2013; Crown/Random House
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.
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 balance those two opposing drives (think clearly or take more meth) when they can barely keep a coherent thought in their minds adds to the tension.
As I write this review, I’m just over halfway finished with Fiend. But even if the last 150 pages don’t match the first half, I’ll forgive a weak finish for a book that’s kept me reading.