Imagine Jessie Pinkman, instead of meeting Walter White, stumbles onto the set of Walking Dead. Except the sole living survivors of this zombie apocalypse are junkies because it seems methamphetamines are the only thing keeping the viral load at bay. This is the world of Fiend, the debut novel by Peter Stenson.
So bring along Beaver and Skinny Pete, yo, and watch Jessie (or in this case Chase Daniels and his best-friend Typewriter John) try and rescue his girl KK, survive some seriously creepy giggling zombies, and most importantly find their next fix.
Chase is a damaged character, but author Stenson makes his damage make sense. In fact, the one thing that really stuck with me after finishing Fiend was how uncomfortably few steps there actually were between my life and Chase’s.
Chase has no super powers, no skills to speak of really at all. He’s a real human being reacting in a way that’s a little too easy to understand – his messed up choices, his self-delusions and the way he’s forced off the couch to fumble through the deranged situations this world presents him; i.e. naked cam-girl zombies, Canadian lumberjack meth smugglers and well, other junkies. Chase makes mistakes, and we both see them coming. But we know in his shoes we’d make those same mistakes to.
This is a book that fits neatly in the venn diagram between Breaking Bad and The Walking dead – with characters that actually behave like flawed human beings; some intensely messed up scenes and a unique and darkly funny perspective in a very played-out genre.
1. We have killed two people things today (self-defense).
2. These things are zombielike.
3. Zombies don’t exist.
4. There are at least two other people (perv on 18toplay, and Tibbs) who aren’t dead.
5. Weapons. Food and water.
And dope, Type says.
You fucking serious?
As hepatitis, he says.
I look over the list. My fleeting sense of accomplishment fades. The list is retarded. It gets me no closer to understanding what’s happening. I light a cigarette. Typewriter asks for one. He tells me to put cigarettes on the list.