Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dark Passages: Exit Kingdom

In Exit Kingdom, his 2012 prequel to The Reapers Are the Angels, Alden Bell once again proves himself a true poet of the post-apocalypse.   Valuing the sublime over simple blood-and-guts horror, the author composes unforgettable tableaux, such as this arresting scene of a zombie imprisoned in a frozen pond:
They gather around the cleared patch and look down.  The ice is clear, and caught under it, like some kind of horrible fish in an aquarium, is the face of a dead man staring up at them.  His body has gone soft and bloated from being underwater for so long, his eyes milky, his flesh gone pale, nibbled at by fishes, his skin peeled off and floating around him like a nest of seaweed.  They could have thought him just straight dead if it weren't for the fact that his eyes are blinking up at them sluggishly.  As they watch, the dead man raises a hand to them, his movements slow, made almost ghostly by the freezing water in which he is entombed.  He places his palm against the undersurface of the ice.
Moses knows it to be a grasp of hunger, but because the dead man doesn't seem to be able to bend his stiffened fingers, the outspread palm looks like a gesture of greeting or welcome.  The eyes continue to blink, slowly.
It is pathetic and awful, the slug trapped underwater and undrownable--like a man staring up at them from the void, waving his goodbyes as he descends, floating down peaceful into the great black.
There is a darkness to nature--the unhurried ways of birth and death.  (146-7)

Work Cited

Bell, Alden.  Exit Kingdom.  London: Tor, 2012.

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