Written by a Stoker family member and a Dracula researcher/screenwriter . . . and it shows. Between infodumps (I sometimes felt like I was reading a n...moreWritten by a Stoker family member and a Dracula researcher/screenwriter . . . and it shows. Between infodumps (I sometimes felt like I was reading a nonfiction combination of a Walking Guide to London, The Real Story of Dracula!, and The Real Story of Jack The Ripper!) and telling-not-showing description (please, please stop telling me about how much Quincy Harker resents Johnathan Harker) I was ready to chuck this book at the wall by about page 80. I kept reading, in hope that it would get better, but it didn't.
If you are a serious Dracula nerd, you may find some enjoyment in the in-jokes sprinkled through the pages, but if you're not a fanboy, look elsewhere for your vampire fix. I'd suggest Sunshine, by Robin McKinley, or Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist if you're looking for nonsparkly vampires, or Grace Hammer, by Sara Stockbridge, if you want turn-of-the-century London without the annoying "look at my research!" attitude.(less)
When a world-ending virus sweeps the globe, it leaves behind three groups: ordinary folks, dead in their beds; naked, flesh-eating, uncontrollably gig...moreWhen a world-ending virus sweeps the globe, it leaves behind three groups: ordinary folks, dead in their beds; naked, flesh-eating, uncontrollably giggling "Chucklers"; and meth users. Rich-boy-turned-dealer Chase Daniels is our narrator for a chaotic trip through post-virus St. Paul, in which he, his best friend, his ex, and his ex's boyfriend alternate between getting high, fleeing Chucklers, and searching for the last living meth cooks.
It is not a spoiler to say that this is not a happy book, nor does it have a happy ending.
Fiend races from page to page, its language taut and packed with imagery both horrifying and fresh. Chase, our never-sober narrator, manages moments of selflessness without straining credibility as an addict, which is a pretty fine feat of characterization.
For what it is--a book about doomed addicts escaping zombies--it's an excellent book.
Which doesn't mean that I liked it.
Chase is a pretty vile individual. He's a lying, stealing, misogynist poor-little-rich-boy whose unfiltered worldview feels a lot like wading through sewage. The one--ONE--female character in Fiend is Chase's ex, KK, who gets zero agency. She's the one thing that Chase loves more than drugs--sometimes--and while she resists playing prize for the hero Chase imagines himself to be, ultimately, she's a thing for Chase to pursue and hoard, as surely as the meth all of them covet.
I read once that artists all portray the world as it is, or the world as they wish it could be.Fiend is the former, not the latter (although Stenson describes himself as a former addict, so maybe I'm wrong), and it's as a portrayal of the world as it is that Fiend comes off as pretty f**king bleak. (view spoiler)[By the end of Fiend, it is excruciatingly clear that humanity is toast--there are zombies, there are meth users, and there is a limited supply of meth. Once the drugs are gone, there will be only zombies. Fiend is a snapshot before the end, of humanity in its stinky, greedy, terrified, violent, twitching ugliness. Love, kindness, and forgiveness are flashes in the darkness, and ultimately everyone dies alone and horribly. Maybe Fiend is simply a depiction of reality in this way, but it's not a vision of reality that helps me choose how to spend the rest of my allotted years on the planet.
I have to give a caveat with that criticism: I am 100% not the target readership of this book. I like zombie novels; I don't like downer zombie novels that imply that we're all f**cked and there's nothing to do about it: I like my illusions of agency. More problematic than the tone, though, is the sausagefest of characters: one female character? In all of central Minnesota? There have got to be more female meth heads. The casual misogyny of the narrator--in comments about women as whores and descriptions of zombies looking like used tampons, for example--is a constant irritant. Maybe Chase's misogyny is an inevitable part of his character, inseparable from his low self-image and jittery junkie needs, but it certainly makes this book especially unpleasant for the female/feminist reader. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Saw this in Barnes and Noble the other day and was reminded of how much I loved this when I read it a while ago. Think werewolves and poetry have noth...moreSaw this in Barnes and Noble the other day and was reminded of how much I loved this when I read it a while ago. Think werewolves and poetry have nothing in common? Then you need to read Sharp Teeth. Heartfelt, hilarious, hirsute.(less)