Keeping with this month’s unintended theme, I’m here with some more favorites of mine! This time, it’s my all-time favorite horror novels. Some of them are downright terrifying, others are just filled with masterful prose, but all are great additions in the world of literary horror.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
I’m not a big fan of ghost stories. They tend to be drawn out, long, and often boring. Joe Hill, the son of horror master Stephen King, broke that mold for me. His novel follows an occult curio collector/aging rock star who must contend with a disturbing ghost that is “gifted” upon him. The best part? The novel gave me actual chills while I was reading it. And I can barely say that about most horror films.
Blood Crazy by Simon Clark
It’s like 28 Days Later meets Stephen King’s CELL, except it came before both. In this apocalyptic tale, children must learn to survive on their own after all adults in the world turn into rabid, zombie like beings intent on slaughtering the young.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
A bleak, powerful, dark novel about what the world is like after it’s nearly ended. If any book can make you rethink your own arrogant summation of survivability during the end times, it’ll be this one.
The Ruins by Scott Smith
This one gets some hate, but I loved it. I found it was a smart and scary take on the nature kills sub-genre of horror. The plot, about a sacred area covered in sentient plants, is a bit silly at times, but for the most part it’s a grounded novel and full effort is put into developing the characters, which is a rarity for horror novels.
The Descent by Jeff Long
Imagine if the movie The Descent (yes, the one about the cave humanoids) was rewritten to take place on a massive, global scale. Imagine that those beings were actually what all the world’s religions based their demons off of. And imagine how the world would react and try to defend itself. A perfect example of effective adventure-horror, this one comes with a sequel, though I thought it better as a stand alone novel.
Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
One of the freshest entries into the serial killer vs. hard-boiled detective variety is Cain’s Gretchen Lowell/Archie Sheridan series. Personally though, I place the novels more into the horror genre than crime-mystery, considering the first book opens with a seductive female serial killer slicing up a man and then forcing him to drink Drain-O. Many, many, many more murders await anyone who delves into this series.
Off Season by Jack Ketchum
This novel reads like an early 80s slasher movie… and that’s not a bad thing. Blood, disposable characters, and twisted fun make it a quick and enjoyable read for those who can handle gore in its literary form. And then, if you’re hungry for more, it comes with two sequels, Offspring and The Woman, as well as movies for those latter ones.
Cabal by Clive Barker
If you haven’t read this one, you’re missing out on a true horror classic. It’s the story that birthed the cult movie Nightbreed and is literally the mother of all monster novels, full of thoughtful subtext and meaning. Fits into what I sometimes call “smart man’s horror”.
Intensity by Dean Koontz
Koontz often writes what I call “horror-lite”. PG-13 horror, if you will. But in his earlier years, he was a little more intense and crafty. This particular novel follows a soft-spoken nobody who must find it within herself to become the hero she needs to be in order to stop a maniac from tormenting a little girl. Read up on this book and you might even remember catching the well done made-for-TV movie it birthed.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
King has so many horror classics, but whenever anyone asks where to start with him, I mention this one first. It’s a classic horror tale that’s not only truly eerie, but also offers up some of the greatest horror quotables to date. “Sometimes, dead is better.” “The soil of a man’s heart is stonier; a man grows what he can and tends it.”
The Bad Seed by William March
A pure classic about a very scary little girl, and for its age you won’t believe how actually smart and smoothly written the book is. And even still relevant to the notions of psychopathy we have today! If anything, the book is a nice reveal about a cunning killer who came before Hannibal Lecter, Dexter Morgan, or even Norman Bates.
World War Z by Max Brooks
Those who say they didn’t like this novel and found it boring may also be the kind of people who cannot sit through slower paced films or watch the news of the world at length. WWZ is a satirical examination of our modern societies first, a zombie novel second. And it is undoubtedly the closest example of what a realistic zombie apocalypse would look like.
The Rite by Matt Baglio
A non-fiction novel, but one of the only ones to give me the heebie-jeebies, which is saying something since I’m neither religious OR a fan of the possession/exorcism subgenre. Told as an honest account however, Baglio’s story, which follows a priest who travels to Rome in order to become an exorcist, is top-notch spooky.
So horror fiends, do we share any common favorites? Let me know. And as a bonus, let me shout out the following site. It’s one of my normal visits and key when you need to remember that long-lost book you read back in high school. http://toomuchhorrorfiction.blogspot.com/