The SFFaudio Podcast #272 – READALONG: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #272 – Jesse, Jenny, Tamahome, and Julie Davis talk about The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters.

Talked about on today’s show:
2012, Amazon Vine, Android Karenina, Sense And Sensibility And Sea-Monsters, Quirk Books, nurturing writers, rage, apocalyptic stories, mysteries, The End Is Nigh, BRING HER TO ME, not-technically the end of the world, wretched stragglers, going bucket-list, Tam questions, “witty questions”, would you do a podcast if you knew the world was ending next year?, more classics, cozies, get your mind on someone else’s destruction, depressing things make Jesse feel good, “a jar for urine”, Jenny would forget reading, Tam would do “something involving women”, an existential novel, the mystery is secondary to the world building, planting potatoes, four or five months, brutish and horrible and short, the belt, the hoarding, money or love or jealousy or power, real random or artificial random, red herrings, Agatha Christie, the sister, hope, she networks well, the spotty cellphone service, the literary allusions, the romantic plot arc, a lot of ore to be mined, Detective Culverson, the mother and the father, the secondary characters, the coffee shop guy, the existential stuff, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, at the dentist, it’s all going to end, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, Peter Berkrot is a great narrator, “Hen” is brooding, Palace like Pallas, upon the bust of Pallas, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, nevermore, the reverential use of “freeze motherfucker”, it’s about existence, Salvador Dalí, finding reasons for existence, suicide, doing the thing that must be done, a little case of doubling, “I finally get to do what I wanted”, a noble element, the shooting, and then there’s the dog (a bichon frise), a very well put together book, doing the romance, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Distant Pale Glimmers, a Marvel vs. DC movie, Firefly, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Reading Envy, Batman, emancipation or execution, the guns anomaly (AK-47), the trilogy, the second book, Concord, New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”, Texas, “live free, then die”, first person present tense, “that noir style”, treasuring the moments, The Star by Arthur C. Clarke, Christmas, the message, where’s the seed bank on the Moon?, “think of your life as a story”, the key “Truth”, the most important thing ever, TV news is telling shitty stories, 2011 Norway Attacks, “psycho” vs. “psychotic“, “you’re not the main character”, the villain of the piece, “it would be noble, except…”, an intensification of everyday life, the rebuilding, societal change, a “novel” idea, World War Z by Max Brooks, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell, the Edgar Award, the snow, the animals, “maybe the science is off”, denying reality, seeing it with a telescope, denial doesn’t help you, The Jilting of Granny Weatherall by Katherine Anne Porter, coming to grips with mortality, assisted living movie group, alternative medicine and false hope, “a natural reaction”, quit your job and go crazy, spend time with your friends, who cares about podcasting?, “the secret to podcasting is that it’s an excuse to spend time with your friends”, podcast is a great medium, unlike The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy, “that’s not what the podcast is”, religious books, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Reading Envy, The Inklings, the formatting is facilitating, proper flow, “super-consumable”, re-readers, “this makes you think about what’s important in your life”, “a thought provoking book”, The Source, Hank’s purpose, ‘locked town mystery’, the process, empathy, a grubby little murder, caring, the insurance office, Hank Palace cares about all these stories, a Star Trek reference, The Inner Light, Picard learns to play the flute,

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Watchmen

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #116

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #116 – Scott, Jesse, Tamahome and Professor Eric S. Rabkin talk about The Space Merchants (aka Gravy Planet) by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth

Talked about on today’s show:
Frederik Pohl’s blog, differences between Gravy Planet and The Space Merchants Coca-Cola vs. Yummy Cola, com-pocalypse (a commercial apocalypse), advertizing, conservationists -> connies (or consies) is an analogue for communists -> commies, Tristan Und Isolde, Costa Rica, Chicken Little, Fowler Shocken, 1950s. Jews in “the Science Fiction ghetto”, H.L. Gold, Phlip Klass (William Tenn), Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, the Wikipedia entry for The Space Merchants, a study guide for The Space Merchants, Levittown, Man Plus, The Merchants War, Pohl’s interest in psychiatry, Gateway, structural problems in The Space Merchants, identity theft, a hero’s journey, The Odyssey, katabasis, banana republic, the United Fruit Company, Cuba, U.S. Marines in Columbia, Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders, Jack O’Shea, little people are the perfect astronauts, pilots tend to be small people, the continuing relevance of The Space Merchants, “transformed language”, The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, “the Glaciers didn’t freeze overnight” (Rome wasn’t built in a day), what side do you oil your bread on, pedaling your Cadillac into the future, are there more cars in the U.S.A. than people?, William Gibson, The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed, corporatocracy, Oliver Stone, does Wall Street run the world or is it Madison Avenue?, representative government per capita (per head) or ad valorem (to value), The Marching Morons, dystopia, utopia, citizen vs. consumer, CBC’s The Age Of Persuasion podcast, the effectiveness of advertizing, feminine hygine products, “it has wings”, coffiest vs. Starbucks, Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, how effective is advertizing?, saturation of advertizing vs. the message of advertizing itself, does advertizing work?, who consumes dog food?, soyaburger, Chlorella, algae, soylent red, despite what he says Eric is not a jerk vegetarian, seitan (wheat gluten food), Moby Dick, Mountain Dew in the U.S.A. vs. Mountain Dew in Canada, energy drinks, Jolt Cola, phial vs. vile, Philip K. Dick’s Do Android Dream Of Electric Sheep?, the Penfield Mood Organ, caffeine, Tamahome likes unsweetened chocolate, what did Montezuma drink all day long?, does has the internet lessen the impact of advertizing?, the spillage from penis enhancement, Eric bought a wide cross section of pornography, “genuine spurious placebo”, Boeing “forever new frontiers”, the Dubai Ports controversy, Cisco Systems, I, Robot, Minority Report, gesture recognition, Yelp, Wikileaks: U.S. diplomats pressed Boeing deals, Bombardier, “he came from an old family”, Kennedy, Bush, Heddy and Hester, Hedy Lamarr, Hester Prynne, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man, The Stars My Destination, “Eight sir, seven sir, six sir, five sir, four sir, three sir, two sir, one. Tenser, said the Tensor, Tenser said the Tensor. Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.” Rebecca Black’s Friday is a train wreck, Arthur C. Clarke‘s Tales From The White Heart, colonizing your brain, “you haven’t read a book until you’ve talked about it”, is solitary reading a different kind of thing than social reading?, satire, Monty Python’s “The Funniest Joke In The World” sketch, advertizing in books, advertizing in paperback novels, propaganda, recommendation vs. advertizing, making something available vs. thrusting it upon you, metaSFFaudio, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell, Flannery O’Connor with zombies, why SFFaudio doesn’t link to Amazon.com, Morning Joe, Fox News, Scott is now a politician, Douglas Adams, political debate being replaced by sound bites, Jon Stewart vs. Sean Hannity, Jon Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire, Will Rogers, communication vs. advertizing, jokes are revelations, brand awareness, why do kids want to see Transformers 3?, Cedar Rapids is a coming of age movie about the nature of friendship, why is there no commercial released audiobook of The Space Merchants?, The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein, Them!, anti-consumerism (anti-Americanism), tobacco packaging warning messages (are ads), the tobacco industry vs. the anti-tobacco industry, church advertizing, Scientology doesn’t sell the same message as many other religions, L. Ron Hubbard, A.E. van Vogt, Dianetics, the premise of Null-A, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Illustrations from the original serialization of Gravy Planet (aka The Space Merchants) in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine’s July August and September 1952 issues:

Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley
Gravy Planet illustrations by Don Sibley

Posted by Jesse Willis

If You’re Just Joining Us interviews Alden Bell

SFFaudio Online Audio

If You're Just Joining UsI know of at least a couple of people who will be very interested to hear this interview with Alden Bell. Here’s the official description:

This is a special edition of If You’re Just Joining Us. Over the next month or so, I’ll be interviewing all of the other nominees of the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award. My first is Alden Bell, which is actually the pen name of Joshua Gaylord. His book, The Reapers Are the Angels, is a zombie apocalypse set in a fallen America. We talked about zombies, bonding with his dad, teaching, prep school, his pen name, and being nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award.

Have a listen |MP3|

[via SFSignal.com]

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #094 – READALONG: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #094 – Jesse talks with Julie Davis and Gregg Margarite about Audible.com’s audiobook of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (as narrated by David Hyde Pierce)

Talked about on today’s show:
MindSwap by Robert Sheckley (SFFaudio Podcast #076), Laputa, Lilliput, acting like a Fox News commentator, the new movie version of Gulliver’s Travels, scatological humor, Spark Notes on Gulliver’s Travels, the history of censoring Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver’s Travels illustrations, essays about farts, high-heels and the low heels (are Tories and Whigs) vs. the big endians and the small endians (are protestants and Catholics), the definition of satire is that the story is so clever you don’t recognize it, comparing Mark Twain to Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain’s new/old autobiography, Grover Gardner, is there a biography of Jonathan Swift?, Jonathan Swift was a cleric?, too many atheist ministers in the Anglican church, The United Kingdom is a theocracy, A Modest Proposal, Swiftian sermons, Ireland, Queen Anne, Audible.com’s edition of Gulliver’s Travels, Jorge Luis Borges, he lies in all possible directions at once, difficulties with pronunciation, how long until the release of The Zombies Of Blefuscu?, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), Brobdingnag (land of the giants), Gulliver in Lilliput is every little boy’s fantasy (Gulliver is like Godzilla), is there a uniting theme to each section?, “your massive manliness”, an inventory of contents of Gulliver’s pockets, Gulliver’s pocket-watch is his god, the most immediate way to go to prison is to act as if the time is not what the consensual hallucination that is Standard Time isn’t, time, the humor doesn’t translate well to video, the Ted Danson Gulliver’s Travels miniseries, The Scarlet Letter, Ten Things I Hate About You, The Taming Of The Shrew, Easy A, a visual/literary double entendre, a well shot bon mot, John Cassavetes, The Tempest, Hellen Mirren as Prospero, Ian McKellen’s Richard III, Forbidden Planet, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brick, Westerns, Firefly, remix culture = culture, Dante’s Inferno, Sergio Leone, virtuous pagans, Laputa (is Ireland), floating islands (and flying islands), Isaac Asimov’s annotated Gulliver’s Travels, science, the vaccine-autism link debacle, the proper procedures for science (ask questions don’t), marble pillows, “people are people are people”, Balnibarbi, Bangsian Fantasy, Luggnagg, Pushing Daisies, Torchwood, John Irving’s The World According To Garp (and the Robin Williams movie version), the unfortunately immortal Struldbrugs, the Struldbruggian mark reminds us of Logan’s Run, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, Houyhnhnms, Edo Japan, Fumi-e, making fun of the travelogue, Stockholm syndrome, wearing yahoo skins, Gulliver is a cipher, existentialism, the waiter lives in bad faith, “don’t put down SparkNotes”, the romantics, who are the yahoos really?, “what you’re actually supposed to do in life”, “our faculties are fit like a horse’s are for running…”, “since we’re talking about finding the meaning of life…”, “and now the religious fanatic part starts to come out…”, pushing atheism on other people by denying their gods (like Zeus), Jehovah’s Witnesses, evangelical atheism is an oxymoron, ‘you can’t reason somebody out of something they weren’t reasoned into’, a misogynist’s club, the problem with polytheism, “people reading the astrology section of the newspaper are going to get us all killed”, rating the classics, dissecting a snowflake with a sledgehammer, books that teach you how to be seditious are extremely valuable, Dante Alhegeri’s Inferno, cognitive dissonance, why South Park is so important (it’s seditious), The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, The Simpsons, “critical thinking” means it is really important that you think, Craftlit, The Turn Of The Screw, Earth Abides, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell |READ OUR REVIEW|, the Epic Of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh The King by Robert Silverberg, Julie is appreciative of the Socratic SFFaudio style, A Good Story Is Hard To Find podcast, Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke, the meaning of catholic is universal, orthodox Catholic vs. unorthodox Catholic (cafeteria Catholic vs. conservative Catholic), an open source view of God (via mgfarrelly in a Boing Boing comment), Taylor Kent’s “if you don’t know Jesus you’re screwed” outro, Scientology, was the virgin Mary a surrogate mother?, Gregg expects to be in purgatory, The Book Of Eli, The Road, Mad Max, “the thing that is not” (lies), utopia, “words are the root of all problems as in we don’t match them to reality very well”, The Invention Of Lying, Ricky Gervais, Earth Abides, In Brouge, “that was the most moral extreme violence I’ve ever seen”, Belgium.

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

P.A. Staynes' illustration of Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

The Servants Drive A Herd Of Yahoos Into The Field

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #092

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #092 – Scott and Jesse talk about audiobooks, the recent arrivals and the new releases. We also talk about big box bookstores, comics, and classic audiobooks

Talked about on today’s show:
Blackstone Audio, Somewhere In Time, Richard Matheson, self-hypnosis as time travel, lame covers, “melancholy but not depressing”, Stir Of Echoes by Richard Matheson |READ OUR REVIEW|, Other Kingdoms, Bronson Pinchot, Stefan Rudnicki, Journal Of The Gun Years, Earthbound, Stir Of Echoes 2 – still stirring echoes?, The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card, Emily Janice Card, i’m always in favour of secret libraries, RadioArchive.cc, a dramatization of Fahrenheit 451, To Catch A Thief, Thief, James Caan, Spencer Tracy, Grace Kelly, France, BBC audio dramas don’t take a lot of risks, the virtues and vices of experimental audio drama, conservative audio dramas, Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg, “memory cubes in a massive library”, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Arte Johnson, Valentine Pontifex, The Space Dog Podcast #003 (vintage 1982 Silverberg), Silverberg’s 1970s Science Fiction hiatus, “trilogies are ill-conceived”, The City Of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers, Paul Michael Garcia, anagrams, “fructodism”, Terry Pratchett, Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher, book translation is re-writing a book, Cornelia Funke, The Thief Lord, The Dragonheart, Inkheart, reading books in translation, The Long Walk by Sławomir Rawicz, The Way Back, Declare by Tim Powers, Simon Prebble, coded messages, Kim Philby, the Spanish Civil War, are there soccer podcasts?, there are lots of them, Scott is a Liverpool fan, multiple readers, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, Grover Gardner, Fire Will Fall by Carol Plum-Ucci, Kirby Heyborne, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow|READ OUR REVIEW|, “audiobooks have never been healthier”, Audible Frontiers, subscription book clubs, the last first Heinlein book, For Us The Living by Robert A. Heinlein, Venus by Ben Bova, Blackstone Audio doesn’t give up on series, crazy collectors, Books On Tape, what happened to BOT?, Random House, Listening Library, Macmillan Audio, Brilliance Audio, Amazon.com, Chapters bookstores in British Columbia have very tiny audiobook sections, Barnes & Noble doesn’t love audiobooks either, Borders has a better selection, Logan, Utah, Idaho Falls, Idaho, The Walking Dead – Volume 1, zombies, Robert Kirkman, horrible zombie audiobook, Poul Anderson, Brain Wave by Poul Anderson (the subject of an upcoming readalong?), Larry Niven called it “a masterpiece”, Macmillian Audio exclusively on Audible.com, Shades Of Milk And Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, Jane Austen, The Elephant To Hollywood by Michael Caine, What’s It All About by Michael Caine, The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling, , Nancy Kress, Probability Moon, Infinivox, The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford, “surreal, unsettling, and more than a little weird”, models are incredibly interesting, SimCity, Civilization, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, John Scalzi, The Android’s Dream, Agent To The Stars, Wil Wheaton, Dancing Bearfoot, Just A Geek, Why I Left Harry’s All-Night-Hamburgers by Lawrence Watt-Evans, the SFSignal Mind Meld on the best audiobooks of all time, Scott likes Fantasy (and Science Fiction), Jesse likes Science Fiction (and Fantasy), The Best Fantasy Stories Of The Year 1989, The Wind From A Burning Woman by Greg Bear |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Children Of Men by P.D. James (Recorded Books) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Mind Slash Matter by Edward Wellen (Durkin Hayes) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, Sci-Fi Private Eye ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (Dercum Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Martian Time Slip by Philip K. Dick (Blackstone Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Ringworld by Larry Niven |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Reel Stuff edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg |READ OUR REVIEW|, Minority Report And Other Stories by Philip K. Dick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Two Plays For Voices by Neil Gaiman (Seeing Ear Theatre / Harper Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, Ender’s Game (25th Anniversary Edition) by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 1 by H.P. Lovecraft (Audio Realms) |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Chief Designer by Andy Duncan (Infinivox) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Blake’s 7 – Audio Adventures (Trilogy Box Set) (B7 Media) |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman |READ OUR REVIEW|, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart |SFFaudio Podcast #073|, The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison |READ OUR REVIEW| The Prestige by Christopher Priest |READ OUR REVIEW|, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell |READ OUR REVIEW|, Legends: Stories by the Masters of Fantasy, Volume 4 (containing The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin) |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Voice from the Edge Vol. 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison |READ OUR REVIEW|, Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster |READ OUR REVIEW|, Lawrence Santoro, Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison are their own genre, The Moon Moth, sociological Science Fiction, the George R.R. Martin Dreamsongs collections, Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey’s The Runners Of Pern, Jesse is reading a lot of comics, the Fresh Ink Online podcast, G4 vs. G4TechTV, Attack Of The Show, Penn Jillette’s video podcast, sound seeing tours (a now defunct trend in podcasting), Blair Butler, Tamahome2000, Goodreads.com, Neil Gaiman, Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?, getting into comics, Garth Ennis, Gregg Rucka, Cory Doctorow’s praise of Y: The Last Man on BoingBoing.net, Y: The Last Man is really addictive, Kansas, Batwoman: Elegy, Rachel Maddow,

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell

SFFaudio Review

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden BellSFFaudio EssentialThe Reapers Are The Angels
By Alden Bell; Read by Tai Sammons
6 CDs – Approx. 6.8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: August 2010
ISBN: 9781441765994
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Zombies / Post-Apocalypse / The South /

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

Like those fish all disco-lit in the shallows. That was something, a marvel with no compare that she’s been witness to. It was deep night when she saw it, but the moon was so bright it cast hard shadows everywhere on the island. So bright it was almost brighter than daytime because she could see things clearer, as if the sun were criminal to the truth, as if her eyes were eyes of night. She left the lighthouse and went down to the beach to look at the moon pure and straight, and she stood in the shallows and let her feet sink into the sand as the patter- waves tickled her ankles. And that’s when she saw it, a school of tiny fish, all darting around like marbles in a chalk circle, and they were lit up electric, mostly silver but some gold and pink too. They came and danced around her ankles, and she could feel their little electric fish bodies, and it was like she was standing under the moon and in the moon at the same time. And that was something she hadn’t seen before. A decade and a half, thereabouts, roaming the planet earth, and she’s never seen that before.

And you could say the world has gone to black damnation, and you could say the children of Cain are holding sway over the good and the righteous—but here’s what Temple knows: She knows that whatever hell the world went to, and whatever evil she’s perpetrated her own self, and whatever series of cursed misfortunes brought her down here to this island to be harbored away from the order of mankind, well, all those things are what put her there that night to stand amid the Daylight Moon and the Miracle of the Fish—which she wouldn’t of got to see otherwise.

See, God is a slick god. He makes it so you don’t miss out on nothing you’re supposed to witness firsthand.

I actually asked to review this book because I’d seen it described as a “twist on the southern gothic: like Flannery O’Connor with zombies.” As someone who has just begun to appreciate Flannery O’Connor’s writing this hit me like a challenge. However, as I listened to the first chapter, I was struck by the unexpected beauty of the writing and themes that many people wouldn’t attempt, especially in a zombie book. This unexpected beginning was merely the first of the many surprises that Alden Bell had for me in The Reapers Are The Angels.

Temple is a fifteen year old girl who was born ten years after the zombie apocalypse happened. No attempt is made to understand or solve the zombie problem. No government has been formed from the survivors. It is a world with pockets of survivors who set up such systems as seem good to them individually. Chaos rules. Temple has never known a world where zombies were not part of the landscape and this gives us a unique perspective into the apocalyptic novel. It is the world of the survivors where the zombies are a danger but not a shock.

Temple is a fearless drifter, moving from place to place to see wonders or carry out such tasks as she feels she has been given to perform. One such task is when she comes across a severely retarded man in a poignant scene where he is running from zombies with his dead grandmother in his arms. She takes on the task of getting the man, who she calls “Dummy” until she learns his name (Maury), to a safe place where he will be looked after. A wealth of information is conveyed in that name, “Dummy.” This is a world where politically correct doesn’t matter, where truth can sound hard but be kind. Temple is matter-of-fact because that is the only coin that counts in a world where zombies roam wild.

Early in Temple’s travels she encounters the man who becomes her nemesis. Interestingly enough, they understand each other better than any other people on earth, although they are at odds. Both are “God-haunted,” both recognize the truth and resolve it takes to “stay right.” He wants to kill Temple and she understands why, but nevertheless is not going to let him succeed. She is also afraid of something evil within herself which keeps her on the move. In the process of evading her relentless pursuer and caring for her protoge, Temple roams across the South, encountering a wide variety of wanderers and societies. Some are clinging to hopes of returning to normalcy, some accept the new way of the world but refuse to understand it for what it is. Many people encountered are kind and a surprising number of them are also traveling despite the uncertain times. All are shown through Temple’s honest gaze which even can understand and accept the zombies as long as she isn’t being attacked.

This doesn’t mean that Temple is only pragmatic, however. She is weighed down with grief from past actions, which we gradually discover in the course of the novel. She feels joy and wonderment at events such as the fish in the excerpt above and her overriding desire is to see Niagara Falls some day. As she chatters to the largely speechless Maury we see the natural personality of a 15-year-old girl emerge every so often.

I have never read a book with this perspective. I love a good apocalypse story, watching the survivors get over the shock or succumb depending on their natures, watching the alternative governments set up, watching the various ways that everyone attempts to restore the most important aspects of the status quo. This book has no such moments. The world already has “gone to black damnation” but even so there are moments of beauty, meditation on what is right, suspense over what Temple will find in each town, whether she can get Maury to safety, how she will finally elude the determined killer on her trail, and what the evil is that she feels is deep within her. I rarely have listened to a book with such intensity or found myself surprised as often by the lyrical, fluid writing.

Tai Sammons narrates this book with restrained clarity. She has the ability to seamlessly shift into accents from upper class to hardscrabble Southerner while taking on the characters so that the listener tends to forget that there is just one person reading. She does this without altering her voice much either which is a rare skill and one that enhanced the book greatly. In fact, after I found out that the print version does not have quotation marks used for dialogue, I realized that in listening to Sammons’ narration I was enjoying this book in probably the best format for easy understanding. (This experience made me reconsider reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy who is known for both excellent stories and also for the difficulty of reading his prose. I will be seeking out the audio version.)

As with the best science fiction or fantasy, ultimately this story is about much larger issues than hordes of wandering zombies, who have the least presence of any monsters I’ve ever read about. There is blood aplenty, make no mistake, but zombies are far less dangerous that what lies within Temple and her pursuer. The book is not perfect. Some of the plot details are immediately obvious, although they take Temple a long time to figure out, which can be a bit frustrating to the reader. However, overall the book packs its equal share of surprises in plot which more than compensate for the failures.

The Reapers Are The Angels looks at the pursuit of beauty, the pursuit of God, the flight from inner demons, and the fact that none of us can ever see the whole truth at any time. We are too small and truth is woven too large. It isn’t Flannery O’Connor but it doesn’t need to be to accomplish the same thing that O’Connor always wrote about. The Reapers Are The Angels is a book about being human with all the questions and struggles that humans have had throughout time. Highest recommendation.

Posted by Julie D.