The Ultimate Guide to Halloween Reading (pt.2)
Fear the unknown… Sci-fi horrors to haunt your android dreams
Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer Annihilations might be the most polarizing read out of this entire list, as people either seem to love or hate this story. For me personally, this first book is an all-time favourite, and one that terrified me on an almost existential level. As with all Jeff Vandermeers books, this is weird and requires a bit of an open mind, but is one of the few books that still has me spontaneously thinking about it regularly. I personally went in blind, and think this is the best way to go, so I won’t give a synopsis here. If you like the book, the Netflix Original movie is also extremely good in my opinion. It’s such a loose adaptation that the it’s debatable to even call it such, yet both are incredible works of their own. Warning though: this movie is either probably the second scariest and most haunting one I’ve ever watched and had me lying awake at night thinking of “that scene”.
Recursion – Blake Crouch Last year, I featured Blake Crouches Wayward Pines trilogy and Dark Matter in my recommendations. This year, to avoid repeating myself too much, I’m including his newest work Recursion. Similarly to Annihilation, I’m not going to give a detailed synopsis. Read the backflap if you want to, or go in as blind as possible. If you were a fan of Dark Matter, I highly recommend you pick up this latest work by the author as well.
I have no mouth and I must scream – Harlan Ellison One of the scariest titles I’ve ever come across, suitably belongs to one of the scariest sci-fi horror novels I’ve ever read. I hate this story, as the concept thoroughly freaked me out, yet I have to admit that it’s a great piece of writing for evoking such a reaction in me. This collection explores seven horrifying thought-experiments of technology gone too far. The titular one in particular is one that haunts me to this day.
Semiosis – Sue Burke Last on my sci-fi-horror list, I had to feature one of my more recent discoveries, and one of the most unique novels about alien life I’ve ever come across. When their space ship crashlands on the wrong planet, a group of colonists must survive in this strange ecosystem where not animals, but sentient plants form the apex of the evolutionary chain. What follows is a highly original (and strangely biologically accurate) tale of first contact and space-colonization like I had never read before.
Something Strange in the Neighborhood: Urban Fantasy with a dark twist...
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks. A novel that needs barely any introduction, from the well-known and well-loved king of the weird and macabre: Neil Gaiman himself… Any book by Neil Gaiman could have taken this spot to be honest, but I’m putting Neverwhere as a placeholder for all of them. In my opinion, this is the perfect place to start if you’re new to Gaiman, especially the audiobook, narrated by the author himself.
The Diviners – Libba Bray Whilst currently making my way through the second novel in this quartet, I just can’t help but recommend the first one to everybody who enjoys urban fantasy with a darker, occult twist. Follow sassy, lippy country girl Evie O’Neill, as she travels to nineteen twenties New York to live with her pariah uncle Will, curator of the American museum of Folklore and Superstition. While Evie’s initial concerns are only which speakeasy and party to attend first in this bustling new city, she is soon swept up in a darker affair, concerning the occult mysteries, a killer that strikes form the shadows, and a power within herself she never knew existed. Middlegame – Seanan McGuire So, I don’t quite know how to introduce this novel, other than that it completely blew my mind and was one of three books I read this year to make it to my all-time-favourite list. A sci-fi fantasy story of epic proportion, that centers around alchemy, science and the bond between a unique set of twins who were separated at birth, but keep finding each other over and over. In my opinion, this is Seanan McGuires magnum opus, so even if you (like me) didn’t enjoy her Wayward Children novella’s, I highly recommend you give this book a try.
Lanny – Max Porter This last book is a bit of a wildcard in this category, as I personally would lable this more as literary fiction than. Yet according to Goodreads, it’s both, and honestly, I’m happy to be able to shout it out anywhere on this list. I might not be completely impartial to the author of one of my all-time favourite novels Grief is the Thing with Feathers, but in my honest opinion, this book is a dark little masterpiece. In my review I described this as art Melmoth by Sarah Perry, part Autumn by Ali Smith, part Reservoir 13, and yet, at least for me, better than all those things. If you enjoyed Max Porters first story like I did, take this one on faith, and give it a blind try.
Classically Haunted: “The Ghostly Classics”
Many of these will not need much introduction…
The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson My personal favourite classic horror story: a novel about a haunted house, as much as the haunted people living within it. Although it’s a very loose adaptation, I also adored the Netflix Original Series of the same year that aired last year around this time.
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley My second favourite classic walks the line between psychological horror, sci-fi, dystopia and a bit of ethics. I’ve only begun to appreciate the full brilliant depth of this story after reading it when I was in medical school. This is one of those classics that is truly timeless, and seems to only become more relevant as years pass by, and science advances.
Sherlock Holmes might not be the first title to come to mind at the mention of Halloween, yet The Hounds of Baskerville was one of those stories that did manage to give me the creeps, and had me looking twice at those rustling bushes when cycling alone in the dark. In this famous story Sherlock investigates the deaths surrounding a legend of a hell hound roaming the murky moonlit moors. However, perhaps he has more than just a mere dog to fear in doing so… Who goes there – John W. Campbell The last classic on this list, is the novel that inspired the movie “The Thing”, telling the story of an isolated research base on Antarctica, plagued by a shapeshifting creature that haunts the crew. The completely isolated setting and the almost Lovecraftian descriptions of the shapeless creature that leave much to the imagination, make this a truly scary read.
Short and Scary: Short stories, best read by moonlight
Things we say in the Dark – Kirsty Logan I can’t pass up a chance to mention one of my all-time favourite authors new work, especially when it fits the theme at hand perfectly. Kirsty Logans new short story collection is described as a powerful contemporary collection of feminist stories, ranging from vicious fairy tales to disturbing horror and tender ghost stories. Perfect for fans of Angela Carter, Jen Campbell and Anne Valente.
Salt Slow – Julia Armfield Similar in style to Things we Say in the Dark is Salt Slow, a collection of literary, magical realism that are all about “bodies”. An absolutely stunning debut collection that deserves way more attention than it got upon release, and contained stories that I still spontaneously think about from time to time.
Night Shift – Stephen King Not in the market for the more abstract magical realism, but just want some stories to creep you out? The next two recommendations might be just for you. Of course, you cannot make a Halloween recommendations-list without mentioning some Stephen King (in fact, he’s the only author that’ll make multiple appearances on this list). I mention Night Shift, as it’s Kings first collection, but honestly, the other collections I’ve read from (Everything’s Eventual, Skeleton Crew and Bazaar of Bad Dreams are equally as good).
Sleep is for the weak: the scariest books of recent years
Bird box – Josh Malerman Thanks to the 2019 film adaptation, this book will probably be the most well known of the four, yet it’s still very much worth a mention as one of the creepiest books I’ve read in recent years. In a postapocalyptic world, a literal “unseen” terror forms a thread to everyone who lays eyes on it. We follow a woman and her two children on a blindfolded journey to safety, never knowing what horrors might lurk just in front of their faces at all time. For someone like me, who hates closing their eyes, even in a familiar and safe setting, this world is truly the stuff of nightmares.
The Ritual – Adam Neville Full disclosure: I personally didn’t enjoy this novel, because I probably went in with the wrong expectations. It is however, a favourite of many of my friends who love horror, so I found it worth a mention nonetheless. A group of four college friends reunite to go on a hiking trip through the Scandinavian forests, in honour of their fifth friend who is no longer with them. When they decide to veer off the beaten path and end up lost in the isolated wilderness, their trip takes a turn for the nightmarish. This book as well, has a movie adaptation available on Netflix for those of you who are interested.
The Outsider – Stephen King My second mention of the King of thrills. The Outsider was the well-deserved winner of the mystery-thriller goodreads choice award 2018. Following the horrifying murder case of a young boy, this book takes some twists and turns I did not see coming…
The Anomaly – Michael Rutger Indiana Jones meets X-files, meets absolute horror in this adventure-thriller about a film crew investigating the existence of a long hidden cave that is rumoured to exist in the Grand Canyon. The crew gets more than they bargained for when they not only find the cave, but become trapped in its integrate network of tunnels and chambers, with possibly more than just the darkness to fear… Absolutely terrifying, especially for any one with a mild case of claustrophobia…