Audiobook Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson

16 07 2013

Fiend by Peter Stenson

Read by Todd Haberkorn

Random House Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 3 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: While Fiend wasn’t what I would call a pleasant read, it is a fascinating character study set within an intrigue apocalyptic vision. These are characters you loathe to cheer for, and along the way, there is very little to cheer for anyway. Despite my discomfort with the characters, it is a novel I am glad I listened to.

Grade: B

I try not to be a judgmental person towards people who engage in self destructive behavior. I have had my own self destructive behaviors in my life, and everyone deals with vice on some level. Yet, I have never understood how people get involved in hardcore drug use. Now, I understand using alcohol and some recreational drugs to escape, or simply to have some mind-bending fun. Popular culture is full of examples where being just a bit under the influence is fun. Yet, I have trouble seeing the appeal of things like heroin and meth. I struggle to think of one example of person, real or fictional, whose life was improved by the use of heroin or meth. Understandable, I am quite unfamiliar with the culture. I have never partaken in any drug in more than a casual manner, particularly any illegal and potentially addictive drug. I have read too many books, sat through too many "evils of drugs" lessons to see the appeal. For me, warnings about the dangers of hardcore drugs is like the Miranda Warning, our popular culture is so inundated with these warnings that I have very little sympathy for people who overlook them. I should be compassionate. I should accept those commercials telling me that opiate addiction is a disease. I just can’t not think about that first moment, when they are offered heroin or meth and the future addict thinks, “Hey, what could go wrong? One little snort… I’ll be fine." This seems like me buying the family pack of Nacho Cheese Doritos, believing I will only eat one chip. Ain’t gonna happen. An hour later my fingers will be stained orange and the side of my mouth will burn with nacho related abrasions. So, I can really see no reason why anyone would ever consider even starting the life of the meth enthusiast. That was until I learned it could keep you from becoming a zombie.

Chase Daniels is living a life of regret. He spends his days high on meth, ostracizing his family, and missing the girl he loves who is now with another man. When he sees a girl tearing into the stomach of a dog, he believes it’s just a drug induced hallucination. When the girl attacks and his friend kills her, he’s ready for a life on the run or figuring a way flip on his friend to the cops. Yet, it’s not a hallucination. The very thing that has ruined his life has now seemed to save it. Now, Chase has a chance to be a hero, save the women he loves and start a new life in the ruins of this world… right after his next dose. Fiend is a disquieting spin on the Zombie apocalypse, where only the dregs of society, those addicted to meth have survived. Peter  Stenson has populated his book with characters so despicable and self centered you can’t even call them anti-heroes. This is no glorification of drugs or drug culture, but a no holds barred apocalyptic vision where the cure may be worse than the cure. I can’t say I particularly liked listening to Fiend. It was fascinating and unique, but also uncomfortable and disturbing. When I first discovered the concepts behind this book, I expected it to be stereotypical white trash characters, from crappy homes whose only escape was through the use of hardcore drugs that now have a chance to rise above. That would have been the easy path to take. Yet, Stenson doesn’t go for the easy road instead he throws every obstacle in his way. Chase seemed to have every opportunity to become a well adjusted person. Supportive parents and a girlfriend who shared his problems but was seeking to better herself. Yet, Chase seemed to lack any sense of self awareness. He constantly deluded himself, blaming others for decisions he made, becoming indignant when people made the correct assumptions about his behavior. Any trip filtered through the mind of a person like Chase cannot be easy, yet add in a Zombie apocalypse, and the road gets much more bumpy. For hardcore Zombie fans, the flesh eating, zombie mayhem is relatively minimalistic. The undead serve more as a catalyst to force the characters into certain situations. Yet, Stenson does create a claustrophobic dire Zombie scenario that should appeal to fans of psychological horror with a tint of monster. While Fiend wasn’t what I would call a pleasant read, it is a fascinating character study set within an intrigue apocalyptic vision. These are characters you loathe to cheer for, and along the way, there is very little to cheer for anyway. Despite my discomfort with the characters, it is a novel I am glad I listened to.

I was a little hesitant about Todd Haberkorn as narrator of fiend. Haberkorn has a smooth, professional youthful sounding voice. He is a prime example of a smooth highly skilled voice over artist. Yet, I wasn’t sure if that is what Fiend needed. When I picture meth addicts, I picture gruff, gravely people who take little pride in themselves and their abilities, and not smooth talking voice over talent.  I worried that Haberkorn may be too good for this novel, too professional. Yet, in the end I think Haberkorn was a good choice. Chase was young, and I think if Random House went with a gruffer, more gravely narrator like Kevin Stillwell you would have lost some of the youthful naiveté that was essential to the character. Haberkorn totally captured the petulant, delusional whininess of Chase, and handled the peripheral characters well. He even got the chance to break out a soft British accent along the way. His pacing of the action was top notch, keeping us immersed amidst the seemingly inescapable zombie hordes. Overall, Fiend was a compelling listen, and if you are looking for a unique take on the zombie apocalypse full of psychological suspense, Fiend definitely fits the bill.

Note: Thanks to Random House Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.



2 responses

22 08 2013

Meth used to be called the working mans drug because it gave you the energy and stamina to work long hours with lots of energy.

Think how many times people will see kids running around and playing and say something like “if you could bottle up all that energy and sell it…”

Well I gather that is what meth is.

On a less sad note, I have been reading (listening to) the King of Clayfield zombie series and have liked it a lot. Not sure if you have heard of that one.

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