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.
from MacMillan's website
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.
It is a bleak and desolate world, with pockets of humanity scattered around the country. The world is inhabited by both humans and zombies (referred to in the book as "meatskins" or "slugs"), although these zombies really aren't quite as terrifying as in most zombie stories. They're sorta slow and meandering, and relatively easy to defeat. I'm really surprised at how many people get killed or attacked by them and how feared they are, all things considered!
In this desolate world, it is the humans that are far more dangerous than the zombie population. And alone in this world is a young, tenacious fifteen-year-old girl, being chased by her own demons.
I love Temple. She's haunting, but strong and courageous and smart and sympathetic. There is really something of a kinship between her and the character of Moses Todd. They really "get" one another. It's as if they are playing by the same rules in the same game, while everyone else in the world is playing by a different set of rules. The two of them are the reapers in a world of saints and sinners , and Temple is a little uncomfortable with her role in this world.
I also love the cover of this book! It transfixes me everytime my eyes fall on it.
Oh, please someone make this into a movie! What a fun movie this could be! I can see the scenes playing out in my head. However I also have a bit of an alternate ending playing out in my head as well.
There is definitely some "suspension of disbelief" required, beyond that required for a basic zombie/post-apocalyptic story. For instance, the fact that this is supposed to be something like 25 years after zombies appeared on the scene and the breakdown of government and society and life as it was known, and yet there is still gas available in working gas stations, and the gas hasn't gone bad after sitting for decades. Shoot! The gas can go bad in a weed-eater or lawn mower after just sitting for one season!
I really enjoyed this story! If you like post-apocalyptic, give this one a tumble. It's a quick and easy read, very well-written, with some fun, rip-roaring moments. And it also increased my vocabulary! Here's a few of the words that I was introduced to:
mizzle, page 155
Definition: to rain in a fine mist; drizzle
Usage: "She rises to her feet and blinks, and her eyes are like bleached wafers set against the brown mizzle of blood already drying in flakes on her cheeks and lips and neck."
residuum, page 155
Definition: Something remaining after removal of a part; a residue
Usage: "She raises no hand to cleanse herself, marked as she is with a violence ritualistic and primitive as those hunters who would decorate themselves with the ornamental residuum of their prey."
tintamarre, page 165
Definition: a clangor or din; merry noisemaking
Usage: "The low tintamarre of thunder in the distance sounds like a medieval cannon reaching them not just over a stretch of miles but over a stretch of centuries-- as though they are following the river back into their own primitive pasts."
shivaree, page 165
Definition: a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds
Usage: "That shivaree ain't gonna hurt you. It's just God makin a spectacle of himself at the marryin of earth and heaven."
(I love this one!)
appurtenances, page 200
1: an incidental right attached to a principal property right and passing in possession with it
2: a subordinate part or adjunct
3 plural: accessory objects: Apparatus
Usage: "Some of the garage doors stand open, and she can see the appurtenances of suburban life lined up along the inside walls: mowers and lawn chairs and kayaks, gardening implements whose functions she cannot interpret, hammers and saws and drills hanging from hooks on large holed boards suspended over workbenches."
muzzy, page 200
1: Mentally confused; muddled.
2: Blurred; indistinct
Usage: "The rain has tapered off, but the windshield wipers still clear away a thick muzzy moisture like dew that blurs her view."
I look forward to more from Alden Bell! And, thanks to his biography and list of favorite books, I've now added two new books to my Wish List. From the synopsis for Smonk, I can see where he got his inspiration for The Reapers are the Angels!
My Rating: 9 out of 10
(UPDATED 8/5/10: I've found that this book has really stuck with me and sort of haunted me in ways. Therefore I have bumped my rating up from an 8.5 to a 9. Fantastic!)