This time a year or two ago, if someone had asked what scared you, the answer might be something like zombies or serial murderers or vengeful ghosts.
How innocent we were.
At this specific moment, unless you are one of those folks afraid of people with a different skin color, the real stuff is what scares you: losing health insurance, getting deported, losing a loved one to deportation, the destruction of our one and only environment, loss of civil rights, the suppression of a free press, unchecked gerrymandering, Betsy Devos, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, that other guy what’s his face, etc. etc.. Real horror is upon us.
So, here is a list of terrifying books about (more or less) non-real things that will perhaps cheer you up a little: people getting disemboweled by the living dead, or maybe having their souls sucked out of their eye sockets by demons or getting buried alive by a barista who might not actually be a coffee shop employee. Fun stuff. Comedy-type stuff — relatively speaking. Things that, compared to reality, look like your 4-year-old’s Hello Kitty tea party.
Seriously, though – here are some top-notch scary books: some new, some a bit older, but prob a bunch you haven’t read. Take a break from the news, ok?
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
This one from the early 90s is slated to become a film. It has elements of Stranger Things and It, but with a wider variety of monsters and set in the early 60s. “Kids fight evil’ never gets old, because we all feel vulnerable (like kids) when we go up against something reeeeally bad. Pick up some chocolate pudding on your way home from the bookstore for this one.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
This peach from just a few years ago is a throwback to the horror everyone loves: a ghost story told in the vein of the classics like Poe and James. Escape to England and an old manor house which has seen better days; can you unravel the mystery – or… should you even want to?
The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
A couple tries to start over, after a personal economic catastrophe, using their meager resources to move into an old house. Unfortunately for them, this house just might be a distant relative of Shirley Jackson’s Hill House. Oops. Bad things happen. Can they – and their relationship – survive? They’ll have to, because they cannot run away.
If you’ve never read YA as an adult, let me tell you, it’s like mainlining narcotics. First, it’s never the case that writing for young people is somehow a lesser art than writing for… old people. It’s just that the style, being intended for energetic youths who have a thousand intense things competing for their attention, feels sort of… streamlined. Less broad development, more focused action. Anyway, that’s my opinion. It’s a style, designed for its primary audience, and if you find yourself in a life situation right now where your attention span is on the short side, YA might be a way back in. This series starts with Asylum, is set in a former asylum (now a college dorm), and may or may not include ghosts, serial killers, family secrets and possession.
Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan
If you like your horror to have a cosmic feel (ie Lovecraftian) or where it dips into sci-fi, then this poetic novella might be your speed. Humanity is in danger from something(?) out on the edge of the solar system, and it’s up to Scully and Mulder some Special Agent to figure out what’s going on: is it some kinda science thingy? is it that weird desert cult?
Ararat by Christopher Golden
As a religious person, I find it funny when folks search for Noah’s ark: guys, it’s “true”, but not literally true. Knock it off; it’s embarrassing. In this novel, though – they find it. Up on Mt Ararat, buried in a cave, is the original ark – sealed like a tomb. And maybe… that’s exactly what it is. Horror ensues. With themes of science and religion, there’s lots to recommend this monster horror.
The Girl from Rawblood – Catriona Ward
If you had a huge old house, and you wanted to name it, wouldn’t it be something like: Greenholme Gardens or Rivendell or Golden Haven? Would you name it something grisly like Rawblood?! Sheesh. Anyway, the Villarca family has a history of strange curses and illness, so it’s par for the course, I guess. Sequestered at Rawblood, young Iris begins to doubt and defy here father’s controlling rules about where she can go, and who she can befriend – but he has his own past to worry about. It’s the intersection of Victorian science and Gothic ghosts. What’s better in a horror novel? Nothing.
Malus Domestica by S.A. Hunt
Witches get a bad rap, but like everyone else, there are good ones… and there are bad ones. Robin Martine, after losing her own mother to the wicked Marilyn Cutty, is on a vengeful quest to set things right. Can she, with her 4th grade allies, battle through a horde of evil beasties to end an ancient horror and free a town?
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
This 700 page father-son epic is brand spankin’ new. All the women in the world fall into a kind of sleep-trance, leaving men to fend for and fight amongst themselves. Try to wake up one of the women, and you’ll be killed by them (I’m the exact same way, before 8am). As men futz about in this world, women enjoy a much better existence in that other world of their dreams. So, are we doomed? Or can we find some way get our two breeding halves back together?
With a little escape to recharge your batteries, you should be ready to face the horrors of reality. Remember: always use your imagination constructively, meaning –> never forget that things can get better- they really can. They will. For instance, some day, we might be haunted by vampire ghosts, attacked by zombie alien serial killers, and subject to an ancient werewolf curse – still scary, but better, right? For the moment, get out there and punch some nazis.