Horrorible Review: “The Reapers are the Angels”

Welcome to Monday with Mildred!

The Reapes are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels

Author Alden Bell has reinvented the wheel and penned a literary zombie novel with the amazing premise that it’s not really about the zombies.

Big freakin’ duh, dude. It’s never been about the zombies, since 1968.

You can tell right off the bat that Bell has decided to elevate the lowly genre with his literary prowess because he writes in the present tense, without speech marks, meaning he works without the dreary demarcations of speech from description or action that ordinary authors use. That didn’t annoy me and I got used to it quickly, because he’s actually quite adept. Normally when a literary writer slums it with zombie fiction my eyes roll and my teeth grit because I hate a snob more than just about anything.  For some reason I kept reading, though, and was not handsomely rewarded. Instead, my irritation began to flow before fifteen pages were done, due to yet another typical tyro problem. Consider these paragraphs.

The dead woman is dressed in a nurse’s uniform. Her top is medical green, but her bottoms are brightly colored, like pajama pants. Temple can’t tell what the pattern is, but it looks like it could be lollipops.

You’re fifteen years old, born ten years after the fall of the old world. How does she know how a nurse dresses?  Or what medical green is? How does she know what a lollipop is?

In the first town she comes to, she spots a convenience store on the corner and pulls up to the sidewalk in front of it… She discovers a whole box of those peanut butter crackers she likes, the ones made like sandwiches with the bright orange cheese crackers…She takes the rest of the box and a twenty-four-pack of Coke and some bottles of water and three canisters of Pringles and some cans of chili and soup and some…

Guess that’s how she knows about lollipops. Twenty five years after the end of manufacturing, after twenty five years of people scrounging instead of growing, after twenty five years of mildew and mice and various bugs, you can still go in and fill your cart. I guess 7-11 has clerks living out back who pop in and restock the shelves after every scroungy visit.

The main strip was cluttered with restaurants that had once featured outdoor seating on the wide sidewalks – places where rich people in cream-colored shirts must once have drunk cocktails.

Here’s a quick quiz for you readers. Describe the restaurant scene in a town across the country from you, ten years before you were born. I’ll wait. Okay, one more because there’s such a rich pool to draw from. Speaking of an elderly lady, Temple muses:

Of course, Temple realizes, the danger of her youth was probably in coming home late or getting caught sneaking some whiskey from the family bar or kissing one boy by the arbor while another one waited for you on the porch swing out front.

Temple doesn’t read, and grew up homeschooled by a man who basically only taught her how to build campfires and kill zombies. Where does she get this insight?  The novel is rife with these archaisms and they grated on my nerves a LOT.

With my nerves on edge, I followed along as Temple roams from one group of people to another, each one more fantastical than the next. They ranged from unbelievable, to oh please, to la la land screw loose. When I was finally ready to toss the book ungently against the wall, a time honored review technique, I decided that no one would do this unless they meant the book to be a fantasy.  Well, I thought, in that case I will reevaluate my feelings and see if this works for me, and it did work. It was great that someone would write a future fantasy zombie book along the lines of Alice in Wonderland or the Oz books or the fable of The Country Mouse and the City Mouse (thinking that the grass is always greener somewhere else, what’s suitable for you may not be for someone else, being satisfied with who and where you are).

Feeling pleased with my deduction, I gushed about the book to everyone in my office and then went to the Internets for a little research and discovered the author was totally serious and did not write it as fantasy. Infuriated, I then decided the book sucks desiccated muck worms. In one interview Bell declares the zombie stories begin with Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which is totally wrong, and compares his work with other classic authors and characters as Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This lofty literary self-assessment is like eating at a fast food place because you’re strapped for time and having a food nazi comment acerbically on every bite. You can have a cheap burger or a zombie novel, but trying to force either into a different mold with the intention of improving an inferior creature does not improve the original so much as it annoys the consumer. The improvements should stem from a love, or at least a modicum of respect, not because it’s crap and you know better.

If you don’t care about the zombie genre so much that fiction full of impossible scenarios guaranteed to pop you out of the milieu and ignorant snobbery won’t bother you, then by all means read this book. I found it difficult to read and I won’t even donate it to anyone next time I purge my shelves.


The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell

CFR: In Addition:  When Mildred first started reading this book she liked it a lot. I was thinking of getting it myself. However, during the weekend after Mildred got The Reapers are the Angels I received a text: “I was wrong. Don’t get the book!” I think it is still quite possibly one of my favorite all time texts.

I also enjoy that when Mildred really hates something her language and writing becomes more poetic. Almost beautiful. So that also tells me how much she really DIDN’T like this book.

Hey world take note: Mildred is a Zombie EXPERT! Don’t disappoint her.

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