Book Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson

FiendFiend by Peter Stenson

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Crown (April 8, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

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.

ae969-new3-5stars

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!

12 Comments on “Book Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson”

  1. I nearly chose this from BfB last time, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t. I know for sure the lack of punctuation would have sent me over the edge. My brain needs commas and paragraphs and other breaks to fully enjoy a book! Better luck next time:-)

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    • This was the only book at BfB I was interested in, and it seemed short so I decided to give it a shot. I kinda wish I had known about the lack of quotation marks and stuff though!

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  2. No. This isn’t for me. I read a book recently and there were lots of tiny mistakes – easy to spot and easy to correct as you were going along but nonetheless totally irritating and also it kind of takes you out of the moment when you’re backtracking to get the proper sense of the sentence. I’m definitely not the grammar police but it does kind of spoil the story if there’s too much.
    Lynn 😀

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    • The lack of quotation marks and run on sentences etc. in this case aren’t so much mistakes, but a conscious choice by the author, I’m sure. I want to be able to say I’m okay with books like this, but I have to admit trying to read stream of consciousness writing stresses my brain!

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  3. Yeah, I’m not sure about this one. Being in the mind of a meth head doesn’t sound like a fun reading experience. Maybe no punctuation makes it more realistically written by a druggie, but not any easier to read. lol @ addictive pun. Nice review! 🙂

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    • It definitely wasn’t pleasant to be in Chase’s head, but I have to say it was also utterly fascinating. I may have a couple issues with this book, but Peter Stenson did a great job on that front.

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  4. This book has horrific sentence structure, horrendous literary devices, YET IM ABSOLUTELY HOOKED ON THE TALE TOLD!

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