'Tis the season for pumpkin picking and carving, costume parties, and installing a fake cemetery in your front yard and bloody footprints across your front porch (ok, maybe that last one is just me). What better to do on those chilly nights than to curl up on the couch with a scary book? I've complied a short list of recommendations and excluded the grand poobah of horror, Stephen King. I love King as much as the next horror nerd but let's give some others a chance, shall we?
1. I Am Legend - Richard Matheson, the genius behind some of the best Twilight Zone episodes (including Nightmare at 20,000 feet), published this novella in 1954. Robert Neville is the seemingly only survivor of a widespread infection whose victims display symptoms of both zombies and vampires. Completely isolated and depressed, he spends his days staking the infected through the heart and his nights trying to figure out what causes the disease and how to more effectively kill those suffering from it. It's simply a matter of the survival of the human race, isn't it? The twist ending will make you re-think each of the 160 pages you just read. Don't bother with any of the four (!) movie adaptations.
2. The House Next Door - I'm not sure why Anne Rivers Siddons only wrote one horror novel, but this one's a doozy. Colquitt and Walter Kennedy are safely ensconced in their privileged, martini soaked, and childless existence in a tony Atlanta suburb when a talented young architect begins building a house on the empty wooded lot next door. Each inhabitant of the house experiences a more devastating psychological terror than the previous one, until finally the Kennedys decide they have no choice but to take action. Siddons does a terrific job of subtly ratcheting up the horror. There are no bloody apparitions or sparkly vampires here; in fact, the source of the evil is never even explained, which is a huge reason why this novel is so scary. I hope you don't have any new construction happening in your neighborhood right now.
3. House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves is one of the most inventive horror novels ever written. It's a story within a story - the first, a narrative of Johnny Truant, a (possibly) strung out and (definitely) unreliable storyteller who discovers a manuscript of a documentary called The Navidson Report; the second, the story of the the Navidson family, whose Virginia home is suddenly bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. And not bigger as in a realtor's exaggeration, but bigger as in expanding every day into long, dismal corridors located where the Navidson's backyard should be and where their children may be lost. Forever. The book is filled with dense footnotes (primarily dealing with Johnny's narrative), and text written upside down, backwards, even one letter per page. House of Leaves is a challenging read, but worth the work.
|My eyes! My eyes!|
4. The Last Werewolf - I would be remiss not to include the best werewolf novel in recent years. Zombies and vampires are hot right now, but Glen Duncan injects new life into the often overlooked werewolf genre. Jake Marlowe is the epitome of a Renaissance man - scotch drinking, Kant reading, highly sexual, sophisticated, and morally tormented (he just happens to eat a human on every full moon). Duncan churns out a literary thriller, and he manages to keep the traditional werewolf lore like silver bullets and uncontrollable violence but leaves out the camp. I wouldn't mind inviting Marlowe to a dinner party - and seating him next to the late, great Christopher Hitchens.
|No, nothing like your dad. Not one bit.|
|"Everything floats down here, Georgie."|
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