This review originally appeared on hahanella.com (in a longer version). BloggingForBooks.com provided the book for an honest review.
Fiend by Peter Stenson (BDWY July 9, 2013)
*** 3 stars out of 5
I think you all know how much I like reading about zombies. It brings me such joy/comfort/fear.
Chase “Crooked Cock” Daniels is a trust fund kid who got bored and started doing meth. While in rehab he meets the glorious and beautiful KK, also a recovering meth addict. They fall in love. He falls off the wagon. They break up, but he can’t get over her. Six months later, there’s a zombie apocalypse. Everyone healthy enough wakes up craving human flesh, except for Chase and his friend Typewriter. They notice something is weird, but they are just trying to get to their next hit. Chase keeps calling his ex-girlfriend, KK to see if she’s still alive. Typewriter takes them to a giant box store so they can steal guns and ammo. Eventually she calls back. She’s with her new boyfriend and he’s dying and she’s scared. They drive to her place and Chase figures out that KK is doing meth again (and she still loves her new boyfriend, Jared), Chase and Type rescue both of them and they drive to their dealer’s, The Albino, home in the woods. About every 3 pages they are taking a hit.
They plan on staying at their dealer’s place, but some backwoods clients of The Albino attack them for their supply. In a bloody battle Chase, Typewriter, and Jared end up killing the backwoods guys and The Albino. The group gets the hell out of there and heads to another dealer’s home in a bad part of town. They are attacked by Chucks (or Chucklers because they laugh when they are close), but the other dealer takes them in. While there the new dealer tells them about a friend in the local prison who is cooking. Tension rise when the new dealer doesn’t share some of his stash. Jared kills the dealer, but then KK kills him because Jared was too tweaked. KK is upset and draws comfort from Chase, but they don’t have long together because they are attacked by Chucks again. They barely escape through the basement. Typewriter gets part of his leg bitten off, but Chase gives him a shot of meth to the heart and he survives.
They make it to the jail. There are 3 other survivors (total of 6). This is where the climax of the novel takes place (the entire novel takes place within the span of a week). I won’t divulge the ending, but let’s just say, hope you weren’t feeling attached to any character.
This is clearly different than most zombie apocalypse novels. Survival is not the first instinct. And it goes against every zombie trope there is. It’s vulgar, graphic, and disturbing throughout (and not because of the zombies). The characters are hard to relate to, the problems that cause the drug use are not fully explained (at least for Chase, I understood KK), and there’s not a final, hopeful note. But maybe we shouldn’t expect that. My main issue was that I couldn’t connect to the characters. I couldn’t relate to the insatiable need for drugs. It’s not in my nature. And that’s why I was ultimately ho-hum about this book, if I was in a zombie scenario, my first thought is not going to be finding my creature comfort (though I suppose that’s not how meth addicts see it). It shouldn’t surprise me that the characters didn’t even last a week. This reminded me of the Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Also, just a quick note to say that the cover is amazing.