Bell, Alden: The Reapers are the Angels (2010)

The Reapers are the Angels - Alden Bell

“Doggone it, she says. Why do livin and dyin always have to be just half an inch apart?”

Bloody hell! Some reviews hurt more than others to write.

My father was a couple of years old before the Germans invaded Norway during WWII. He had passed his 7th birthday when they left. Yet there are quite a few things he remembers from that time. Especially one thing stands out with regard to The Reapers are the Angels. During the war a certain wildness was permitted in children. Many of the little ones were used by older kids to get at the German soldiers. Being little made it less likely you would get shot. Then the war ended. All of a sudden children were expected to become normal children. As my father tells that was not a simple task to perform, even for a seven year old boy. His father returned changed from POW camp. His mother had retained a great deal of psychological scarring from the war. And my father was a wild one.

Today we have more information about the mental processes of war-time experiences on children who grow up in them. One child tells of his killing as a child-soldier:

“The youngest was a girl about six. She was shooting at me.” (IRIN Africa)

In reading about young Temple, only 15 years old, her traumatized psyche was easy to see. Her feelings of guilt, being evil, should have been able to make different choices are all classic symptoms of a child with PTSD. PTSD is something I have knowledge of and I had no problem identifying with Temple a great many times.

“She eases herself to the ground and wonders when she will eventually die because she’s awfully tired, so terribly tired, and Moses Todd is right – there are debts she owes to the perfect world and she feels like she has cheated them for too long already.”

Death is nothing I fear. Each and every one of us must end our journeys there. Some of us are less afraid of it than others. For Temple her journey has brought her to the brink of death many times in her fights for survival against the slugs. She bears them no ill will. After all, a world with meatskins is all she has ever known. Accepting the world as it is seems to be her strongest quality. Somehow there is beauty to be found in just about every circumstance Temple encounters, even in her encounter with the mutants.

When Temple is saved by the half humans/half slugs you would think she had stumbled upon a gang of “krokodil-junkies” (drug used in Russia that makes your outside and insides look grosse – Slate) taken to the extreme. One thing addicts have shown us is that if the buzz is considered strong enough by its user it will be taken no matter its side-effects. The effects of injecting zombie juice into a human body are devastating. But addicts will be addicts.

“Oh lord, Royal says, marching around the room in circles. I got a fire in me, Bodie. Right now? Right now I could fuck a hole in the world. I swear to God a’mighty I could fuck and new Grand Canyon all by myself.”

Like I said – a buzz one might want repeated.

Nothing in The Reapers are the Angels points toward a happy ending for Temple. But happy endings are illusions caused by a death put off for a while longer. Sometimes there is happiness to be found in the moment of death and that is all we can hope for for our beautiful little Sarah Mary Williams, AKA Temple.


Reviews:


The Reapers are the Angels on MacMillan


2010: Nominated for Philip K. Dick Award

2010: Nominated for Shirley Jackson Award

2011: Winner of ALA Alex Award


Growing up with war:

2 thoughts on “Bell, Alden: The Reapers are the Angels (2010)”

  1. Reblogged this on sohardtobeoriginal and commented:
    Reading this, and associated posts (at the bottom of the original page), really forces me to think hard about how I portray children and young people in my writing.

    It is amazing what can be done to children – a topic I feel is fairly well presented in Paul Hoffman’s fantasy trilogy, which I have written about previously.

    Like

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