Each year, as the build-up to Halloween begins, I like to recommend some creepy books for those who want to get into the spirit of the season. Without further ado, here are my picks for this year – and as always, I encourage you to share your own recommendations in the comments.
The Silence by Tim Lebbon
A thrilling, apocalyptic horror story that plays with the idea of sensory deprivation, this is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, or the movie, A Quiet Place. A cave system that has been sealed off for millennia is excavated, unleashing a horde of deadly, prehistoric, bat-like creatures that hunt using sound. We follow a family (one of whom is deaf) who flee their home in search of somewhere safe to hunker down, as the plague spreads across Europe. Relying on the use of sign language to live in silence, with a mounting sense of panic and claustrophobia closing in, they must face threat from the creatures themselves, and people pushed to the brink. It’s not a perfect book, but I found it fast, fun, and a fresh take on a well saturated genre.
Carrie by Stephen King
Between the iconic status of both the book and the film, and the non-linear structure that gives us glimpses of the tragic outcome throughout, we always know that Carrie’s story will end in violence and bloodshed. Despite this sense of inevitability, the book still manages to be tense and gripping. King’s heroine is so well drawn, and so poorly treated, that despite the horror she unleashes, we can still feel pathos and sympathy for her. Indeed, the true evil in this story is found elsewhere, making this a tale about the monsters we create.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
First off, if you’ve seen the Will Smith movie, know that the original book is very different, and in my opinion, significantly superior. We follow a man who fears he may be the last survivor following an outbreak that has seen the rest of the population turned into vampires. The physical danger posed by these blood-thirsty creatures is indeed horrifying, but is no less real to our hero than the looming threat of insanity, brought on by the paranoia, loneliness, grief, and alcohol addiction he must also wrestle with. As with my favourite sci-fi/horror, there’s an attempt to base everything in plausible logic and science, which makes the scenario feel all the more unsettling.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
This is a masterful tale of mounting tension, and a great example of the less-is-more approach to the horror genre. There are no cheap jump scares or gory scenes in sight, and yet it creeps beneath your skin and makes you question what is real, and which characters can be trusted. Not only are there some outright creepy moments in which Jackson builds a tangible sense of fear, but the whole book is suffused with an oppressive and ethereal atmosphere that suits the tone of the story perfectly. The plot itself sees four people visiting a notorious manor, determined to prove whether or not its rumoured haunting is real. It’s subtle and nuanced, and explores many interesting themes, but never to the detriment of its ability to unnerve.
Wytches by Scott Snyder
This graphic novel draws on the early mythology of witches to subvert many of the expectations you’d likely have going into a story about them. Forget cauldrons and pointy hats; the beings found herein are of far more monstrous and threatening stock. The accompanying artwork is striking, which serves to enhance the impact of the dark, intense, and disturbing story.
What reads would you recommend to get into the Halloween spirit?