The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week!

Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week!

Fiend by Peter Stenson - Review by Jocelyn

Post-apocalyptic fiction is a special favorite of mine – the lone man searching for his family, the hardy band of survivors, each a carefully crafted archetype, holed up in a world overrun by zombies, the fast-paced action scenes interspersed with some scenes of people learning how strong they really are (or aren't) – I love it all.  

But it can definitely feel like you've seen it before, right?  Like, how many different ways are there to tell a zombie tale?  Well, it turns out there's a new take on the subject, and Fiend is it.
Our story gets off to a crackling start as perpetual fuck-up Chase Daniels spots a little girl outside the  window who seems to be tearing into a Rottweiler – Chase isn't too concerned, as he's had some crazy hallucinations before, but he thinks maybe he should call his friend and fellow addict Typewriter John into the room to check it out – when John reacts like anybody who saw a little girl ripping into a dog would (that is, with disbelief and fear), Chase realizes that it's no hallucination.  And when the little girl approaches the house, covered in blood and dog guts, her tiny fists pounding on the door until it cracks clean through, Chase and John have no choice but to defend themselves.  After walloping the little girl with (what else?) a typewriter, they quickly go on the run, assuming the cops will be after them any second for their crime.

But the streets are oddly calm – in fact, not a person to be seen, aside from one of their acquaintances, another meth-head.  The two quickly hole up in Chase's shitty apartment, but are promptly waylaid by another unusual sight, Chase's neighbor Svetlana, who, though walking and laughing, doesn't actually seem to be alive – and seems intent on biting them.  After dispatching Svetlana, they hit the road, hoping to travel north to their supplier, the Albino, score some meth, and hole up until all this is over.  On the way they meet a trucker, who enlightens them as to the severity of the situation.  It seems everybody went to sleep one night and didn't wake up – two days later, many awoke, reanimated giggling corpses – the trucker calls them Chucklers, “Chucks” for short.  Noise attracts them, light attracts them, the smell of blood attracts get the picture.

Throughout their road-trip-from-hell, Chase continues trying to reach his old girlfriend KK, who left him when he refused to get clean with her – he pictures himself saving the girl, becoming the hero he couldn't be when she needed one.  He and John arm themselves and reach the Albino's house, where they are promptly tasked with getting more ingredients for meth – and their subsequent raid on a Walgreen's provides one of the book's best set pieces.

Chase is miraculously able to reconnect with KK and sets off to rescue her – unfortunately, she comes with some extra baggage now in the form of new boyfriend Jared, who is in bad shape and seems to have contracted the virus.  En route back to the Albino's with KK and Jared, Chase's addled brain kicks out a crazy idea – that being meth addicts is what is keeping them alive, that their addiction in fact is providing some sort of protection from the virus itself.  Testing his new idea, he shoots up Jared, who quickly recovers, proving Chase's theory out and adding an even higher level of desperation in their pursuit of the next batch.

As this group of survivors tries to find their next fix while avoiding the Chucks, Stenson lets us see life through the eyes of an addict – the constant chase of a high, the disappointment of your loved ones, the inability to trust even your best friends, when any one of you may be holding and not sharing with the others.

In this post-Breaking Bad world, where we all think we know everything there is to know about meth, Fiend posits a world with an intriguing new twist.  It was super-cinematic, touching, and fun.  I loved it.

Hardcover Honey verdict: Four out of five jittery addicts for this one.