Fiend by Peter Stenson (book review).
The hunger is always there and they’re never satisfied. They’ll do anything to get a taste. No, not zombies, drug addicts. Zombies are just a distraction in Peter Stenson’s ‘Fiend’.
Our anti-hero, Chase Daniels, is a meth addict, still pining after an ex-girlfriend who left him when he couldn’t stay clean. He wakes up one day to see a small girl taking a bite out of a Rottweiler and after realising that it’s not a drug-induced hallucination, he cottons onto the fact that something is seriously wrong. He and his best friend, Typewriter, investigate what’s going on and decide the best thing to do is escape the walking dead or ‘Chuckles’ as they’re referred to due to their giggling nature and head for the hills to a meth cook they believe will give them refuge.
Along the way, they pick up Chase’s ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend and rather than attempting to start a new life, just pick up where the old one left off. However, their already dire situation rapidly deteriorates and the group finds themselves constantly struggling for survival and to find their next hit.
Written from a first-person perspective, we get every thought that drifts through Chase’s drug-addled mind. Don’t think it’ll be some form of stoner, laid-back attitude, these are the thoughts of a man who is relentlessly on the go and on the look out for drugs. He doesn’t stop for a moment, sleep comes in patches, food is a secondary concern. Bubbling under the surface of every thought that goes through his head is when and how can I get some drugs? Even when he saves his friends from danger, you know that he’s ready to call in that marker and isn’t too ashamed to remind them. There’s even a scene later on where he steals from his friends and lies so much about it that he actually begins to believe himself.
At one stage Chase does believe that meth is the cure for the Chuckles and wants to experiment on those who have turned but his foray into science and heroism soon breaks down as the urge for drugs intensifies.
What ‘Fiend’ raises as an interesting question is what if the survivors aren’t a virtuous bunch? What if the heroes don’t really want to save the world and start over again and all they want to do is score drugs and get high?
The zombies are a secondary horror to that off the addiction felt by Chase and his friends. The walking dead are a fantasy that don’t exist. Chase and his friends do exist and that’s more terrifying that any zombie chase.
This book is relentless and quite often horrifying without taking a high moral ground. It’s also the most original zombie novel I’ve read in a long time. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart but a recommended read.
(pub: William Heinemann Random House. 295 page hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-434-02205-2)
check out websites: www.randomhouse.co.uk and www.petercstenson.com/