Where and when did I find blogger and author H. E. Ellis? I have no frickin’ idea. Maybe she found my blog. Who knows? What I do know is that she is a hilarious Italian-American, Floridian-New Englander, all-woman yet one-of-the-guys, accomplished author and blogger. I believe she has gone the self-publishing route so far with what she’s got out there. I applaud those who do that, which I plan to do someday (should I ever, you know, write something longer than a couple thousand words), because it gets your stuff out there and helps to build an audience. I also applaud those who go through the hideously demeaning process of trying to convince an agent (whose focus of course HAS to be on instant, popular, marketability of a book, rather than quality) that their stuff will sell.
Enough digression. “Reapers With Issues” is a series of 4 books. “Reapers With Issues” itself is the first one, followed by “Reapers With Fangs”, “Reapers With Ray Guns”, and “Jesus and the Second Coming: Die Harder.” The primary author, as I understand it, of the first two is H. E. Ellis herself, with Tom Elias, S. Quinn Shaw, and Mikhail Vlakfeld. The primary author of the last 2 in the series is Tom Elias, with help from the other three. Elias is the author of the rousing sci-fi update of “Beauty and the Beast” from H. E.’s collaborative effort of “F*cked-up Fairy Tales,” so it makes sense that he would do something with ray guns.
Enough of the further digression. “Reapers With Issues” is a short novel, one could almost say novella, with its tongue firmly planted in its hollow cheek (reapers having no physical form). Though my Bible knowledge is sketchy, the main characters, as I understand them, are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, or The Grim Reaper (known mostly as “Grim” and “Head Reaper-In-Charge, Office of Human Death, Purgatory”), War, Pestilence and Famine, as well as Lucifer, Jesus “Skippy” Christ, and the “Head Dude” himself, God. There are a few minor characters, such as Pedro the drug dealer, Fran the hot secretary, Genghis Khan, and Brian, the “Merry Fucking Christmas” killer, who shot up a shopping mall at holiday time before sending himself to hell. The main premise of the book is that Grim and his 3 fellow reapers are WAY overworked, beg God for more reapers, have Skippy Christ (imagine William H. Macy in one of his “milktoasty guy” roles, only with long hair) sent in by God to “lead” them, with Lucifer playing pranks on them at every turn, and you have the general idea.
Lest you think this book extremely blasphemous, rest assured it portrays Jesus as nothing but Goodness and Light (with a lot of naivete and a big dash of ineptitude thrown in). Well, for the most part anyway. I’m a big fan of the little cutaway scenes in “Family Guy” where someone (Peter?) asks something like, “What if Jesus hadn’t fully applied himself”?, and they show modern Jesus vegging away in his chair, surrounded by screaming kids, loudly asking “Honey, why is the ironing board still out??”, so I don’t mind a bit of fun poked at Biblical figures. But, still, I sorta felt the need for a cleansing after reading this, because it is nonstop raucous humor at the expense of the Reapers, and doesn’t hesitate to poke lighthearted fun at God, Jesus and Lucifer.
If I had a complaint about this at all, it’s that it took me a while to buy into some of the details of it. Since the Reapers really have no form, they have to wear “meat suits” (bodies of freshly-reaped people, if I understand correctly) to be able to interact with humans. I also didn’t really realize that Lucifer was considered to be the brother of Jesus (my 2 and a half minutes of Googling this led me to a confusing array of info, but basically the fallen angel and the unfallen ones are all children of God, or are they really?). One needs to fully buy into the idea of Lucifer being Jesus’ brother to appreciate a lot of the jokes.
This is H.E., and company’s, fantasy escape story, with humor that is anything but dry. Very little is politically correct here, with fun being poked at corporate bureaucracy (Office of Human Death being the corporation here) and lots of buddy-making-fun-of-buddy humor. “Nothing is sacred” isn’t just a statement about this book, it’s basically the theme of it.
If I had any caveat about the book, (I wanted to use “caveat” because every aspiring writer needs to use at least one pretentious word per day), it would be that the first-time reader of H.E. Ellis, if “Reapers” were the first thing they read of hers, wouldn’t know what an excellent author of more “straight-up” fiction she is. She also is in the process of doing a 5-part series called “The Gods of Asphalt“, which, to be quick about it, is a young-adult series, only more from a male point of view. I’ve only read the first one in the series (not sure if she’s published the second yet), but it was quite good (expect an actual review when I extract the hook in my ass from the hole in my chair), and, though it had its fair share of brother-on-brother locker-room type humor, was serious and caring without being boring or maudlin. In other words, she can be funny and she can be serious, and pull off both quite well. Is either series Pulitzer-Prize material? Probably not. Should she be famous and make gobs of money writing someday soon? As Lucifer might say: “Damn straight, Skippy!”