© 2018 by Joshua Gaylord.

the reapers are the angels

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.

ala alex award winner
finalist for the philip k. dick award, 2010

finalist for the shirley jackson award, 2010

The Reapers Are the Angels is soaked in all the viscera, bile and 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. In The Reapers Are the Angels Alden Bell has managed something improbable and striking: a disconcertingly beautiful tale of zombie apocalypse.

*

—Charlie Huston, author of Sleepless

It's zombies meets the Southern Gothic tradition in Alden Bell's dark yet luminous novel The Reapers Are the Angels. . . . 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.

*

—Carol Memmott, USA Today

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

The last thing I expected from a post-zombie-apocalypse novel was a book both literary and enthralling, but that’s what The Reapers Are the Angels delivers. The writing is excellent and the characters well developed, rooting around through the ruins of our civilization looking for something more than survival, but playing the hands they’re dealt in the meantime.

*

—Ernest Lilly, New York Review of Science Fiction

The Reapers Are the Angels sparks the imagination and pulls at the gut. The story is evocatively written and eloquent in its ghastly details. Bell's writing is lyrical, intense and disturbingly violent. The Reapers Are the Angels is more than a grisly and satisfying horror yarn—it's a horror story with a soul.

*

—Julie Williamson, Deseret News

Far better than any other zombie fiction I have yet to come across, this book brings its reader into a dark, bleak, zombie-infested wasteland occasionally lit by rays of sunshine. . . . An excellent read I would recommend for those who love zombies, as well as those who love a good story.

*

—Jason Kapp, The Star Phoenix

Alden Bell provides an astonishing twist on the southern gothic: like Flannery O'Connor with zombies.

*

—Michael Gruber, author of The Book of Air and Shadows

In the current crop of zombie stories, the prevailing value for the beleaguered survivors is a sort of siege mentality, a vigilance so constant and unremitting that it's indistinguishable from the purest paranoia.  It's astonishing, then, to come across a zombie tale like Alden Bell's novel The Reapers Are the Angels, 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 Reapers Are the Angels isn't in any sense a didactic novel, but there's a lesson in its leisurely manner: if you take the time to see and feel and think, the world, dire as it is, can lose some of its terrors.

*

—Terrence Rafferty, New York Times

This may be the most beautiful book about zombies this reviewer has ever read.

*

Library Journal, starred review

I can come right out and say this is the most literary, gorgeously written, and most suspenseful book about a fifteen year old girl who happens to fight zombies you are likely to ever read. . . . The last third of this book is almost unbearably suspenseful, with a shocking (to me, anyway) but ultimate satisfying ending. Alden Bell names Buffy, Deadwood, William Faulkner and George Romero as his influences, and from the first page, his writing simply shines.

*

—Kim Alexander, Fiction Nation

This is a beautifully written book about faith and survival. . . . Bell is an incredible writer. The internal and external dialog of Temple draws a true feeling of empathy from the reader for her and her struggles. The author is able to paint a vivid picture of a world in collapse. Part Western and part southern gothic, Bell's work is the perfect zombie book for non-horror readers.

*

—Scott Jarzombek, Poughkeepsie Journal

A lot of people have done the reserved masculinity in which McCarthy specializes. . . . And how many authors have done to death poor, ignorant Southern girls who see beauty and love God? The special genius of Bell is to unite the two archetypes, and many more, in the skin of the most appealing teenage-girl-slayer-of-the-undead since Buffy’s first incarnation (Kristy Swanson, not Sarah Michelle Gellar.) . . . Bell’s central concern is not zombies but a 21st-century extension of the most venerable continuously active theme in American literature: the end of the frontier. . . . One almost suspects a wry joke in Bell’s echo of McCarthy’s distinctive voice. Although McCarthy’s novels are filled with bad men and the men who struggle against them, they are ostentatiously devoid of moral content. When, rarely, his men are good (and there are almost no women), their goodness is more like a tribal affiliation. Their purposeless amorality is mythopoeic. Reapers, on the other hand, is about a woman, and there is almost nothing the living in it do that is not motivated either by the characters’ moral sense or its stepsister, the love of beauty. For a gore-soaked apocalyptic romp, the book has a decidedly 19th-century feel.

*

—Peter Coates, The Second Pass

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.  Somewhere, George A. Romero is smiling.  And, hopefully, warming up his camera.

*

—Tom Franklin, author of Smonk and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Bell has created an exquisitely bleak tale and an unforgettable heroine whose eye for beauty and aching need for redemption somehow bring wonder into a world full of violence and decay.

*

Publisher's Weekly, starred review

In The Reapers Are the Angels, text flows with a providential force that delivers the story from the temporality of the flesh—and the flesh-eating—into high-stakes biblical territory, where the dramas of the living (and living dead) take their cue from the Word of the Lord, that quirky, time-tested author narrating in the sky—or living and writing in New York. . . . The vision is as towering, awful, and miraculous as they come, written down by a writer whose work is a testament to the lure of language.

*

—Meghan Roe, The Brooklyn Rail

At just over 200 pages, Angels doesn’t give [its heroine] time to wear out her welcome, and whenever the introspection gets too heavy, there’s always another round of satisfying carnage to lure readers down the next dusty road. Grade: A-.

*

—Christian Williams, A.V. Club

It's the same old zombie story but told with a whimsical Deep South flavor some have compared to Flannery O'Connor. Call it "A Good Dead Man is Hard to Find." . . . [T]his is a must-read for those who like their literature both brain-specked and philosophical. And for those who thought Cormac McCarthy's The Road could have used a little zombie.

*

—Micah Mertes, Lincoln Journal Star