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The Reapers Are the Angels

The Reapers Are the Angels

4.2 66
by Alden Bell

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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


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 her heart. 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.

“Alden Bell provides an astonishing twist on the southern gothic: like Flannery O'Connor with zombies.” —Michael Gruber, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Air and Shadows

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“If you loved Justin Cronin's The Passage, this summer's vampire hit, you'll get a charge out of The Reapers Are the Angels. It's a literary/horror mashup that is unsettlingly good.” —USA Today

The Reapers Are the Angels is a knockout, a fresh take on the zombie novel, with a heroine you can't help but root for as she braves the land of the living dead and the dead living, pursued by a foe far more dangerous than flesh-eaters and with the beacon of redemption flickering ahead. Alden Bell will snatch your attention and keep it until long after you close this book.” —Tom Franklin, author of Hell at the Breach

“Alden Bell provides an astonishing twist on the southern gothic: like Flannery O'Connor with zombies.” —Michael Gruber, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Air and Shadows

“Alden Bell has managed something improbable and striking: a disconcertingly beautiful tale of zombie apocalypse. The Reapers Are the Angels is soaked in all the blood that any horror fan could desire, the effluvia rendered in a high Southern Gothic style as redolent of rotting magnolia as anything written by William Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy.” —Charlie Huston, author of Sleepless

“... This is a must-read for those who like their literature both brain-specked and philosophical.” —journalstar.com

Library Journal
This may be the most beautiful book about zombies this reviewer has ever read. Fifteen-year-old Temple travels alone through a dead world. Born after the apocalypse, this is the only realm she's ever known, and she is perfectly suited to it, dispatching "meatskins" as a matter of course. After she accidentally kills a man who attempted to rape her, his brother vows revenge. Zombies and even her pursuer are a backdrop to a story about Temple's real enemy, the monster she fears herself to be. Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord (Hummingbirds). BZG Temple encounters a bulked-up, inbred clan of half-humans who have been injecting a steroidlike fluid derived from zombie brains.
Terrence Rafferty
It's astonishing…to come across a zombie tale like Alden Bell's novel…in which a world that "has gone to black damnation" becomes, somehow, the occasion of a young woman's spiritual redemption…[Bell's] sentences roll and dawdle, as if moving to the rhythm of the stilled, eerie environment.
—The New York Times

Product Details

Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.64(w) x 11.04(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt


God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe.

Like those fish all disco-lit in the shallows. That was something, a marvel with no compare that she's been witness to. It was deep night when she saw it, but the moon was so bright it cast hard shadows everywhere on the island. So bright it was almost brighter than daytime because she could see things clearer, as if the sun were criminal to the truth, as if her eyes were eyes of night. 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 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 was something she hadn't seen before. A decade and a half, thereabouts, roaming the planet earth, and she's never seen that before.

And you could say the world has gone to black damnation, and you could say the children of Cain are holding sway over the good and the righteous—but here's what Temple knows: She knows that whatever hell the world went to, and whatever evil she's perpetrated her own self, and whatever series of cursed misfortunes brought her down here to this island to be harbored away from the order of mankind, well, all those things are what put her there that night to stand amid the Daylight Moon and the Miracle of the Fish—which she wouldn't of got to see otherwise.

See, God is a slick god. He makes it so you don't miss out on nothing you're supposed to witness firsthand.

She sleeps in an abandoned lighthouse at the top of a bluff. At the base there's a circular room with a fireplace where she cooks fish in a blackened iron pot. The first night she discovered the hatch in the floor that opened into a dank storage room. There she found candles, fishhooks, a first aid kit, a fl are gun with a box of oxidized rounds. She tried one, but it was dead.

In the mornings she digs for pignuts in the underbrush and checks her nets for fish. She leaves her sneakers in the lighthouse, she likes the feel of the hot sand on the soles of her feet. The Florida beachgrass between her toes. The palm trees are like bushes in the air, their brittle dead fronds like a skirt of bones around the tall trunks, rattling in the breeze.

At noon every day, she climbs the spiral stairs to the top of the signal tower, pausing at the middle landing to catch her breath and feel the sun on her face from the grimy window. At the top, she walks the catwalk once around—gazing out over the illimitable sea, and then, toward the mainland coast, the rocky cusp of the blight continent. Sometimes she stops to look at the inverted hemisphere of the light itself, that blind glass optic, like a cauldron turned on its side and covered with a thousand square mirrors.

She can see her reflection there, clear and multifarious. An army of her.

Afternoons, she looks through the unrotted magazines she'd found lining some boxes of kerosene. The words mean nothing to her, but the pictures she likes. They evoke places she has never been—crowds of the sharply dressed hailing the arrival of someone in a long black car, people in white suits reclining on couches in homes where there's no blood crusted on the walls, women in undergarments on backdrops of seamless white. Abstract heaven, that white—where could such a white exist? If she had all the white paint left in the world, what would go untouched by her brush? She closes her eyes and thinks about it.

It can be cold at night. She keeps the fire going and pulls her army jacket tighter around her torso and listens to the ocean wind whistling loud through the hollow flute of her tall home.

Miracle, or augury maybe—because the morning after the glowing fish, she finds the body on the beach. She sees it during her morning walk around the island to check the nets, she finds it on the north point of the teardrop landmass, near the shoal.

At first it is a black shape against the white sand, and she studies it from a distance, measures it with her fingers up to her eye.

Too small to be a person, unless it's folded double or half buried. Which it could be.

She looks around. The wind blowing through the grass above the shore makes a peaceful sound.

She sits and studies the thing and waits for movement.

The shoal is bigger today. It keeps getting bigger. When she first came, the island seemed like a long way off from the mainland. She swam to it, using an empty red and white cooler to help keep her afloat in the currents. That was months ago. Since then the island has gotten bigger, the season pulling the water out farther and farther every night, drawing the island closer to the mainland. There is a spit of reefy rock extending out from the shore of the mainland and pointing toward the island, and there are large fragments of jutting coral reaching in the other direction from the island. Like the fingers of God and Adam, and each day they come closer to touching as the water retreats and gets shallower along the shoal.

But it still seems safe. The breakers on the reef are violent and thunderous. You wouldn't be able to get across the shoal without busting yourself to pieces on the rock. Not yet at least.

The shape doesn't move, so she stands and approaches it carefully.

It's a man, buried facedown in the sand, the tail of his flannel shirt whipping back and forth in the wind. There's something about the way his legs are arranged, one knee up by the small of his back, that tells her his back is broken. There's sand in his hair, and his fingernails are torn and blue.

She looks around again. Then she raises her foot and pokes the man's back with her toe. Nothing happens so she pokes him again, harder.

That's when he starts squirming.

There are muffled sounds coming from his throat, strained grunts and growls—frustration and pathos rather than suffering or pain. His arms begin to sweep the sand as if to make an angel. And there's a writhing, rippling movement that goes through the muscles of his body, as of a broken toy twitching with mechanical repetition, unable to right itself.

Meatskin, she says aloud.

One of the hands catches at her ankle, but she kicks it off.

She sits down beside him and leans back on her hands and braces her feet up against the torso and pushes the body so that it flips over faceup, leaving a crooked, wet indentation in the sand.

One arm is still flailing, but the other is caught under his back so she stays on that side of him and kneels over his exposed face.

The jaw is missing altogether, along with one of the eyes. The face is blistered black and torn. A flap of skin on the cheekbone is pulled back and pasted with wet sand, revealing the yellow white of bone and cartilage underneath. The place where the eye was is now a mushy soup of thick clear fluid mixed with blood, like ketchup eggs. There's a string of kelp sticking out of the nose that makes him look almost comical—as though someone has played a practical joke on him.

But the rightness of his face is distorted by the missing mandible. Even revolting things can be made to look whole if there is a symmetry to them— but with the jaw gone, the face looks squat and the neck looks absurdly equine.

She moves her fingers back and forth before his one good eye, and the eye rolls around in its socket trying to follow the movement but stuttering in its focus. Then she puts her fingers down where the mouth would be. He has a set of upper teeth, cracked and brittle, but nothing beneath to bite down against. When she puts her fingers there, she can see the tendons tucked in behind his teeth clicking away in a radial pattern. There are milky white bones jutting out where the mandible would be attached and yellow ligaments like rubber bands stretching and relaxing, stretching and relaxing, with the ghost motion of chewing.

What you gonna do? she says. Bite me? I think your biting days are gone away, mister.

She takes her hand from his face and sits back, looking at him.

He gets his head shifted in her direction and keeps squirming.

Stop fightin against yourself, she says. Your back's broke. You ain't going nowhere. This is just about the end of your days.

She sighs and casts a gaze over the rocky shoal in the distance, the wide flat mainland beyond.

What'd you come here for anyway, meatskin? she says. Did you smell some girlblood carried on the wind? Did you just have to have some? I know you didn't swim here. Too slow and stupid for that.

There is a gurgle in his throat and a blue crab bursts out from the sandy exposed end of the windpipe and scurries away.

You know what I think? she says. I think you tried to climb across those rocks. And I think you got picked up by those waves and got bust apart pretty good. That's what I think. What do you say about that?

He has worked the arm free from underneath him and reaches toward her. But the fingers fall short by inches and dig furrows in the sand.

Well, she says, you shoulda been here last night. There was a moon so big you could just about reach up and pluck it out of the sky. And these fish, all electriclike, buzzing in circles round my ankles. It was something else, mister. I'm telling you, a miracle if ever there was one.

She looks at the rolling eye and the shuddering torso.

Maybe you ain't so interested in miracles. But still and all, you can cherish a miracle without deserving one. We're all of us beholden to the beauty of the world, even the bad ones of us. Maybe the bad ones most of all.

She sighs, deep and long.

Anyway, she says, I guess you heard enough of my palaver. Listen to me, I'm doin enough jawing for the both of us. Enough jawing for the both of us— get it?

She laughs at her joke, and her laughter trails off as she stands and brushes the sand off her palms and looks out over the water to the mainland. Then she walks up to a stand of palm trees above the beach and looks in the grassy undergrowth, stomping around with her feet until she finds what she's looking for. It's a big rock, bigger than a football. It takes her half an hour to dig around it with a stick and extract it from the earth. Nature doesn't like to be tinkered with.

Then she carries the rock back down to the beach where the man is lying mostly still.

When he sees her, he comes to life again and begins squirming and shuddering and guggling his throat.

Anyway, she says to him, you're the first one that got here. That counts, I guess. It makes you like Christopher Columbus or something. But this tide and all—you wanna bet there's more of you coming? You wanna bet there's all your slug friends on their way? That's a pretty safe bet, I'd say.

She nods and looks out over the shoal again.

Okay then, she says, lifting the rock up over her head and bringing it down on his face with a thick wet crunch.

The arms are still moving, but she knows that happens for a while afterward sometimes. She lifts the rock again and brings it down twice more just to make sure.

Then she leaves the rock where it is, like a headstone, and goes down to her fishing net and finds a medium-sized fish in it and takes the fish back up to the lighthouse, where she cooks it over a fire and eats it with salt and pepper.

Then she climbs the steps to the top of the tower and goes out on the catwalk and looks far off toward the mainland.

She kneels down and puts her chin against the cold metal railing and says:

I reckon it's time to move along again.

Meet the Author

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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The Reapers Are the Angels 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
TMBreck More than 1 year ago
This is a slow and emotionally intense story. The main protagonist is a hard and simple young woman who is as kind as her circumstances allow her to be. I'll be honest, I cried over this book. The various people you meet through Temple are an interesting and varied lot and you get to see how vastly different people can turn out in a post-apocalyptic world. All of the characterizations made sense for the situations the characters were in, and the world building was excellent. The only reason this got a four instead of a five from me was that I didn't find it believable that people and society would still have some of the luxuries they were shown to have in the story. Fair warning: It's a brutal story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm more than willing to accept that Zombies roam the earth, but some aspects of this novel defy belief. Society collapsed at least 15 years ago, and yet the protagonist can hop into a car abandoned for decades and start it. What about fuel spoilage, battery drain? Entire cities have power. How? Who's maintaining the infrastructure? This might have been a readable novel, but the author's lazy world building spoiled it for this reader.
-Hunter More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. With all honesty, this has to be one of the best books that I've ever read. With huge twists and turns throughout the plot, with relationships and characters you'll never forget, all leading up to the shocking conclusion that will bring a tear to your eye. Hands down this has to be a book you will be reading under the covers at night, and afterwards lying on your pillow, regretting that you had read it in the dark. The only down side of his book is that it uses no quotation marks, but does add a new line with every new speaker. So to  tell who is speaking, you might have to pay close attention. 
Avid_Reader38 More than 1 year ago
This book is a quick read (you could get through it in a dedicated 2-3 hours), but it is well worth your time. I don't mind that they didn't explain how the outbreak happened, but was hard to believe that gas stations would still have gas and edible food on the shelves this many years after society decayed. But if you can activate a willing suspension of disbelief about some of the technical aspects of this book, you should really enjoy it.
The_Alternative More than 1 year ago
(Advance Readers Copy) Holt Paperbacks 2010 Trade Paperback 240 pages In light of the wealth of post-apocalyptic stories like The Book of Eli, The Road, and The Passage, now filling book shelves and movie theatres all across America "The Reapers Are the Angels" by Alden Bell turned out to be both a pleasant surprise and a real treat to read and in some ways is better than the others I've mentioned above. I had never heard of this book or the author before so had no preconceived notions concerning any hype or advertising that might be attached. I delved into it without pause and found that I literally could not put it down. Perhaps its my penchant towards post-apocalyptic fiction (you'll notice I used the word "wealth" above for good reason) which goes back to my early readings of book like Deus Irae, A Canticle For Liebowitz, and Dahlgren. So, I knew I had to read this as soon as it appeared in the mailbox. And I did, and was quite pleased to find what I believe might one of the year's best sub-genre releases. Remarkably, Reapers fits snuggly into the mold set by the Science Fiction classics mentioned earlier. The character development is extraordinary, the antagonist(s) (and yes there are more than one), and the main characters, and even the zombies, known as meatsacks, are believable and well-written. One character, and I won't spoil the story here, gets into an almost impossible situation. Later in the story he appears again with no explanation given of his escape. One wonders if another book set in the same universe from this particular characters' POV isn't in the making. I'd pay to read that one, too. 4 out of 5 stars The Alternative Southeast Wisconsin
CharminKB More than 1 year ago
FANTASTIC book!!! I was drawn in from the very beginning and flipped through the pages as quickly as I could! This novel never slows down and keeps you interested from beginning to end.....and what a shocking end it is!!! HIGHLY recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unrealistic, agree after the world ends 15 years later cars and gasoline!!! Very depressing, vague, not a great storyline. No character depth.
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
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.
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This is my all time favorite book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is full of action and suspence along with amazing characters. Temple is a girl whom the reader will be voting for until the very end. A reccomended read.
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bgdave More than 1 year ago
This is an amazingly good book that happens to be set in a zombie apocalypse. If you like The Road or Game of Thrones you will likely enjoy this. The book has a number of nice twists, an oddball section and some amazingly good sections. There is a nice Southern Gothic feel to the language and scenery that I particularly enjoyed. If you don't enjoy dark fantasy or zombies you still might find this worth your time. Highly Recommended.
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BookishBlonde More than 1 year ago
In this intelligent and affecting post-apocalyptic tale a fifteen year old zombie-killing orphan called Temple makes her way across a ruined American landscape on a mission to return a mentally handicapped man to his family, if they're still alive. She's pursued by a man sworn to kill her and haunted by a tragic past. Her story grabs you and refuses to let go until the shocking and heart-wrenching conclusion.