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"Breaking Bad" meets "The Walking Dead" in "FIEND" [EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW]

July 16, 2013|Elliott Serrano, for Redeye

I'm a big fan of the television show "The Walking Dead." (Geek confession: I have not read the comic books by Robert Kirkman. I know, I know, that's as big a sin as not reading "Game of Thrones.") I am an even bigger fan of "Breaking Bad." If there is any show on cable right now that I consider "appointment television" it's BB. The show is just so well written, the characters so compelling, that I just need to know what's going to happen next.

So you could imagine my cynicism when someone pitches the book "FIEND" to me as "Breaking Bad meets The Walking Dead." That's a pretty high bar you've gotta reach in my opinion.

And then I read the book. And while the comparison to the 2 shows in question may give you an idea of what to expect in "FIEND", the truth is that this debut novel by author Peter Stenson really does stand on its own. As a recovering addict, Stenson is intimately aware of how your life is turned upside-down when it's spent in the dogged pursuit of your next fix. In looking through the eyes of Chase Daniels, the protagonist of "FIEND", the reader gets a look into the mindset of the junkie. And then Stenson adds the zombie apocalypse. Pret-ty clever if you ask me.

Here's an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from the book to give you an idea of what this world Stenson has created is like. Then let me know what you think about it in the comment section, or even hit me up on Twitter:

****

9:29 pm

Sometimes when I smoke shit, I reach the perfect balance of motivation and concentration. This is one of those times. I create a list as we drive north. A list of things we need to do,and of things we know or think we know. I’m writing on the back of an El Sombrero single-slice box.

1. We have killed two people things today (self- defense).

2. These things are zombielike.

3. Zombies don’t exist.

4. There are at least two other people (perv on 18toplay, and Tibbs) who aren’t dead.

I stop making the list and pull out my cell phone for the first time. Why the fuck haven’t I tried to call anyone? I hit speed dial one, KK. It goes straight to voice mail. I think about her being Svetlana, naked and skinny and laughing a demonic laugh. I picture her as Rebecca, alone and dead, being eaten by greedy cats. Then I picture her as me, trying to make sense out of everything, terrified. I call again. I tell the machine I love her, it will be okay, to call and let me know she’s alive.

Then I call my parents. It’s been at least a year since I’ve talked to them. The phone rings and I’m picturing them sitting around the kitchen table, my dad with his graying hair, his readers resting on the bridge of his nose, holding my mother’s hand, maybe brushing her dehydrated-piss-yellow hair away from her eyes. They’re sitting there worrying, waiting for the call that tells them their son is dead. It goes to voice mail. Guns and shit, Typewriter says.

Huh?

Supplies. Weapons. The list. Cabela’s is ’bout twenty miles away.

I write:

5. Weapons. Food and water.

And dope, Type says.

You fucking serious?

As hepatitis, he says.

6. Meth

I look over the list. My fleeting sense of accomplishment fades. The list is retarded. It gets me no closer to understanding what’s happening. I light a cigarette. Typewriter asks for one. He tells me to put cigarettes on the list. Fuck the list, I say. I look out the window and it’s dark now, like really dark, an hour and a half north of the Twin Cities, nothing but an abandoned two-lane highway. Where is everyone? Like, if things really were the way they seemed—people were either
dead or walking dead— then where was the panic? Movies showed that shit all the time. Some dude getting bit in a shit box of a country, then flying back to the US, chewing up his family, and from there the plague shit spreading with the speed of herpes on an Ivy League squash team.

But people panic on TV. They break into stores. They board up houses. They run out of gas. And here we are, driving eighty, not a single car in the way. I mention this to Typewriter. He looks over, a Newport dangling from his swollen lips. He says, How the fuck do they know?

Who?

Hollywood and shit.

What do—

Like there’s rules to the fucking apocalypse? Bro, this shit here, whatever is going on, you can bet your ass it’s never happened before. Not in some movie. Not in a book. It’s some dinosaur shit, you know?

I tell him I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Extinction, man. The end. Finished. Us. Humans. Thanks for playing. Better luck next—

Yeah, got it, I say.

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