at you with a sly sideways glance.

5. American Zombie
A brilliant faux documentary about the marginalized population of zombies living on the fringes of Los Angeles. This movie does more than any other to humanize zombies—even turning them into an oppressed yet articulate minority. Understated and surprisingly touching.

4. Re-Animator
I don't know if this exactly qualifies as a zombie movie, but I love it anyway. It delights in its perverse grossness, and it hearkens back (in a mostly sincere way, despite the number of viewers who like to see it as campy) to old fashioned mad scientist tales.

3. Cemetery Man
This underrated 1994 movie, featuring Rupert Everett as a cemetery keeper who has a problem with the dead returning to life, has some of the most wonderfully absurd incarnations of zombie mythology, including a troop of zombie boy scouts, a zombie motorcyclist, and a zombie bride who is no more than a head. Plus, it features the classic line, uttered by the vivacious Anna Fulchi, “You know, you've got a real nice ossuary.” Yes, the movie wants to be a hundred different movies at once. Yes, the special effects are clumsy and the humor broad. But, curiously enough, it's also a deeply cerebral study of life circumscribed by death.

2. Dead Alive (also called Braindead)
When this first came out, it was lauded as the most gory movie every made. I don't know how such things are measured, but it would certainly take some effort to find a movie more stomach-churning than this one. Priding itself on bizarre dark humor and innovative ways to be killed, the movie is great because of its unabashed Freudian subplot. Leave it to Peter Jackson to combine a zombie slaughter-fest with the psychological trauma of a severe Oedipal complex.

1. Dawn of the Dead
For me, this is the archetype, this is where it all began. I remember watching it in complete wonder at all the curious reversals: the portrayal of the zombies as sad and rather pathetic background figures, the fixation on the technical logistics of survival (how much time is spent on showing how the survivors fortify and clean up that shopping mall?), the implication that humans are a far greater threat than zombies, the lack of a beginning or ending (the feeling that the movie is all middle), the portrayal of the loneliness and boredom and downright normalization of life in a post-apocalyptic world. And this, ultimately, is what makes the film so unique: where other movies in the genre do everything in their power to show how different and strange the zombie apocalypse is, Romero focuses on how familiar it Can be.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,662 reviews6,361 followers
November 26, 2013
I don't understand what makes a blockbuster of a book. I read The Road and honestly hated it. This book does a similar theme and does it so much better and is so much better written. So why does one succeed and one isn't as well known?
Temple is a young 15 year old girl on her own. She wasn't born before the zombies took over. She was born after. It's all she has ever known. This character is one of the strongest female characters that I think I have read about. I ADORED her. She feels that she is evil because she has to kill to stay alive. This book haunts you even after you close that last page. Wondering what's wrong and right when faced with unbearable consequences.
I love me some flipping zombie books but this one is just so very much more.
 photo the-end-is-near_zpsdd679ccf.gif
Profile Image for Penny Well Reads.
807 reviews216 followers
June 3, 2018
Actual Rating: 1.5 stars

DNF at 90%. I stopped only one hour short of finishing the audiobook.

The book just wasn't telling me anything, so I figured it was not going to be able to redeem itself in the hour that I got left and so I did't think it worth it to finish it.

I am not really sure why , but I kept comparing it to The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, maybe because I read it recently and they both are set in an post-apocalypse universe with zombies involve in the mix. The thing is that I kind of preferred to be reading The Immortal Rules again than The Reapers are the Angels . To me the book missed a mark, it definitely missed something because there was something lacking there! Maybe I am just too old for this book, I don´t know.

To me, this was an empty book, lots of words with nothing to tell. This book was like having the dinner table set, the fork in your hand ready to be used, but the plate in front of you only have broccoli, where did all the meat went to? I would like to know, because tonight I am going to bed hungry!

Profile Image for Limonessa.
300 reviews518 followers
August 12, 2011
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:

Profile Image for Victor *Nothing Happened*.
157 reviews98 followers
June 29, 2018
But you gotta look at the world that is and try not to get bogged down by what it ain't.

Zombie Literature with Southern Twang, Charm, and Hospitality

In one of my updates on goodreads, I wrote that this isn't your typical zombie story and it isn't. There is little in the way of killing zombies and the associated gore. This is a story of adventure, redemption, and miracles. Oh, and the prose is to die for.

Our MC is 15-year-old Temple AKA Sarah Mary Williams and this is her story.

The apocalypse occurred 25 years ago so Temple only knows this life filled with slugs (zombies). She never learned to read and write so she speaks with poor grammar but often spews wisdom that is beyond her years.

They don't bother you so much, she says, if you can stay out from between their teeth.

I absolutely loved her charm and her naivete. In her travels, she befriends another survivor whom she takes under her wing in a matter of speaking.

If I ain't evil, then what am I? Cause my hands, see, they ain't seem to got no purpose except when they're bashing in a skull or slittin a throat. That's the whole, all around truth of the matter. Them meatskins, they kill - but they ain't get any satisfaction out of it. Maury, you sure are wanderin a lonely earth - full of breach and befoulment - but the real abomination is sittin right next to you.

She's troubled by some of the things she's had to do to survive and believes the only place for her is outside amongst the meatskins. She doesn't get too comfortable in safe communities. I got the feeling she'd rather have the entirety of the US to roam than be confined to an enclosed community. No matter how safe that community may be. It also doesn't help that a killer is after her.

The prose is beautiful. The flow, the words, the dark pictures it painted in my mind. I found myself re-reading passages because the language was gorgeous. The only issue I had was the lack of punctuation for dialogue but I got used to that rather quickly.

There they sit, at a rickety card table attached with brackets to the inside wall of the boxcar so it doesn't spill over with the starts and stops, playing Omaha poker and drinking booze out of tin mugs, or sitting with their legs out the open side of the car, watching the landscape go by and breaking down their guns to clean them, or carving miniature figures out of basswood with pocketknives. There they are, the new knights-errant of this blasted homaloid - lost men who find lost men and carry them to safety by their dusty collars.

They belong, Temple thinks. They have they stink of belonging wherever they go. This world is their world, and they take possession of every yard they cover, and they run the sun to its grave every night.

There were many more excerpts that I wanted to include here but I'll leave you with one of my favorite lines;

This girl ain't full service.

I'm writing this 5 days after finishing the story and one thing I found interesting that I couldn't quite put my finger on when reading it was how relaxed (not as cautious as I would expect them to be) the survivors appeared to be when meeting other survivors. I'm used to reading zombie stories that take place during or shortly after the apocalypse where the tension is high and trust for your fellow man is at an all-time low. I suspect that 25 years into this post-apocalyptic society had a lot to do with it.

I highly recommend this even if you don't normally read Zombie or YA stories. Don't let the YA tag fool you, this doesn't read like your typical YA.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,630 followers
June 28, 2011
Alden Bell proves that the literary zombie novel is not an oxymoron. Review to follow.

About zombies, you can say I’m … earnest. I love how they can be so many different things at once – pathetic, savage, terrifying, unrelenting. Zombies are shambling and starving, haunted and lost. They ramble and feed, yet there is a hint, always just a hint, of some long lost memory of who they used to be. Nothing captures that better than the scene from Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead when the zombies come in waves to the mall – “Why do they come here?” “Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.”

More than anything else, I love what zombies can teach us about ourselves because surviving a zombie apocalypse is going to cost you: your soul, your sanity, your faith, your humanity. Like any zombie story worth its salt, The Reapers are the Angels is not about the zombies. It’s about the survivors -- the ones left hanging on by their fingertips to the jagged edges of a dying world that just won’t die and stay dead. A world that shifts and groans under the weight of biting, grasping corpses.

Temple knows this world. She’s been hanging on by her fingertips to the jagged edges for ten years, since her orphanage was overrun when she was five years old. Now she is fifteen, fierce and feral. She might long for human connections and to find her place in the world, but the basics of human interaction and social etiquettes have passed her by. What she knows is survival at any cost, and it has cost her plenty. She can’t help but think: “I got a devil in me.”But Temple’s not a monster. Even as he hunts her across the country, Moses Todd explains: “I’ve seen evil, girl, and you ain’t it”. This is a redemption story, because really, that is what Temple seeks even though she cannot articulate that basic human need in herself, for forgiveness, for someone to lay their hands on her and tell her she’s just a girl after all, and not an abomination.

I love the title of this book – there is something so poetic, so portent, so Old Testament medieval about it. The Reapers are the Angels … yes, I want to read that book. I want to know what that means. Alden Bell delivers prose to match that is so achingly beautiful in its stream-of-consciousness style. I love the heavy Southern dialect that’s been bastardized by time and trauma.
You give me a compass that tells good from bad, and boy I’ll be a soldier of the righteous truth. But them two things are a slippery business, and tellin them apart might as well be a blind man’s guess.
This is a short novel that manages to be epic in its themes and scope, all at once horrific, heartbreaking and rife with tragedy. The violence is explicit but even as the blood and stinking offal pour across the page the book’s magnitude and terrible beauty is never in dispute. Alden Bell is writing Southern Gothic set in a landscape where things are not “gross” but rather “grotesque”.

What more can I say? Read this book.

Profile Image for Melki.
6,411 reviews2,447 followers
June 21, 2018
It's not so safe for a little girl to be wandering around the countryside by herself. I don't know if you noticed, but we got a bit of a zombie problem.

Born after the "zombie problem" began, fifteen-year-old Temple has spent her whole life struggling for survival. She is gutsy, and strong, and she's stayed breathing while others around her have fallen. Like many a young girl, she's got some wanderlust - places she'd like to see and visit. Plus, she's learned that one of the best ways keep yourself alive is to keep moving.

. . . I ain't got this far in my life just to get familied down inside an electric fence.

But, now Temple's been saddled with the care and feeding of a mute, and pretty defenseless grownup. And, after an evening spent inside a "gated community" leads to a deadly encounter, she's got a guy promising to hunt her down for the murder of his brother. It's a hell of a burden for a gal who just wants to see Niagara Falls.

This was a sure 'nuff page-turner, but there's much more to it than zombie thrills and post-apocalyptic descriptions. Bell is a fine writer; the zingy dialogue between Temple and Moses Todd is a joy to read. I'd recommend this book about the walking wounded, even to readers who're not fans of the walking dead.
Profile Image for Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker.
596 reviews388 followers
May 26, 2012
AH and Regina did an excellent review of this book here...


or you can read my much less exciting review below...

4.5 stars out of 5

If you could take all the strong, fearless, intelligent, compassionate female characters from all the books you have read, you'll come close to Temple's character.

If you take all the screwed up, guilt ridden, angry, sad female characters from the books you have read, you'll come close to Temple's character.

Temple will go down as one of the most memorable characters I've had the pleasure reading about in a long time.

The zombies, the adventure across the country, is just the setting for the reader to meet and love Temple.

It is a good thing too since there is alot wrong with the world building in this book. In fact, there is none. Why are the shelves still stocked with plenty of food? How is there still gas? How are the trains running? What caused people to turn into zombies? And so on and so on. Even with the lack of world building, the book was incredible!

There is an incredible set of minor characters in the book as well. I fell hard for Maury. A wordless man that spoke volumes about love, compassion and gentleness.

Oh and one more annoying point- There are no quotation marks. I'm not sure why, but not one quotation mark.

I easily would have given this book 5 stars but I had to take a half star off due to the lack of world building and the lack of quotation marks.

One of the best books I've read in 2011!
Profile Image for Terry .
416 reviews2,154 followers
July 31, 2013
3.5 – 4 stars

Well, I gotta say I didn't expect that ending.

_The Reapers are the Angels_ is my first foray into the très au courant genre of zombie apocalypse. It was a fortunate choice and I can only hope I enjoy other forays into the genre as much. One thing I can say is that it’s definitely a real page-turner . The story of Temple, the young bad-ass action-grrl born into a world after the rise of the undead, is compelling and engrossing and has definitely got velocity. Temple herself is interesting, a strangely positive girl despite the darkness of her past and the violence of both her world and her deeper character. She's a strange oxymoron, an optimist who seethes under the surface with supressed rage. I suppose she could be seen as yet another product of the Buffy/Katniss/whatever-action-grrl-of-the-moment template, but I thought she generally came across as being much more real than that stereotype would imply. She may be a warrior princess of sorts, but Temple has a certain naïve charm that sets her apart and she rarely goes looking for trouble, though of course it often finds her. Temple is also interesting in that she was born into the world of the apocalypse, so the status quo doesn’t disturb her in the same way as it does the survivors from the old time. She doesn’t see the world as a punishment and a curse, but rather as a gift. She sees the hand of God in everything and even the fact of the shambling dead is a miracle when you look at it from the right angle. It’s an interesting perspective however off-the-wall it might seem.

The other major element of the novel is its prose. The southern twang that nearly drips off the page is a joy to read and makes the novel seem, on the one hand, very literary. Yet there was another element to it that kept breaking through in the back of my mind and which occasionally broke the spell of the prose itself: this is also a novel that very much reads as though it were written with the cinematic version strongly in mind. At times it is almost like a movie treatment for the soon-to-be-produced vehicle starring the next Jennifer Lawrence as Temple (maybe Chloe Moretz? She’s young enough and certainly her stint as Hitgirl in ‘Kickass’ gives her some of the required experience in extreme violence). This isn’t exactly a bad thing, I guess, and the author is welcome to any income he can derive from his work, but it was a little distracting sometimes to think “ah yes, I can just see the dollar signs in the author’s eyes as he wrote this scene just for the big screen.” Unfair of me maybe, I don’t know, but it was a feeling I definitely got from time to time while reading. That said, this is still a great novel to read and it’s simply filled with the poetic palaver of the South so mellifluous to Northern ears.

Aside from being both a quest road-trip and the story of a young girl (who’s really more of an adult in all but the most literal temporal sense) coping with her past as she faces her future it is also, as others have pointed out, definitely a story about the American landscape. It’s a blasted and decayed landscape, but one where the character of its past still shines through in what remains. Ironically it seems to be those who are most willing to let go of this geographical memory that are most likely to succeed in this new world as opposed to the hopeless dreamers trying to claw their way back to the world of civilization and who pretend that their little enclaves of the old world are anything other than a fantasy.

I’ll conclude by saying that Alden Bell also did a great job of building up his characters and even those who had little more than a walk-on were generally interesting and unique. A shout-out has to go to Moses Todd one of the better villains (or perhaps I really ought to call him an antagonist) I’ve come across in awhile. He’s nearly as compelling as Temple and seeing the two of them together was nearly always a treat. I’m surprised to see this listed as book one in a series, but I’m willing to go along with Bell in his further forays across the twisted landscape of undead America.

Also posted at Shelf Inflicted
Profile Image for Beatriz.
886 reviews808 followers
November 8, 2016
Ufff… hace tiempo que no me costaba tanto reseñar un libro. ¿Me gustó? Sí, me gustó, pero no por lo que uno podría esperar en un libro de zombis. Tal como he leído en otros comentarios, el apocalipsis zombi descrito en esta novela es sólo una excusa para lo que realmente quiere contar.

En primer lugar el estilo narrativo es fascinante, esa forma de incorporar los diálogos dentro de las mismas descripciones me encantó y nos permite descubrir a uno de los mejores personajes con los que me he encontrado este año: Temple. Ella es una adolescente de quince años que no alcanzó a conocer el mundo antes de su destrucción. Viaja sola, cargando con una serie de pérdidas que la han convertido en una mujer hecha y derecha antes de tiempo, con una escala de valores tan alta, que casi resulta incomprensible considerando el entorno en el que ha crecido.

Temple no busca asentarse con grupos de sobrevivientes, a pesar de que encuentra varios en su camino. Su búsqueda es mucho más profunda y se enfoca constantemente en comportarse acorde a códigos morales que tampoco comprende, asombrándose en la belleza de las pequeñas cosas que un mundo devastado aún puede ofrecer. Probablemente, Moses Todd, quien la persigue debido a que ella mató a su hermano por accidente, sea el único que la entienda. Por lo mismo, me llegó a exasperar su tozudez al no querer cambiar el objetivo que los une.

Odié el final, no porque sea malo, sino por ese sentido de inevitabilidad que últimamente acompaña a todas las novelas de este género que he leído, y que no me deja ponerle las cuatro estrellas que quizá este libro se merece. Creo que dejaré descansar a los zombis por un tiempo.
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,896 reviews545 followers
September 29, 2015
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life.

Somewhere along the way, I have decided that I love zombies. I have to admit that The Walking Dead probably has been a large part of my new found love of all things zombies. When this book came across my feed on Goodreads, I just know that I was going to have to read it. Everyone seemed to absolutely love it and I just knew that I was in for a treat. I liked this book well enough but it didn't turn out to nearly as good as I had been expecting. It may very well be a case of going into a book with unrealistic expectations.

There was a lot that I really did like about this book. It was a really fast and rather exciting read. I liked the fact that this story had a teenager as the main character and romance was not the key point in the story. That gets a few bonus points right away in my book. The world that it was set in was really well thought out. I really liked the fact that Temple, the main character, has never known a world different than the one she is in. She takes things as they are and is able to adapt really quickly to just about any situation. Temple was a wonderfully written character.

Another thing that I really enjoyed in this story was the fact that it took place in so many vivid locations. Every single one of the places that Temple finds herself in during the course of the story is unique. I would expect that in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, there would be a lot of different ways to deal with the situation evolving. I thought that every single environment that was a part of the story seemed very authentic.

Unfortunately, there were a few things that didn't work very well for me. This book was depressing. I don't know why I expected a zombie apocalypse book to be anything but depressing but I have to admit that I did. When I finished this book, I kind of wanted to curl up into a ball and just be left alone. If that was what the author was trying to do with the story, he did a great job but that's just not the kind of book that I enjoy reading. I also didn't care for the way that Temple addressed the man who she ending up bring with her during the bulk of the book. I understand that Temple has had to make it on her own in this scary world so I am sure that little lessons like treating others with respect were not covered but I can't help but cringe anytime I see a passage where someone with a disability is not treated with respect. That was a major turn off for me with this book.

All in all I would probably recommend this book to others. It is a different take on the zombie idea that is able to keep things interesting. This is the first book by Alden Bell that I have read but I would pick up another one of his books in the future. I did notice that there is at least one more book in this series but to be honest I am not sure if I am going to pick that one up or not right now.

Initial Thoughts
I liked this one but not nearly as much as I had hoped. This book's ending was incredibly depressing for me. I need a bit of time to think about it before I write any kind of review.
Profile Image for Armina.
176 reviews97 followers
May 1, 2015

Buddy read with Gavin


I really wanted to like this more. I'm so conflicted, feeling like I have a split personality, on how I want to star the book. But I can't give it more than 3 stars. Some things were just ..... ugh!

And I don't feel like writing a full review at all. Reviews for 3 stars books are the hardest one to write, at least for me. I'm browsing through some reviews now and I'll probably make a compilation of the ones which hit close to my own thoughts and feelings about the book. I've already seen 2 such reviews.

All in all, please, do notice that 3 stars means I liked it!
Profile Image for Jim.
387 reviews93 followers
March 6, 2013
I can't get over the fact that I'm giving 5 stars to a zombie book. I loathe the entire zombie genre...the utter impossibility of corpses lurching around trying to snack on regular folks is laughable in the extreme. Even if zombies were real, six fat bald men with spiked clubs could wipe out the entire zombie nation without having to put down their beverages. The creatures are so slow and dull-witted that children can elude them without breaking into a trot...how scary is that? And there are so many writers riding the zombie and vampire wave right now that new ideas for story lines are pretty hard to come by.

In any event, I read a good review of the book on goodreads and decided to give it a bash, totally expecting to hate the book, and looking at it with a very critical eye. It's true that the author asks you to take a lot on faith: he asks that you believe that 25 years into the zombie apocalypse some abandoned gas pumps are still dispensing usable gas and that edible crackers can still be found on some store shelves. Some parts of the book are suspiciously similar to scenes from post-apocalyptic movies, such as a rolling bus barrier which seems to have been excerpted from the movie The Road Warrior. But hey, if you've suspended logic long enough to believe in walking corpses, long-storage gasoline and ultra-preserved foodstuffs shouldn't be much of a stretch.

Aside from those minor reservations, I loved this book to pieces, and it was all due to the introduction of one of the best heroines to appear in print in the last twenty years or so. Temple is only 15 but wise beyond her years, never having lived in a world that was free of the zombie plague. She is hard, a loner, but she has a soft spot in her heart for the underdog and a sense of awe for all things musical and beautiful. Temple kicks a lot of zombie ass in this book, but the zombie violence is just incidental; the salient part of the story covers her interaction with the humans she encounters in her travels. I don't want to say too much here and give anything away. Let's just say that when I started reading the book I was afraid it was just going to be the first in a series of books trying to cash in on the zombie craze; before I finished, I hoped it was the first book of such a series.

If you want to read a good review of the book, I recommend Jeffrey Keeten's review. Jeffrey has this review business down pat.
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews1,053 followers
August 20, 2011
This is probably going to be the vaguest, wishy-washiest review I’ve written. But I find that it’s imperative not to go into too much detail with this one. If you’ve read it or when you’ve read it, you’ll probably understand why I’m reluctant to go into too much detail. This book asks a lot of questions and doesn’t offer a lot of answers… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Books are supposed to make you think and this one certainly does.
If you do want a crack at some answers Lisa and Catie both do a great job on this reviews comments and it’s definitely worth checking their thoughts out.
Of course, I get distracted by Idris Elba and contribute nothing.
Because that’s how I roll.

“She knew about the forces of things, and she understood about America the Beautiful, and she was unafraid, except of herself.”

High Points.
Language. Temple. Makes you think. Maury. The beauty in the world. Road trip. Slugs. Ambiguity. Grief. Guilt. Isolation. Companionship. Hope. Humanity. Survival. Allegory. Conscience. The now.

[Please note that I haven’t mentioned the ‘z’ word here. I think it would do this book a great injustice to call it a zombie book. It’s about a lot more… zombies seem to be peripheral in this one.]

Low Points.
Do not go into this book thinking you can get away with just reading it and forgetting about it. It’s one of those niggly books that worms its way into your brain and takes root. I haven’t decided whether that’s a good thing or not. The reason why that is a low point is because if you read this book and take it at face value it probably won’t make any sense. So I’d advise you to read this book when you’ve got your thinking hat/bonnet/fedora/headdress on.
I wasn’t a fan of Moses and his role in this book. I got it (I think), I just think there could have been a better away to get the point across. But don't ask me how, because I couldn't tell you.
But that’s all I’m going to say because I’m being mysterious.
Ditto with Millie.

Temple is one of the strongest and most memorable heroines that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She is resourceful, she is powerful, she is rational and she is only fifteen. Born into a world that was already in the grips of this ‘slug’ apocalypse, Temple had to grow up quickly and deal with things that are impossible to fathom. And all of that puts a lot of things in perspective....
And that’s all I’m saying.

Theme Song.

The Road- Frank Turner.
I instantly thought of this song when I finished this book.

To the east to the east
The road beneath my feet
To the west to the west
I haven't got there yet
And to the north to the north
Never to be caught
To the south to the south
My time is running out.

And I just believe Frank Turner is a lyrical master. And kinda cute in a London-boys-wear-plaid way.

Sadness Scale.
5/10. I know this is going to sound strange, especially if you’ve read this book and know what happens in the story, but this book made me feel really happy. A lot of awful things happen in this book or have happened and are alluded to but there is a definite vein of hope that pulses through Temple’s story.
That isn’t to say that every character is like that, far from it, but the characters that I will remember the most (Lee, for example, and Temple herself) had not given up and are still looking for beauty in a world where it would be easy to believe that everything is decayed and tainted.
I really respected Temple's acceptance of her place in the world and how she never fails to see and make the most of her time on this world. It may not be perfect and it may not be what she would’ve chosen but it’s what she has and it’s her now and there’s no point looking backwards and she isn’t going to waste a minute of it.
After all- “It never pays much to go backward to someplace you already been.”

Recommended For.
People who like to think after they’ve finished reading a book. People who like gorgeous prose. People who like strong female protagonists.

Told you it was going to be wishy-washy!
I’m going to end this review with a few of my favourite quotes from the book.

”The world, it treats you kind enough so long as you’re not fightin against it.”

“They travel from place to place, living off the land and trying to see the lengths and breadths of this great nation of ours before it goes under for the last time. There are still majestical things to see.”

“See, there’s a music to the world and you got to be listening otherwise you’ll miss it sure”

You can read this review and other exciting things on my blog here.

Profile Image for Yodamom.
2,053 reviews207 followers
September 24, 2015
4.4 stars
Quick and dirty-Bloody, Gore Filled, Putrid, Rotting, flesh eating zombie story all centered around a fifteen year old survivor. (Not a YA read)
This is what I want in zombies, disgusting stinky hungry monsters. There is not a moment of doubt that these nasties want to eat, rip and kill all living meat. Beware, the descriptions can turn your stomach they are so detailed and visual, this is some great writing. I loved that they had some confusion but no humanity let in them. There was just a touch of memory left but not enough to make you feel sorry for them.
Temple is 15, and has seen too much of this world to have mush hope of seeing much more. She never knew the before zombie life, this is normal for her. Death is expected, so she keeps to herself so she doesn't have to deal with another painful lose. She had a young brother, by blood maybe not but she was keeping him till one slip in time, and he was gone. When a chance comes to have a place to stay, maybe to belong someplace, her dreams take a little peek at what could be. Too bad that this life is not available for dreams of hope. Her hope ended and now she runs. Temple is strong, resourceful, and realistic, believable.
Not a happy story, no romance, no sexy heroes with crossbows. There is nudity, sex, drugs, cannibals, body parts flying.... Not for the squeamish This is a fantastic horror suspense read. I would love to see this made into a movie.
Profile Image for Indieflower.
382 reviews163 followers
June 16, 2022
I devoured this in a day, it's atmospheric, immersive and gruesome, written almost like a road novel/western. The writing is so good, and even with nary a quotation mark in sight, it flowed beautifully. The main character, 15 year old Temple, is ballsy and resilient (I'm not sure how she came by her rich vocabulary and sage observations on the human condition, but I enjoyed it so much I went with it), I loved her philosophy on life, that even in the most dire of circumstances, if you look hard enough there's always a smidgen of beauty to be found. If I had a problem it was with some of the world building, not sure that 25 years after an apocalyptic event, the power and water would still be on, gas pumps running and any food left at all in the shops, but hey ho I was so into it I didn't care too much. I was immersed in Temple's journey all the way, I heard what she heard and saw what she saw, so 4.5 stars rounded up, knocking ½ a star off for the somewhat dodgy world building.
Profile Image for Gavin.
942 reviews412 followers
April 27, 2015
This book was one of the more disappointing and frustrating YA books I've read lately. The story offered just enough that I tolerated the many flaws and dragged myself to the end. My endurance was rewarded by one of the worst endings in the history of fiction.

The sad thing is the post apocalyptic setting had potential. This story takes place 25 years after a zombie apocalypse has wiped out the better part of the population. We follow Temple, a 15 year old girl, as she struggles for survival in this bleak dystopian world. She has to contend as much with threats from the other people she meets as she does from the zombies.

One of the main flaws this book had is that Temple just meandered around aimlessly, as did the plot. Initially Temple seeks solitude as a result of suffering a personal tragedy. When her hideout becomes compromised she moves on. However at the first human settlement she finds she manages to attract the attention of two twisted brothers. Both of whom develop a fixation with her, one of them so much so that he proceeds to chase her around in the hopes of murdering her. Despite her reluctance to socialize or bond with other people Temple does manage to pick up a dependent in the form of the mentally disabled Maury which gives her life a small sense of purpose and direction.

Temple was a likable enough character. She was tough and independent and understood what it took to survive in a world such as this one. Her life was a tough one and she was left emotionally scarred by her experiences, but despite that still seemed to retain a fairly positive outlook on life and plenty of compassion. Along the way Temple managed to meet a few interesting characters. The most memorable were the twisted and delusional Todd brothers and the Grierson family.

The world was a poorly constructed one. I can only imagine it was set in some sort of post apocalyptic zombie magical wonderland because despite the story picking up 25 years after the fall of civilization things like fuel, electricity, and food are still abundant. The zombies themselves are little more than a throw away plot device and so slow and useless that it is a wonder they ever managed to decimate the population. In another irritating, ridiculous, and logic bending development people who were bitten by zombies became infected and turned into zombies themselves, but people who chomped on zombies were completely fine.

I was not a fan of the writing style of Alden Bell at all. It was awkward, pretentious, distant, and just plain weird. A lot of the ridiculous descriptions were so poorly placed that they actually managed to steal the tension from the happenings. All of this resulted in me being left so emotionally unengaged by the story and the characters that I did not care much about what happened. Bad writing lead to Temple seeming like an inconsistent character. She has no formal education, awful grammar, and her speech is packed full of regional dialect and colloquialisms. Unfortunately this often gets forgotten as Temple channels her inner Alden Bell. Either that or she swallowed a thesaurus somewhere along the way!

I'm not sure what the purpose or the message of this story was. It all seemed pretty pointless to me.

The ending was as dreadful as it was predictable. I had it figured out before the halfway mark, but still managed to be disappointed by the execution. The book would have made more of an impact had the final two chapters been completely cut.

The sequel has no audio version available which I assume means this book bombed commercially.

Despite all my moaning I did feel like there was a decent story hiding somewhere among the flaws. It just never quite managed to reveal itself. Which is why I was so frustrated while reading this one.

Rating: 2.5 stars.

Audio Note: Tai Sammons did OK.

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