Ryan's July 2013 picks, 1 of 2
28 Days Later
meets Breaking Bad
in Peter Stenson’s horror novel, Fiend
When Chase Daniels sees a little girl ripping apart a
Rottweiler with her teeth, he thinks it’s just another one of his
meth-induced hallucinations. But it’s not. It’s the end of the world.
The Zombie Apocalypse. Oh, and the only survivors are the ones who have
meth running through their veins. As if fighting the undead isn’t bad
enough, the people who are still alive (at least for now) are also
fighting withdrawal and fighting each other, trying to get their hands
on one more hit.
Fiend is absolutely terrifying, not just because of the
zombies (who giggle before they attack, by the way. Talk about chilling
imagery), but because of the very real look at addiction and the
consequences of it. Peter Stenson throws you headfirst into the dark,
scary world of meth addiction with vivid, visceral descriptions that
make you cringe. He shows you the highs, the lows, the attempted
balancing, the fear, the regret, the sadness, everything.
I found myself feeling really conflicted during some
parts of this novel, because Chase talks about how he was sober for a
really long time, and a bad breakup sent him spiraling back into the
dark, and that broke my heart, but I also realized that if he hadn’t
sunk back into addiction, he wouldn’t have survived to fight off the
zombies. It’s ironic and tragic wrapped up in a nightmare.
Nothing about this book is happy. It’s dark, trippy, and terrifying. It might keep you up at night.
I loved it, and I hope you will too.
Excerpt (pg 2)
stand there. The little girl creeps back to the dog, and once she gets
close enough to touch it, she does, only her touch isn’t a pat but a
lunge for the rottweiler’s throat. It reminds me of this time I saw an
elderly woman crossing the street, she almost made it across when a
black Hummer turned right and came straight at her not slowing, and the
old woman looked up in time to see her fate as an extravagant flaunting
of male testosterone, and she crumpled, lost underneath tons of metal.
The little blond girl rips open the dog’s throat.
I rub my eyes.
Blood spouting like Old Faithful. Her white dress now tie-dyed, swatches of brilliant red on cotton.
I close the G.I. Joe sheets. I sit down.
telling myself that it’s gone too far this time, this latest run,
smoking half an ounce of scante, that I need to chill the f--k out, like
KK said. I tell myself that this is it. That I will leave this house on
the outskirts of St. Paul, go find something to eat, take a handful of
Advil PMs, and call it a day. Call it a career in smoking speed. Never
have I experienced such vivid hallucinations. Sure, tracers and voices
and s--t like that, but not seeing carnage on this scale. I laugh to
myself. I try to analyze my hallucination–the little girl represents
innocence, and it’s probably significant that she’s blond, because KK’s
blond, and that ties into innocence, because we were close to that, her
and I, at least in the beginning. And the dog, maybe that’s man’s best
friend, maybe it’s the natural world, maybe primal nature. And the
subversion of the natural order, the child killing the dog, that’s
pretty simple-innocence wins out.