The Reapers are the Angels
By Alden Bell
Narrated by Tai Sammons
Ⓟ 2010, Blackstone Audio
7.4 recorded hours
When I was in high school and VHS tape players had become household items, I rented George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ I thought it was lame. I laughed and went to bed. And then proceeded to torture myself with imagining myself in a shopping mall, hopelessly surrounded by zombies. If you read my post about The Amityville Horror, you may realize that horror, bedtime and an overactive imagination are the prime ingredients for that peculiar psychological stew that I get myself into and that I’m sure mental health professionals would love to savor at hourly rates… So it should come as no surprise that I’ve never really bought into the zombie culture. I don’t recoil at the thought of zombies like I do Satan, but you have to give me more than the fact that there are zombies involved for me to be interested. In the case of The Reapers are the Angels, the deciding factor was this review written by Julie D. over at SFF Audio, appropriately titled, “Review of The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell.” Now, even though I have not read or listened to any Flannery O’Connor (hangs head in shame) and Julie D. clearly states “It isn’t Flannery O’Connor…” the review managed to hit upon my literary pretentiousness and intrigue me. So off to the warehouse I went and snagged an MP3-CD.
“God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe.”
Those are the opening lines to the some of the most mesmerizing, beautifully wrought and gorgeous writing I’ve ever experienced. The basic linear narrative is that a fifteen-year-old girl from Tennessee treks through points South to deliver a charge (a retarded man) to his home in Texas. The world had changed in the past twenty-five years so that the landscape is populated by zombies; but far from this being some sort of cheap gimmick, the zombies serve as the counterpoints to the passages about civilization, humanity and, lots of “deep thoughts.” Shades of ‘I am Legend’ (by Richard Matheson, starring Will Smith) come to mind; but then again it’s much more than that, with its Carson McCullers-plus-George Romero writing style and the sense I’m listening to lit-fic rather than pulp. Yes, some of the scenes are gory, but there is a both a macabre and entrancing quality to those scenes that keeps the listener riveted. There are scenes imprinted in my mind’s eye like a dream with the same sense of surreality.
“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.”
As for Tai Sammons, she was dead-on right as the voice of Temple, the protag in this story. The audio sounded like Temple telling her story, with Temple casting the roles of the other characters, not Tai. And Tai also kept true to the voice of Temple throughout the story, even when it could have easily shifted into another narrative voice.
If this wasn’t the end-of-the-year crunch for me when I was trying to finish up all my challenges, I would do something I have never done before: re-listen to it immediately. I suspect that the ending isn’t what many people would like or expect; but it really couldn’t be any other way and still be “true.” Loved this audiobook.
OTHER: I borrowed a library CD copy of The Reapers are the Angels (by Alden Bell; narrated by Tai Sammons) from Blackstone Audio. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.