2013; Crown/Random House
295 Pages Horror
Paperback ISBN 978-0770436339
Google Play Ebook ISBN 978-0770-436322
What if the characters who wouldn’t make it past the teaser of The Walking Dead became the only people who could survive an outbreak? Heck, the main characters in Fiend wouldn’t even have speaking parts in a zombie movie. The addicts in this novel would be “Methamphetamine Zombie” and “Junkie Zombie”, shambling towards the main characters before being speedily dispatched with a screwdriver to the eye.
Chase and his fellow addict Typewriter definitely have one of the best reasons for sleeping through the Zombie Apocalypse I’ve come across – a drug-addled meth bender. Holed up in one of the less reputable areas of the Twin Cities, they make it back to “reality” only to find it’s gone, replaced by a little girl attacking a dog in the street and eating it raw.
These two try to survive, and more importantly, secure a new supply of meth, with Chase’s ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend. Fiend has a jarring mix of humor, surrealism and sudden violence that somehow works. It takes what can be a rote story of survival and makes its own spin on the tropes. The most likely zombie bait become, in this novel, the most unlikely survivors.
The very thing that’s helping these characters survive – meth – also the main reason they may not make it. Watching them try and balance those two opposing drives (think clearly and become infected, or take more meth and survive), when they can barely keep a coherent thought in their minds adds to the tension and kept me reading.
Why should that be? Maybe it’s “The Walking Dead Effect”. Seven seasons of watching Rick “Zombie Killing Machine” Grimes hack, slash, shotgun and machete his way through post-apocalyptic Georgia has warped our view of who exactly would be a good candidate for survival after the dead rise. Maybe the very qualities that seem to dump Chase and his fellow junkies in the Zombie Chow category are, in fact, the very behaviors that give these tweakers an edge in the survival stakes. It took Rick Grimes several seasons to become what Chase, KK and Typewriter already are on Day One of the ZA; Paranoid. Adept scavengers. Mission focused on securing Survival Essentials (in their case, more Meth).
And how many of the not-so-merry band of tweakers in Fiend make it to the last page, like their fellow unlikely survivor, the meek, nerdy Columbus in Zombieland? Are their chances better or worse than anyone else in this book who isn’t a junkie?
You’ll have to read Fiend to find out. If you didn’t think there was a new storytelling angle for yet another novel of the Zombie Apocalypse, this book will both prove you wrong and entertain you while doing so.