Book Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Crown (April 8, 2014)
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Despite the modest page count and a fascinating premise about what the zombie apocalypse would look like if meth heads were the only survivors – which, I have to say, is a pretty awesome social thought experiment – it still took me a long time to read this book, the reason being I could only take it in small doses on account of how incredibly obnoxious it was.
It wasn’t even so much the nihilistic and transgressive-like style of storytelling, or the fact that the drug-addled characters are so infuriatingly unlikeable down to the very last person. At the end of the day, while being in the mind of a junkie might not be all sunshine and lollipops, I actually thought Peter Stenson did a fantastic job painting a very vivid and realistic perspective.
No, the real reason I had such a hard time is because I’m a big fan of punctuation. Quotation marks are our friends! But anyway, Fiend begs to differ. I can’t say I’m thrilled with the lack of punctuation or the continuous stream-of-consciousness writing style, and yet I’m also not such a stickler for it that I would dismiss the whole book because of it. Did it affect my enjoyment of the novel though? I tried not to let it, but to a degree it did. If anything, it was because trying to read this book for prolonged periods of time would inevitably give me a massive headache.
I’ll give it this, though: at no point did I ever consider throwing in the towel. The story was just too addictive, if you would pardon the borderline tasteless pun. It marries one unpleasant subject (drug abuse) with another (zombies) and the results are pretty interesting in that hideous-but-I-just-can’t-stop-looking way. The end of the world is at hand. Everyone just went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up in the morning, and some of those individuals have reanimated to become the walking dead. For whatever reason, the only survivors are people like Chase Daniels, a long time meth addict. Chase was so high that for days he hadn’t even known the zombocalypse had arrived, and he actually thought his first exposure to it – a little girl in his front yard tearing out the throat of a dog and eating it – was a drug-induced hallucination.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a junkie. I won’t even pretend to know. But just to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, Chase and his friends are the kind of people who would sell their own mothers for a hit, so you can only imagine the world we’re left with, with him and his fellow addicts being the only survivors. There’s no trust, no morals, no self-control, and hence no chance in hell of society ever rebuilding. Add to that, the characters discover that continuing to do drugs it the only way to stay alive and keep from turning into the monsters. There you go: survival and self-destruction, two sides of the same coin. Kinda puts an interesting spin on your typical zombie story, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. To be fair, given the nature of the story, I would have been surprised if I would have gotten a satisfying conclusion, but it was still very abrupt and left things hanging – and that’s a big pet peeve.
To sum up: fascinating book, offering a different approach to zombies and the end of the world. I found Chase Daniels and his narration intensely off-putting, but I also see that as a testament to the author’s skill to write a believable, meth-addicted anti-hero type protagonist. The only things that kept me from enjoying this novel more was the writing style (though admittedly it worked very well for the story and character) and the ending. I would still heartily recommend this one to zombie fiction enthusiasts and those who are interested in checking out a unique take on the genre.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Crown Publishing!