In Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson

Released: July 9, 2013                  
    Format: Hardcover                      304 pages
Publisher: Crown
ISBN-13: 978-0770436315

There are somethings that were never meant to happen. There was never suppose to be a zombie apocalypse, and if there was one, only the strongest should have survived. The ones that prepared, that were best suited to pick up the pieces of civilization and rebuild something better in the ashes. But author Peter Stenson instead gives us a world where the living may just be as empty and hopeless as the dead, they just don't know it yet.

The world has fallen, and all that remain are the dead and the junkies, both with driving needs that are rapidly becoming increasingly unavailable. For the dead, they of course crave the flesh of the living, but for the junkies, the very addiction that's killing them is also keeping them alive. 

In this twisted dystopian landscape Chase Daniels rises as the reluctant hero. Chase was never meant to be a hero. He's failed at love, at life, he's broken his parents hearts a million times, he's lied and failed at 12 steps; no, his is not the story of redemption, of overcoming all obstacles. I'm not even if its a story of hope or survival, or love, or if it's just a story of obsession.

Chase is obsessed with the girl who left him, KK, the one who just may be more messed up than he is. When his second chance to be near her comes along he chomps at the bit, but being clean and having a family just can't be in the cards.

Every single tweeker in the novel is obsessed with the meth that destroyed their preapocalypse life, and is currently keeping them alive. Why meth staves off the viruse that turned everyone into chuckling flesheating undead is never explained, but at the same time it doesn't need to be.

When I spoke to Stenson at comic con he described the book as Walking Dead meets Breaking Bad and I wondered how well the two genres could really mesh. The beautiful thing that Walking Dead captures and really works here is not the horror of the zombies, but the dehumanization of people. Stenson takes a page out of Kirkman's book, making the other survivors just as dangerous as the zombies. At it's core Fiend isn't just a horror novel. It's the gritty undertow of the lure of drugs, the bad decisions we make because of them, and how sometimes even when we know our actions are wrong we just can't force ourselves to do the right thing.

In an oversaturated genre Fiend is a breath of fresh air. Although this is Stenson's first foray into the novel field he certainly has a firm grasp on his material . His story sets a rapid pace delivering plenty of shocks and vivid imagery. The language is abrasive at time, and descriptions stomach churning, but they're certainly right on the money and realistic. I, for one, cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. 


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