Fiend by Peter Stenson (Crown, July 2013)-Chase Daniels and his friend Typewriter have been holed up for a week getting high. Little did they know they’d come out of their meth fog a little only to realize the zombie apocalypse is at their doorstep. It resolves itself at first to Chase, in the form of a young girl that attacks a dog in front of the house. Chase is sure he’s hallucinating, but it soon becomes quickly that it’s very real, and they’ve got to get gone before the zombies crash the party. Chase becomes fixated on finding a girl, KK, that he met in rehab, entertaining visions of heroic rescue in his head. He does find her, but the reality never lives up to the fantasy, which is a reoccurring theme in this novel. As Chase and his friends make their way through a landscape devoid of humans but seething with zombies, they soon realize that the survivors all have one thing in common, and salvation looks increasingly out of reach.
Whew, guys. Let me tell you, when you start Fiend, prepare yourself. It takes off right from the start and doesn’t let up. At all. Chase narrates the tale, and in spite of his rather deep self-loathing, you can’t help but like him. There is a good heart beating underneath his hard addict’s shell, but this boy-man carries around enough guilt to slay a horde of zombies. Unfortunately, circumstances dictate that he’ll never be able to get clean enough to actually do it, in spite of his drug fueled, sometimes superhuman zombie slaying efforts. He’s desperately in love with KK, with desperate the key word here. The group eventually embarks on a quest to find those left that can cook meth and keep them high, because in this new world, it’s the only way to stay alive. The action is fierce and although this has everything a zombie fan likes in a novel, it’s ultimately Chase’s story, and it’s sometimes brutal in its honesty and his sorrow of what might have been comes across amongst the quickly mounting terror. You will want to have an iron stomach for this one too, because the author doesn’t hold back on his descriptives. It’s a quick and brutal read, and Stenson doesn’t coddle his readers. Don’t expect a rosy ending to this story, but do expect a helluva gruesome ride.