Science fiction and fantasy
by Peter Stenson
The story is a manic road trip where nobody is safe for very long and the body count is high. They meet other junkies and those able to create the drugs, and they get tooled up like action heroes in order to defend themselves. It's a volatile mix, even before you factor in bloodthirsty zombies. The undead move quickly and respond to sound, so although they're not smart they aren't shufflers. Meanwhile, the living can't be trusted to care about anyone other than themselves. With so many survivors strung out on crystal meth it's a wonder anyone stays alive for very long.
This is a depressing horror, because the reality of Chase's life is so miserable it made me wonder why he or anyone would want to carry on living. He's a physical wreck, his relationships are full of sniping and bad feeling, and civilisation has come to an end. Chase himself isn't sympathetic, he's just pathetic and selfish. He has moments of humour and good will, but they don't often outweigh the negatives. During his periods of chemically-induced good humour he has flashes of heroism when he seems poised to lead all his friends to safety, find a cure, and restart society.
There are no speech marks in the entire novel, a pretty annoying stylistic quirk which meant I had to keep re-reading to figure out who, if anyone, was speaking.
You may wonder why I rate such a bleak, violent story with an unlikeable protagonist as worth reading. Firstly, it seems to be very true to the psychological experience of addiction: the lies, self-deception, intense mood swings and extreme paranoia. As such it's fascinating. Secondly, it's a rollercoaster thrill-ride that never lets up. Chase did grow on me, so that by the end the conclusion had quite a big impact. So Fiend is worthwhile and interesting, so long as you have the stomach for all the grimness.
7th December 2015
If you like this, try:End Times by Rio Youers
A recovering addict find he is trapped by his past misdeeds.
The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
Rick Grimes wakes up in hospital to find the world he knew taken over by hordes of zombies. The first graphic novel in The Walking Dead series.
Allison Hewitt Is Trapped by Madeleine Roux
A young woman hides from marauding zombies, knowing that eventually she must leave her place of safety and confront them.
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: review copy
Add your thoughtsAll comments are pre-moderated. Please do not post spoilers or abusive language.