Halloween is approaching and if you're like me, you like to use October as an opportunity to fill in the horror-shaped holes in your reading schedule. Here are thirteen excellent reads that will do just that.
Slender Man by Anonymous
If you haven't heard of Slender Man, he's a modern-day supernatural bogeyman born out of a 2009 Internet meme. He is described as being a thin and unnaturally tall humanoid figure with a featureless head and face. He wears a black suit when he stalks and abducts people, usually children. This persistent meme has been given a straight-up horror novel treatment in Slender Man, a new novel about one man's search for the truth behind the urban legend. The story unfolds through a cleverly told series of journal entries, newspaper clippings and online conversations, all of which adds to the mystique of the mysterious figure.
In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey
Charles Hayden is a grieving biographer of a Victorian fantasist named Caedmon Hollow, who happens to be his wife Erin's ancestor. Charles and Erin move from America to England to heal themselves and their marriage after a devastating loss. After moving into a remote mansion, they find themselves slowly slipping into the supernatural world that—perhaps literally—consumed Caedmon Hollow. Bailey's ghost story is engrossing and notable for its depiction of using love to overcome loss.
The Best of the Best Horror of the Year edited by Ellen Datlow
If you're a fan of horror fiction you've probably heard of Ellen Datlow, who has been editing horror fiction for more than three decades and serving up anthology after anthology of fantastic horror reads. Her ongoing series The Best Horror of the Year has now been running for ten of those years. To celebrate, she has collected the best of those stories from the past decade and collected them into the massive treat that is The Best of the Best Horror of the Year. The twenty-eight stories it contains include terrific-but-unsettling stories by Laird Barron, Gemma Files, Neil Gaiman, Mira Grant, Tanith Lee, Livia Llewellyn, Peter Straub and more. Don't miss it.
The House by the Cemetery by John Everson
What could possibly go wrong renovating an old house located next to a cemetery for the purposes of turning it into a haunted house amusement attraction? Well, just about the worst things that can go wrong. Mike Kostner needs cash, so when his friend throws him this renovation job, he jumps at the chance. As Mike comes to learn, the house seems to have a life and dark history all its own. As readers will come to learn, this is a book that is hard to put down. I devoured this book in two sittings, furiously turning pages towards the blood-soaked conclusion.
The Nightmarchers by J. Lincoln Fenn
On a remote Pacific island in 1939, a woman named Irene Greer plunged off a waterfall to her death, convinced that the spirits of her dead husband and daughter had joined the nightmarchers, the name given to the ghosts of the island's ancient warriors. To Julia Greer, her ancestor, that's just some old family history. Julia is a struggling journalist, focusing on the here-and-now, trying to make ends meet. Then her elderly great-aunt calls with a proposition: in exchange for lots of money, Julia is to travel to the remote island, collect samples of a very special flower, and find out what really happened to Irene all those years ago. She soon finds that conspiracy and secrets surround Irene's death.
The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2018 Edition edited by Paula Guran
Yet another excellent anthology for you to seek out, this one a mix of horror and dark fantasy. The 2018 edition of Paula Guran's ongoing Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror series includes thirty tales to terrify you. Look for stories by Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Maria Dahvana Headley, John Langan, Ken Liu, Seanan McGuire, Kelly Robson, Sofia Samatar, John Shirley, Catherynne M. Valente and more to find stories of "macabre meetings, sinister excursions, and deadly relationships; uncanny encounters; a classic ghost story featuring an American god; a historical murderer revived in a frightening new iteration; innovative Lovecraftian turns; shadowy fairy tales and weird myths; strange children, the unexpected, the supernatural, the surreal, and the all-too real... tales of the dark."
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
What is a 1959 gothic horror novel doing in a list of mostly recent horror books? Well, besides being an undeniable classic work of literature written by one its finest masters, it has also been recently re-released to coincide with the brand new Netflix adaptation, streaming right now. The haunted house in question is an eighty-year-old mansion notorious for being the location of bizarre events. In hopes of explaining the unexplainable, a group of people—an occult scholar, his assistant, a woman acquainted with poltergeists, and the house's future owner—stay at the house to get to the bottom of things. Supernaturally speaking, things do not go well for them.
Slimer by Harry Adam Knight / The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight / Worms by James R. Montague
Valancourt Books has recently started reprinting out-of-print classic horror novels, allowing them to find new fans among modern audiences. That's good news for readers who want to know what the horror of yesteryear was like. (Spoiler alert: Lots of fun!) Three titles are newly available this month:
- In Smiler by Harry Adam Knight (1983), drug smugglers find refuge on an abandoned oil rig when their yacht sinks. But the oil rig is not what it seems. It looks more like a biological research facility where something has gone very, very wrong. Slimer was the basis for the cult 1995 film Proteus.
- In The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight (1985), a brilliant scientist attempts to solve the world's hunger problem by creating giant mushrooms through genetically engineering. Unfortunately, the mutated spores escape the lab, spread across the English countryside, and turn even the mildest infection into something deadly—not to mention the hideous transformation undergone by anyone who might survive those infections.
- If you cringe at the thought of slimy worms, then Worms by James R. Montague (1979) may be the creepiest horror book you will ever read. Part psychological horror, part B-movie creature-feature, Worms is about a couple on holiday who, through an unfortunate series of events, end up on the Norfolk coast where…let's just say they have infestation problem.
The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti
Here's one for non-fiction readers. Ligotti, known primarily for his disturbing supernatural horror fiction stories, here offers readers a glimpse into the mind that creates it. This collection of non-fiction essays takes a philosophical look at our everyday lives and examines the theory that we are all living a meaningless "nightmare of existence." Pessimistic? Sure, but Ligotti's erudite ruminations show that the greatest horrors in life are the real ones we see around us every day. Do you want a taste? Read the introduction here.
Blood Communion by Anne Rice
Anne Rice delivers to fans another tale of Prince Lestat with a new Vampire Chronicles story that fills in the rich back story of their favorite vampire. Here, Lestat recounts his past days and how he came to rule the vampire world as its prince through the formation of the Blood Communion. Lestat's tale shows how the vampires struggled to find their place in an unaccepting world and how Lestat was able to overcome the obstacles that stood in his way.
The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke
"Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies―girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully." So says the cover of Tucholke's new dark fantasy/horror hybrid aimed at young adults. As kick-butt as these heroines are, they may have had enough of fighting. When Frey learns of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, she sees that as their ticket to a better way of life. Marked by excellent worldbuilding, The Boneless Mercies offers a message of hope and change.