One of my favorite genres is horror, and I’m always on the hunt for the next great horror novel. What I especially love are the horror books so well-written that they help me in the writing of my own work!
Last week I looked at 5 awesome horror books, and here are 5 more…
1. NOS4A2, by Joe Hill
NOS4A2 is a superb horror novel that reminded me of some of the best classic work by my favorite author, Stephen King. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Hill is the son of King, and has been publishing adult horror fiction under a pseudonym (Joe Hill King is his birth name). Much of his father’s talent has passed down to Hill, who has talent for descriptive horror imagery, complex characters, and tension-filled pacing that is at times nearly unbearable. I loved the epic scope of this 700+ page novel, too, with its long span of time (about twenty-five years) and large cast of characters who all play important roles in the narrative.
2. Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
This is an example of a mid-twentieth century horror novel that, like The Exorcist, caused a whirlwind among suspense readers of the time, and for the most part I was enthralled with this celebrated classic. First, I was impressed with the eerie foreshadowing of the horror to come, little nuggets of dialogue and information Levin would drop in the first half of the book. I also admired how Levin explores both the highs and the horrors of pregnancy throughout this book, not shying away from Rosemary’s suffering. He explores in great detail how Rosemary’s pregnancy at one point hurts her body and her mind, and does so in an authentic, chilling manner. I also liked Levin’s use of suspense throughout the book, which really ratchets up in the final forty pages. And I love the surprise twists at the end, and that gloriously memorable final scene.
3. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go is outstanding in almost every way, a riveting and thought-provoking read from beginning to end that works as coming-of-age, as dystopian science fiction, and as dread-inducing horror. It also works beautifully as a literary novel. Some may argue that it’s not a horror novel. Coming-of-age, sure, and science fiction, okay, but horror? Although I agree that Never Let Me Go is not horror the way N0S4A2 is more obviously horror, this is absolutely a novel about a horrific circumstance that can’t be avoided no matter how much the main characters want to, and Ishiguro provides enough suspense and terrifying images to suggest that there’s something dreadfully frightening about this world.
4. Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare, by Darren Shaw
This is a great series to read for any aspiring YA horror writer. There’s a lot here that works well, and I was legitimately surprised by some of the twists along the way. I also responded to the use of the double-I POV in this novel, as it turns out Darren Shaw himself wrote the book we’re reading, and therefore he’s looking back over his life and trying to recreate these important moments on the page (Darren Shaw is the actual author of the book, too, making the double-I almost meta in a way).
5. Misery, by Stephen King
One of my favorite novels by my all-time favorite author is Misery, and it was a thrill to read it again for the first time recently and teach it for a class! Almost everything works about this wild ride of a book, especially the weird, memorable, three-dimensional antagonist Annie Wilkes. In addition, King offers startling, fresh prose from beginning to end. He must have been a kid in a candy store writing this book, clearly close to the mindset of his protagonist Paul and delighting in the various ways Annie emotionally and physically tortures him. The tension is superb throughout the novel, never waning at any point, and I admired King’s use of interiority that makes us care deeply about Paul every step of the way.