July 17, 2014

Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson

July 17, 2014
Title: Fiend
Author: Peter Stenson
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Source: Blogging for Books
Genre: Adult, Post Apocalyptic, Horror

There’s more than one kind of monster.

When Chase Daniels first sees the little girl in umbrella socks tearing open the Rottweiler, he's not too concerned. As a longtime meth addict, he’s no stranger to horrifying, drug-fueled hallucinations.
But as he and his fellow junkies soon discover, the little girl is no illusion. The end of the world really has arrived.
The funny thing is, Chase’s life was over long before the apocalypse got here, his existence already reduced to a stinking basement apartment and a filthy mattress and an endless grind of buying and selling and using. He’s lied and cheated and stolen and broken his parents’ hearts a thousand times. And he threw away his only shot at sobriety a long time ago, when he chose the embrace of the drug over the woman he still loves.
And if your life’s already shattered beyond any normal hopes of redemption…well, maybe the end of the world is an opportunity. Maybe it’s a last chance for Chase to hit restart and become the man he once dreamed of being. Soon he’s fighting to reconnect with his lost love and dreaming of becoming her hero among civilization’s ruins.
But is salvation just another pipe dream?
Propelled by a blistering first-person voice and featuring a powerfully compelling antihero, Fiend is at once a riveting portrait of addiction, a pitch-black love story, and a meditation on hope, redemption, and delusion—not to mention one hell of a zombie novel.


Fiend is like Breaking Bad meets The Walking Dead. Yeah, I know, you probably already guessed as much by hearing about it and reading the book description. You've got your meth-heads, and you've got your zombies. If my dad was the type to read books, he would like Fiend because those are his two favorite TV shows. Even though I'm not a fan of either shows, I found myself take a liking to Fiend. I guess because it's different than what I usually read, and even though I finished the book by saying "what the hell did I just read?," I'm glad I gave it a try.

Chase is just in his meth-induced world when one day he wakes up and see a little girl tearing apart a dog, but heavily doped on meth, he writes it off as one of the hallucinations that comes with drugs. Little do Chase and his buddies know that the world is ending and the zombie apocalypse is here. Chase and his friends are fighting for survival and on the look out to restock their drug stash.

The kicker is, that crystal meth somehow counteracts whatever it is that turns people into zombies. So our tweaker of a main character, Chase, and his friends are immune to turning into flesh-eating zombies but it makes them targets. While they're on the run for survival, their source of meth is running low, and that call for some nasty withdrawals in the foreseeable future, whether they live long enough to see the next day or not. Along the way they make poor decisions, find drugs, violence, gore, sex, drug ruts, dark humor, the unexpected, redemption, second chances --and last of what is expected-- love.

Chase is like the underdog that you probably usually wouldn't root for but do. His mentality, humor, past and memories are both disgusting yet thought-provoking in equal measure. He's thrown away and ruined a lot of things by choosing meth over anything and everyone who he loves and who loves him, and left quite some damage in his wake. But the things that even the lost cause of a drug addict do to find a way to survive a zombie apocalypse is questionable and a little weird, all the while entertaining a love story along the way. Second chances and love are Chase's redemption, I guess.

Fiend gives us a nitty gritty insight of drug addiction, the effects, hallucinations, thought process, love for the drug and withdrawals of a habitual drug user.
“I’m thinking that I love drugs more than anything. That they are the one and only constant in my life. Yeah, they demand a lot of attention and effort, but their love is legendary, their compassion endless. I hold each hit for hours, exhale for decades. The determination that comes with the onset of a high rushes back and I’m all about conquering the world and making money and finding happiness in the form of a loving woman who knows when it’s time to spread her legs and when it’s time to brush the backs of her nails across my cheek and then I’m thinking about this being the same thing as what God is doing to me now.”
It happens. That's just a glimpse of what it's like to see from a druggy's POV.

What I really enjoyed and also surprised me was the use of hilariously cringe-worthy metaphors and similes. The literary aspect in the writing and the dark morbid humor were greatly appreciated (by me, anyway) in a book such as Fiend.

I had a couple hang ups with this book -- it felt like more of a drug novel than a convincing horrific zombie novel. It focused quite a lot on Chase and his using and struggles with meth and how it affected him for a good part of his life. There wasn't too much focus on the zombies and how they came to be and what they're doing. Speaking of zombies, my other hang up with them is that they giggle. Yes, you read that right. It kind of took away from the horror of it all. And the main character wasn't given much of a physical description, so it was kind of hard to put a face to him.

Fiend is horrifically bleak, evocative, and gritty. The writing, world-building, characters, all of it. It'll evoke some emotions you'd rather keep in check. There will be things that will freak you out, make you roll your eyes, question everything, make you laugh in opportune times and events, the tender parts will throw you for a loop, and then you will see what it's like through the eyes of a druggy. It's weird that the last standing survivors in this world are druggies. It's one of those books that you find a few surprising things that you like in all the gross and chaos, that will probably make you weirdly hate that you liked it, even if a little. There were a few parts where I found it unexpectedly heart-wrenching.

I received a copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review, however, this does not influence my review nor am I being compensated.

Purchase Fiend

About the Author

Peter Stenson is the author of the novel “Fiend” (forthcoming from Crown/ Random House in 2013). He has stories and essays published or forthcoming in The Sun, Bellevue Literary Review, The Greensboro Review, Confrontation, Harpur Palate, Post Road, Fugue, Passages North, The Pinch, Blue Mesa Review, and Fourteen Hills, among others. He received his MFA in fiction from Colorado State University, and currently teaches writing at Lighthouse Writing Workshop.

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