Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Five Overlooked Horror Books
Fans of genre literature can be an opinionated lot, and why shouldn't they be? They know what they like, and they aren't willing to settle for mediocre examples of their favorite type of book. Horror fans are no different. Everyone has tackled Stephen King, of course, and most hardcore horror fans burn out on Anne Rice and Dean Koontz pretty quickly. Here are five seriously spooky books we've uncovered that should satisfy the pickiest horror buffs and maybe even win over a few brave newcomers to the genre.
5) Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons
Simmons is perhaps best known for his ability to brilliantly blend themes to create historical novels with chilling and utterly convincing supernatural twists (The Terror, his retelling of the story of the real-life mystery of a vanished Arctic expedition, could have made this list), but this early work is straightforward horror of the best quality. Intimate and disturbing, this tale of unscrupulous and violent psychics and the innocent pawns who get caught in their machinations is the kind of story that works the nerves remorselessly.
4) Fevre Dream, by George R.R. Martin
Like Dan Simmons, Martin is not primarily recognized for contributions to the horror genre, but that fact just highlights how murky genre classifications can become. This atmospheric novel seems to borrow equally from Dracula and the film Angel Heart- its pre-Civil War South setting is unsettling all on its own, but the story of a river-boat captain's Faustian bargain with a mysterious benefactor, and Martin's distinct feel for character, mark this as a forgotten classic.
3) The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Del Toro, the fantastically imaginative writer and director behind such movies as Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone, seems just as able when it comes to crafting suspenseful, creative books. With the help of veteran thriller writer Hogan, del Toro manages to both return the vampire to its rightful place as terrifying horror trope while also providing a fresh view of the fanged beastie- namely, vampirism as a virulent, highly contagious plague. By setting the outbreak in Manhattan, the authors make this book, the first in a trilogy, hit just close enough to home to be utterly, convincingly creepy.
2) Neverland, by Douglas Clegg
The creepy-kid cliche is rampant in horror films today, but only as a cheap gag to freak out adults. It usually works, but we won't go into the reasons why that might be the case. Very few novelists can effectively convey the way the world of a child can be daunting and filled with unique fears, but Clegg certainly does so here. Reality and illusion become dubious in this story of two young cousins and the deep-woods god they dub Lucy. When Lucy starts demanding ever-greater sacrifices, things get even weirder. This shivery book reads a bit like Lord of the Flies gone way wrong- and that's saying something.
1) The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey
Ostensibly, this is a young adult book, but it serves as excellent proof that even those books aimed at younger readers can be great- and genuinely scary- for adults, too. Yancey's tale of the young apprentice to a self-titled monstrumologist- a scientist specializing in the things that go bump in the night- is, in its elaborate prose and turn-of-the-century New England setting, a terrific homage to pulp writers, especially Lovecraft. The style should appeal to older readers, but it's the compelling characters and gruesome monsters that make this a spooky and addictive read for the budding horror fan. A hidden gem.