Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Code of the Old West

The Reapers Are the Angels, by Alden Bell, is a whole other kind of zombie book. Temple is walking the world like Kwai Chang Caine, going where the day takes her, looking around her at the mysteries and miracles on God's earth.  Most of the people left huddle behind walls and wait for the "real" world to return--a world that's been gone for 25 years. 

Not Temple.  She is strong, and fast with her knife.  She can take care of herself, and there are supplies to be found, and the zombies are slow zombies.  There are other dangers in the world, though--people, and other sorts of monsters.  But it's a world full of good people, taking care of themselves and each other.

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

The rhythms of the language is amazing--Temple's voice is southern, rural, with the cadence of cowboys.  Her understanding of the world is like that, too--simple, naturalistic, immediate.  She's done things that horrify her, but she's not looking for redemption--just something to do with herself until whatever is going to happen is finished happening.

This is not a book about urgency.  It's a book about the pace of life, and how it unravels before you.  Temple wanders through enclaves of safety, meets other people who roam, sees horrors worse than any zombie.  She earns an enemy--the character most like her in the story, whose sense of honor and wonder matches hers--and travels to leave him behind and to find a future for the helpless stray she's picked up.  But while this plot is strong enough to drive the book, the point of the story is to look around at a world that no longer belongs to civilization, but only to God--in the form of nature, of individual people, and of the wonders civilization left behind.

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