Chase Daniels is a meth head, he is actually more than that, he seems to favor all types of drugs. One day after an apparent bender he collects himself and notices that the world has changed. He encounters a little girl who seems to be rabid. At first he believes it is a drug infused illusion, but it’s all too real. Together with his friend; Typewriter, he overcomes the little girl, smashing her skull in with a typewriter. For fear of the police the two junkies bolt and during their flight outside they notice that others seem to have been affected by the same disease. The world has been infested by zombies or gigglers as Chase refers to them as and instead of fleeing to a safer place the boys try to find their next fix. Chase becomes very concerned with the safety of his ex- girlfriend KK who he had met during rehab and who also dumped him when he started using again. During their wild ride Chase and Type come in contact with a drug abusing trucker and meet up with their pusher Albino who all are unaffected by the zombie virus, leading them to believe that the drug abuse is blocking the disease. When KK finally answers the phone and is in trouble Chase gets an opportunity to be the hero to her he has always wanted to be.
First off it must be said that Stenson puts an interesting twist to a genre that is on the quick path to redundancy and repetitiveness. The zombie horror genre has never seen such an extended peak in popularity as it riding now. Usually it peaks and then goes back to the depths of underground culture, but due to the endless books and TV shows it has now stayed in the main stream for some time and it is not benefiting from it. To avoid becoming stagnant the genre craves revitalization and ingenuity. There have been attempts; look at Jasper Barks’ The Way of the Barefoot Zombie or Town of the Living Dead, even Garth Ennis’ zombie-like creation Crossed and Stitched can be seen as an extension of this style.
Stenson puts an interesting spin on his story by letting the outcasts of society be the heroes of the story, instead of police officers, soldiers or scientists. Chase Daniels and Typewriter are already damaged souls and have nothing to lose when the apocalypse comes. Their goals are pretty much the same as before; worrying about the next hit. There is something refreshing and interesting in this and there several humorous instances when their addled brains try to comprehend the situations they get into and it is difficult for the reader to ascertain if the whole thing is Daniels’ drug euphoria or reality. For all of Stenson´s competence as a writer and the interesting premise the story never evolves into anything other than a zombie horror tale. The reader is never really afraid for the characters’ lives and the pace is quite slow. When all is said and done a book of this kind needs to grab the reader and keep him riveted with nail biting suspense and that just doesn’t happen here.
In the end Fiend is a novel idea and has an interesting enough premise for anyone bored of the zombie genre, but it is not as exciting as it could have been.
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