Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"The Reapers Are the Angels"

Alden Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, whose first novel, Hummingbirds, was released in Fall 2009.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Reapers Are the Angels, and reported the following:
The Reapers Are the Angels takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape where most of civilization has holed itself up in bastions guarded against hordes of the undead. Daily life has become a very different proposition than what we are used to. On page 69, our heroine Temple encounters one household that seems to be in complete denial of the blight everywhere else in the world. Here it is:
Inside, the house looks like something she’s seen in movies—metalwork frilly like lace, the whole place kingly and oblivious. The front entrance opens onto a long hall that extends all the way through to the back around a central staircase that winds in a circle up to the second floor. Descending from the ceiling like a shower of ice is a chandelier that seems to hold the light locked selfish in its crystals rather than giving it out. The floor of the entry is marble in black and white diamonds and along the walls are grandfather clocks and half-circle tables with model ships and mahogany sideboards with sprays of flowers or ancient yellow dolls under glass bells.

The place seems untouched by the mass walking death everywhere else in the world. She looks for the stand of guns by the door, but instead she finds a rack for coats and umbrellas, a closet for muddy boots. There are no boards nailed across the windows—instead there are layers of lace and muslin tied open with thick burgundy ropes that have large toy-like tassels on the ends. There is no blood crusted brown on the walls and the floors. No lookout stations. No gunner nests. It is as though she has entered a different era entirely.

The first thing she hears when she comes through the door is a song being played on a piano. She assumes, of course, that it’s a recording—until the song stops abruptly and starts again, and she realizes someone is practicing on a real piano.

The song is a peaceful one, but also full of chords that make her ache. It’s a sad peacefulness.

Who’s playin the piano? she asks Johns.
I’ve always been fascinated by people who simply ignore the state of the world around them in favor of their own pretty fantasy lives. Sure, it would be easy to call such an act willful ignorance or sticking your head in the sand—but there’s also a kind of creative beauty about the process. In essence, these people are the artists of their own lives. They are creating fictions that they then inhabit with gusto. They keep their spirits uncorrupted by reality—and true to the ideals that they have set for themselves. This section of the novel was inspired by Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” in which an aging Southern belle refuses to submit to the changes of the modern world. Faulkner, too, is torn between scorn for her obstinacy and admiration for her sheer will.

Temple, the heroine of the book, never knew the world before the zombie apocalypse, so she has no such nostalgia. For her, it’s a unique curiosity to see a house unstained by dried blood. She likes it, but she also doesn’t understand it. In a world of such constant violence, this gentility is cute but rather foolish. It’s not surprising that for such a no-nonsense warrior girl like Temple, it will be difficult for her to stay in this frilly environment for long.
Learn more about Alden Bell's work Joshua Gaylord's website.

Writers Read: Alden Bell.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue