Monster of the Week episodes are the best.
Let me clarify: When I was younger, I was a very big fan of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. And, as much as I love a good overarching mythology arc, my very favorite episodes of most TV shows are the ones that showcase a Monster of the Week. What’s scarier than Eugene Victor Tooms, awaking every 30 years to eat some fresh human livers? Or a giant human flukeworm in the sewers, the gremlin on the side of an airborne plane, the Silence, or Weeping Angels?
With monsters on the mind—and given that there are just seven more days until Halloween (counting today)—what better way to get into the mood than to celebrate with a different literary monster? In the spirit of Halloween, I give you seven of my favorite horror novels, for seven of my favorite monsters. A monster, if you will, for every day of the week.
Friday: The Ghoul
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
A good, vengeful ghost story is a staple for any horror aficionado, and the perfect way to kick off a weeklong monster bonanza. British novelist Michelle Paver spins one of the most terrifying ghost stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading with Dark Matter, an epistolary historical novel set at the top of the world, where great cruelty and madness await an isolated expedition team.
Runner up: Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow. Bow’s new novel, about the Ones with the White Hands and the terror that lurks in the dark woods at the edge of the world is plenty terrifying.
Saturday: The Vampire
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Although there’s certainly no shortage of vampire books (especially in recent years with True Blood, Twilight, etc.), Stephen King’s ode to the classic vampire remains one of my favorites on the page or on the screen. Remember, kiddies: If your friend is floating outside and tapping at your window, you never, ever invite him in.
Runner up: The Passage by Justin Cronin. Apocalyptic telepathic vampires, that mulitply like zombies, all spawned from a government experiment on twelve criminals. Keeper (but ditch The Twelve).
Sunday: The Beast
The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist series may be written for a young-adult audience, but the horror of these books transcends age and genre classification. In this second adventure, monstrumologist Warthrop and young apprentice Will Henry track down the great yellow-eyed, flesh-eating monster of legend, from the wilderness of the north, to the tenements of New York City.
Runner up: Monster by Christopher Pike. The beast within stirs, and for teenager Angela, it’s a classic struggle of conscience versus hunger.
Monday: The Zombie
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
This is one of those books I try to push into the hands of everyone I meet even remotely interested in zombie fiction. Why? Because it is that good. Like any truly great zombie novel, This is Not a Test is all about the horrors of the people who must do terrible things in order to survive the undead apocalypse—in this case, the horror within a school gymnasium.
Runner up: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan. The third book in Carrie Ryan’s trilogy, The Dark and Hollow Places needs to be read in sequence, and is a fitting, haunting conclusion to a world overrun by death. Start with The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
Tuesday: The Sociopath
I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan WellsWhat do you get when you mash up a teenage sociopath with homicidal tendencies with an episode of The X-Files? A close approximation to Dan Wells’ unsettling, first-person narrated slasher novel, that’s what. John Wayne Cleaver, we do not want to get on your bad side. Or your good side, for that matter.
Runner up: Slights by Kaaron Warren. This multi-award winning Australian horror author’s novel Slights is an excursion into the apathy of a truly rotten-core protagonist. Not for the faint of heart (or weak of stomach).
Wednesday: The Children
The Midwich Cukoos by John WyndhamThere’s something in particular about this Wyndham novel that has always terrified me. Perhaps it’s because I watched the film first, and seeing those little tow-headed demon-children really sticks with you. In any case, the book is even better than either film, and certainly deserves a spot
Runner up: Your House is on Fire Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye. Released in the USA just last year, Kiesbye’s book involves betrayal, manipulation, cannibalism and murder. Creepy.
Thursday: The Haunted House
House of Leaves by Mark DanielewskiI don’t know about you, but the haunted house story—when done well—is among my favorite subsets of the horror genre. Danielewski’s novel is a post-modern masterpiece with stories within stories, footnotes and hidden codes. At its heart, House of Leaves is a story about a house whose insides are much larger than its outsides (now, where those insides go, that’s a whole other story). This is one of the most frightening, visceral reads I’ve ever experienced, which is why it is so perfect to end the week, on Halloween.
Runner up: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. Much, much scarier than the film adaptation. You want a haunted house novel in which setting plays an integral part of the story? Look no further.
So there you have it! A list of monsters for every day this week. Of course, there are plenty of other monsters that I couldn’t fit on the list, including: Horror in a Small Town (Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury); The Invasion (The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Pod by Stephen Wallenfels); The Clown (It by Stephen King, of course); The Devil, Killer Robots and so many more.
But that’s it from me, for now. What horror monsters and novels are your favorites?