Posts Tagged ‘Peter Stenson’

2014 is coming to an end and, as cheesy as it is, I thought I’d post a little about the best books I’ve read this year. It’s taken a fair amount of beard scratching and some serious moustache twiddling but I feel a general top five is probably the fairest way to go as I’ve read some really, truly brilliant novels since I started this blog.

Though my reading has trailed off this month, due in no small part to my son celebrating his first birthday and subsequently forgoing any kind of routine day time naps, my last read Europe in Autumn is an excellent novel. Subtle, engaging and with an intricacy and depth that is quite astounding at times, Dave Hutchinson is definitely a name to look out for in my opinion.

Along with a lot of other blogs, awards and readers, I also have to admit that The Martian by Andy Weir is an unbelievably awesome book. There’s humour, humanity and hardship all packed into a novel that somehow makes potato maths interesting, nay, intriguing. This book had me gripped from the first to the last page and it was such a great read with such a fulfilling end that it’s hard not to recommend it to everyone, everywhere.

My top fantasy reads this year resulted in a dead draw between Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country and Mark Lawrence’s trilogy beginning with The Prince of Thorns. Both authors are clearly some of the best writers in this new golden age of fantasy that we are all lucky enough to be enjoying. Red Country is, in my humble opinion, Abercrombie’s best to date. A rollicking Western-esque tale of revenge full of grit and characterised by a protagonist full of piss and vinegar. Mark Lawrence, a man of supernatural abilities and talent, has produced a trilogy so gripping it’s a must read if you like fantasy. His world building is fantastic, his characters are brilliant and the final revelations are just awesome. I think this work is one of the best new fantasy trilogies out there and I’m not ashamed to say it was an absolute pleasure to read.

Finally, in my top five I am going to mention Fiend by Peter Stenson. I read this during a zombie novel binge and though it isn’t your typical horror fare, it’s for that reason that the book is so excellent. Drug addled protagonists, insane zombie-esque shenanigans and a skin crawling, brain itching ability to convey addiction. Stenson’s book is crazy but it’s a real (excuse the pun) shot in the arm for the zombie genre.

I’ve also read a lot of fantastic short stories this year. It’s not something I’ve done much of in the past but I’m really glad I’ve discovered the medium. Two names that really stick out are Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Genevieve Valentine. Both produced stories that had a touch of the sublime about them but which also stuck in my mind long after I read them. I will also say that, for me, the best anthology of stories in 2014 was Two Hundred and Twenty One Stories From Baker Street. Every single piece of work was a fitting tribute to the Sherlock and Watson cannon and it was just great fun to see how each author reproduced those characters in such wildly different settings.

Starting this blog earlier this year has also been great for me. Not only have I had a place to collate my thoughts on all the books I read I’ve also got to interview a few very interesting authors and editors. I’m hoping to continue in the same spirit in which I began in 2015. Maybe I’ll get a chance to watch all the films I missed out on this year. Maybe I’ll finally get to watch The Walking Dead season 4 (no spoilers please!). But, definitely, I’ll keep on reading, reviewing and blogging about some new stuff, some old stuff and some e-stuff.

Have a great New Year and thanks for reading 🙂

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I was sent this a while ago but never got around to reading it…until last night and I couldn’t put it down. The writing style and first person narrative lends itself to a quick read whilst the plot was, literally, addictive. Though I’ve been on a bit of a zombie horror binge of late, I’ve been very lucky with my choices. Most are recommendations from great and trusted sources; Fiend was a stab in the dark that struck gold.

When Chase Daniels sees the little girl in umbrella-print socks disemboweling the Rottweiler, he’s not too concerned. As a longtime meth addict, he’s no stranger to such horrifying drug-fueled hallucinations. But as he and his fellow junkies soon discover, the little girl is no illusion. The end of the world really has arrived. And with Chase’s life already destroyed beyond all hope of redemption, Armageddon might actually be an opportunity–a last chance to hit restart, win back the love of his life, and become the person he once dreamed of being.

The opening gambit is a pure drug fuelled hypnotic hallucination that doesn’t stop. Chase, the protagonist and the most self-serving junkie in literature, and his friend Typewriter John have been on a meth smoking bender for a week. Thinking the dog chomping little girl is at first imaginary and, then, a substance induced hallucination of a child who they just murdered by mistake, the pair go on the run. However, it dawns on them that the abandoned streets and Chase’s dead neighbour may be connected to something greater.

Drug addled and at their mental breaking point, Chase and Typewriter not only have to dodge a bunch of reanimated corpses intent on eating them, they have the even greater worry of their crushing addiction. After some hair-raising adventures, Chase manages to save his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend and the gang head out to a dealer’s cabin in the woods to set up the good life, away from the zombies but mainly, and more importantly, with the man who can cook meth. Things go typically pear shaped as the junkies lose perspective and control and the happy gang are soon losing members in their strange struggle to survive the apocalypse.

Chase works out that it’s the meth that has saved them from the disease which has claimed the rest of the population. But, whilst the addiction that has ruined them becomes suddenly condoned, it changes nothing. The book is a gripping and heart-wrenching meditation on the vile and desperate need of drug addiction; the pointless and self loathing constant, the ceaseless and unsatisfied itch, and the weird zen like moment of self-destruction of the hit that never lasts or does all that it promises to do. Fiend is a powerful read.

The writing style sucks you in to the conniving and selfish world of Chase and his friends. The desperation for meth and the dirty, consuming highs and lows pour from the page, creating an entangling and hypnotic narrative. The horror of chasing the next hit is almost worse than Stenson’s super creepy, giggling version of the zombie.

It’s like Breaking Bad mashed together with The Walking Dead, told from the perspective of the most scabby, greasy dishonest junkie available. But, Stenson’s novel is so much more. It picks away at what’s underneath the addiction to the heart of these very damaged characters. It is there that the book does so much. It highlights the lose of innocence, the desperation and loneliness and the deep desire to return to a place of happiness; to rewind the clock and never make that first, damning mistake. Fiend is a zombie horror on its surface, a strung out meth novel underneath but, at its heart, a polemic on the human condition and it is fantastic.

Review copy
Published by William Heinemann