When I first heard Bryan Davis announce his new book, Reapers, I was unsure if the storyline was one I would enjoy. A Christian story about taking people’s spirit’s from their dead bodies? In addition, the book has also been likened to the popular series, The Hunger Games; one I thought was quite gruesome. Then I read Reapers for myself and asked, “Why did I doubt Davis’ writing?” The book was no doubt different, but delivered deep themes that the target audience (Teen Fiction) need in this day and age to mature into people who can stand strong even in the face of extreme adversity.
The setting in Reapers is sci-fi, set in Chicago. But don’t let the familiar name fool you, the world described in this story is quite different than the one we know. The main character, Phoenix, is a “reaper” living in a Chicago district he has been assigned to. The main storyline is about three young people who are caught up in the political arena of the Council and their devices. Phoenix and his two friends, Singapore and Shanghai, must question everything they’ve been taught to find the truth of what happens to people when they die. The Council says everyone goes to heaven. Yet, there is a group of people who believe in the Abyss. An alternate, eternal dwelling place. If the Abyss is real, what happens to the souls that go there and why wouldn’t the Council want people to know about it? People who believe in the Abyss are considered rebels. If any of what the rebels say is true, that means being a reaper isn’t quite the noble job it’s portrayed to be. This book sets up the fight for truth that Phoenix, Singapore and Shanghai begin. Because book one has a lot of details, I won’t go into an in-depth recap of the story, but I’d like to go over is how ghosts appear in the story, what the connection with the Hunger Games is and finally, why I think this would be a good series for Christian young people to read. (To learn more about the story, be sure to watch the book trailer at the end of this review!)
What is a reaper?
First, we must settle what a reaper is in context to this story. Reapers are each assigned a district to live in and are responsible for reaping the souls of those who die in that district. When someone dies, the reaper “takes” the soul of the person and keeps them in their “cloak” until they collect enough souls to make a trip to the Gateway. At the Gateway, the reaper delivers them and the souls are taken to heaven. Each reaper is given a quota/number of souls they must collect before they can go to the Gateway. They cannot make a trip to the Gateway without the correct number.
Are there ghosts in this story?
In Reapers, a ghost is the soul of a person who escaped being reaped at death and wanders the earth until a reaper finds them, reaps the soul and delivers them to the Gateway. I thought it was very creative to portray a ghost in this way and feel that it lines up with Biblical principles. When we die, we will not stay in our body – our spirit continues to live for eternity, in one of two places. A ghost in Reapers is capable of walking through doors and things like that (though they can’t pick things up and feel objects.) After Jesus rose from the dead and had a resurrected body, He also walked through walls. The largest difference here is that Davis adapted some of the finer points of being a spirit/ghost to fit his story, but we ought not to think that the basic concept of being a spirit weird or odd. The important thing is that these “ghosts” are not portrayed as a being that scares people when they least expect it.
How does this series resemble the Hunger Games?
Personally, I did not see the resemblance between Reapers and the Hunger Games until the end of the book. Then, there came a scene when the leaders forced Phoenix to make a decision – there were two people and he had to decide which one would live. Like Katniss and Peta in the first Hunger Games movie, who refused to fight against each other when they were the last two alive in the games; Phoenix didn’t play be the rules given to him – he took action in a way that would save both his friends. I’ll let you read the book to find out if he succeeded.
One of many…
When Bryan Davis pens a story, there will be multiple spiritual themes and depths to each one. As I was writing this review, I realized how much the question of life after death appears in Phoenix’s story. Like Phoenix, my generation is bombarded with the viewpoint that all roads lead to God and eventually, everyone will make it to heaven. We are told that there is no such thing as sin – a penalty for it – or, having to choose a belief and answer for it. To point out that there is a Hell (an Abyss, so to speak) is to be labeled an enemy. At some point in life, you can’t just accept what everyone around you says, like Phoenix, you must search for the truth and stand for what you believe in, even when others persecute you for it. I like how Davis has woven this topic into the framework of this novel and in return challenges everyone who reads it to search for what really is true and not just popular opinion. A subject this important deserves our own research and not just casually tagging along with what the world is currently going with. On the other hand, I have not read the next two books in the trilogy to see if this theme follows that exact path, but it does seem to be headed in that direction. We’ll have to wait and see!
Conclusion: If your teens are into sci-fi/fantasy books like The Hunger Games or ghost stories and you’re uncomfortable with the material on the mainstream market – I recommend this series (and anything Davis writes) as a Christian alternative. I can honestly say that you will never have to worry about this author writing anything inappropriate or distasteful. It amazes me how Davis can take a subject that naturally would be difficult to write something positive about and create a story that challenges people to have character, compassion and courage. The characters in the story grow and ask questions that reflect the same struggles our young people (and people of all ages) face today. This kind of material is so needed in our culture. The story may not sound like something you would want your young people reading, but trust me, there is a theme that goes deeper than the storyline itself. I’m glad that there are Christian authors who aren’t afraid to write about things that are different, yet, with sensitivity. Thank you Bryan Davis, for being a good influence on our young adults – they need more authors like you!
More information on Reapers, including a sample of the first chapter, can be found —> here
Purchase Paperback —> here
Purchase Kindle version —> here
Purchase Nook version —> here
Watch Book Trailer…