With ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘American Horror Story’ back on the air, a new Shinji Makami game in stores this week, and pumpkin-something everywhere one turns, it is quite evident Halloween is almost upon us! Though this season is usually spent going to haunted attractions or in a dark crowded theater, there is another time honored tradition that should not be forgotten: a good book. For as many varieties of fear there are an equal amount of sub-genres to horror and here we shall go over ten selections. This is not to say these are the ten best books overall, or even my personal favorites, only that each should provide chills and thrills to suit different tastes.
Children’s (and for the young at heart): ‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman
This short, yet thoroughly sweet tale expertly mixes legitimate scares with a ton of genuinely moving emotional moments in the way that Gaiman has shown time and again to be a master of. This story tells of Bod, a boy living amongst and raised by ghosts. The situation isn’t one of choice, however. Bod’s family has been murdered by a mysterious man, who goes by Jack, and the graveyard is the boy’s only place of refuge. His journey of discovery is one well worth taking.
Thriller: ‘Christine’ by Stephen King
With a breakneck pace akin to a ’56 Fury blazing down a straightaway, this tale provides page-turning thrills in droves. King is certainly the literary monarch of rambling horror stories, but it can be argued his skills are at their best in this multigenerational story of greed and revenge. Arnold ‘Arnie’ Cunningham and his friend Dennis Gilbert are introduced to the titular menace very early on. Over the course of this sprawling story there is romantic entanglements, a grotesque and mysterious history, car chases, and unmanned vehicular murders. As with all great thrillers though, the biggest question on mind and lips will be ‘who will make it out alive?’
Mystery: ‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie
Among the many works of an author widely known as a master of the murder mystery – this is considered among the best, and for good reason. The premise is brilliant in its simplicity and executed with panache. Ten people are brought to a deserted island under varying pretexts. The only thread they share is that all of them have gotten away with murder in the past. Whoever has brought them to this island and trapped them there is aware of their previous actions and seems intent on revenge. What follows is a classic battle of Christie’s signature wits and wills where everyone is guilty.
Science Fiction: ‘The Shining Girls’ by Lauren Beukes
It doesn’t get more science fiction than time travel or more horror than serial killers. Combine the two and you get this twisted tale of the haunted Kirby Mazrachi and Harper Curtis, a broken man who finds himself driven to kill when he discovers a house that lets him step into other times. The twist here is that Kirby is one of Harper’s victims except she didn’t die. When Kirby teams up with an ex-homicide reporter they get closer to the mind-bending truth around Harper, but what will happen to them when the killer learns she’s still lives?
Supernatural: ‘Something More than Night’ by Ian Tregillis
Many novels have interpreted angels in different ways, but perhaps none more differently than this. Inspired by the works of Raymond Chandler and Noir mysteries in general, Something More than Night follows the life of fallen angel, Bayliss, as he investigates the murder of the Archangel Gabriel in addition to the disappearance of this story’s Maltese Falcon, the Jericho Trumpet. The abundance of noir references and old-fashioned dialog may not be for everyone, but will prove a real treat for those who do!
Gothic: ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ by Oscar Wilde
The gothic genre is at its best when studying the darkness within all of us, and hardly any delve better into that dilemma than Oscar Wilde’s classic. The book descends into a study into beauty and the meaning of immortality, where the titled Dorian meets Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton. Together, this trio embarks on a dark path which could end with dire consequences, however good their intentions.
Monsters: ‘Let the Right One In’ by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Called the ‘anti-Twilight’ by some, it is certainly a task to find a darker or gorier vampire story than this. The center of the tale is a twelve year old boy, Oskar, and his budding relationship with the new young girl who was moved next door. When a series of murders comes to their small town, and all the victims drained completely of blood, Oskar quickly finds himself intrigued by the details. Though not as much as he is by Eli, this strange, fascinating girl who only comes out at night…
Origin Story: ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley
Despite the numerous adaptations over the years, none have managed to capture all the details and emotions of this character study. Though it is arguably the very start of the monster novel genre, what is most intriguing is how the monster is portrayed as being just as human as his creator, if not even better in many aspects. Few stories of the creation of a monster have managed to match Frankenstein, showing it to be a true classic worthy of a read no matter how much one thinks they already know of this tale.
Romance: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Gaston Leroux
Here is another classic that varies greatly from the version most popularly known. The musical many have seen is only a part of the story told in Leroux’s novel. Whole characters cut for the musical provide a depth of layers which not only expound of the origins and character of the Phantom but drastically alter the course of the story. Another unique aspect is the fact that The Phantom of the Opera is not a traditional romantic novel. The love triangle of Raoul, Christine, and the Phantom is not so much the focus, but instead explores the depths of the Phantom’s feelings and whether he’ll ever be able to love himself. Add the varying methods and voices in which the tale is told and you will find a truly gripping story of identity and intrigue.
Dystopia: ‘Battle Royale’ by Koushun Takami
The debate about whether The Hunger Games stole this concept or not appears to be the most publicity this book has gotten. Which is a tad depressing as it seems to have overshadowed much interest into this deep title, which is quite unlike anything else in the genre. Certainly, it compares to Collins’ novel in basic premise of teenagers competing for their lives… but that is really where the similarities end. The characters in Battle Royale are all part of the same Japanese junior high school class and have no foreknowledge of the events about to unfold around them. This range of depraved and challenged people coupled with explicit events make this not something for everyone. But for those who can stomach it, or anyone looking for a dystopian tale which takes things a notch or two deeper, will find something very intriguing indeed.
And that’s all ten! Feel free to comment with your thoughts on my selections or to add some of your own. After all, talking about books is one of the best parts about reading them!