September 7, 2014 by mmileti
I am not usually a fan of zombie based dystopian novels, but I picked this book up after reading some glowing reviews that promised that Fiend is far from a typical zombie story. Within Fiend’s first few chapters Stenson makes it clear to the reader that he has an exceptionally unique writing style, and a penchant for fast-paced plots and distinctive characters. It is the kind of story that is unrelentingly blunt and gruesome, but at the same time can make the reader laugh out loud. As a connoisseur of literature, I see Fiend’s potential to be the kind of story that hooks the reader from the start, and takes them on a dark and thrilling journey that is extremely enjoyable. Unfortunately, on a personal note, this story was too sinister and violent for me. I usually do not mind graphic violence in a novel, but this story had too much for me to truly enjoy my reading experience. It is still a well written, innovative, and heart-pounding story that many readers will enjoy, but I suppose it was simply not “my kind of novel.”
Fiend tells the story of a zombie apocalypse from a unique perspective: that of longtime meth addict Chase Daniels. When Chase first sees a zombie in the form of a little girl, he takes her violent acts and horrific appearance for a meth-induced hallucination. But soon Chase realizes that the little girl is no hallucination, and that the end of the world arrived without his notice while on particularly long binge. For Chase, this change is actually an excuse to start over; his life has already been shattered beyond redemption, and his drug habit has completely taken over his existence. This is his chance to become the man he once dreamed of being, connect with his lost love, and perhaps even become a hero among the ruins of civilization. Fiend is a story of addiction, love, and redemption- with the setting and pacing of a nail-biting zombie apocalypse novel.
The most striking aspect of this novel is Stenson’s ability to create a despicable anti-hero who the reader cannot help but sympathize with. Chase has a good heart, and enough internal turmoil to make a zombie infestation seem tame by comparison. Though the action in this book will make your heart pound, Chase’s emotional struggles grab the reader’s attention and become the real heart and soul of the story. Chase’s struggle with meth is told in a realistic manner that highlights the intense destructive properties of the drug. His addiction is horrifying, and actually more disturbing and menacing than the zombies. Amidst a plot that is so fast paced that it will grab you from the first few pages and never let up is a brutal but honest glimpse of meth addiction. I am incredibly impressed that Stenson was able to pull off such an emotionally hard-hitting novel concerning real issues in the midst of a zombie thriller. Usually zombie novels are about zombies; this novel is about so much more.
Despite the numerous merits of this story, the excessive amount of violence was too much for me to handle. This story is so gritty and gruesome that it literally made me nauseated several times. Usually I read fast paced novels quickly, but I had to put this novel down so many times that it took me three times longer than usual to finish. This element of Fiend assured that I did not enjoy it much, but I doubt the story will be too macabre for many horror fans. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone that does not mind graphic violence and that would be interested in a zombie novel that is well written and deals with real world issues. The character development in this story is fantastic, and though I will not be re-reading this novel, I admire Stenson’s superb story telling abilities.
I am going to try to rate this novel on its assets, regardless of whether or not I enjoyed it. My rating: 7.5/10.
I received a copy of this novel from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.