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October 31, 2010

Sunday Book Thread: Monsters!

It's Halloween, which means I'm almost obligated to do a horror-themed book thread, and yet I haven't read a horror novel in years and years. The quality of that subgenre has never been particularly high, but the last decade or so has seen "horror" novels become subsumed under other genres: fantasy, romance (as in the Twilight books), sci-fi, what have you.

So while I will link some of my old favorites, the commenters might be better-equipped to suggest new authors.

Let's begin with (inevitably) Stephen King. He hasn't written any actual horror novels in decades -- nearly all of what he writes is either fantasy or sci-fi of some kind. But his early novels are still stellar examples of the horror form. My favorites have always been 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, and The Dead Zone (though again, The Dead Zone isn't really a horror novel). Some would add The Stand, but while much of that book is very good, a lot of it is horrible -- it's a bad book and a good book rolled up into a single mediocre book.

Peter Straub has always been a favorite of mine, and I've never understood why his popularity never reached that of his sometime-collaborator Stephen King. His early novel Ghost Story is a masterful story, and Shadowland is another good read. Straub is simply a better writer than King is, and his horror depends more on atmosphere and pacing than King's stuff. Straub's thrillers are even better than his horror novels: Koko is one of the best thrillers of the past forty years, in my view.

If you like horror in a sci-fi milieu, I've recommended George R. R. Martin's Nightflyers many times in past threads. His vampire novel Fevre Dream is a good one, too.

If you like rather old-fashioned ghost stories, you'd probably like Robert Aickman's Cold Hand in Mine.

If you like the bloody, chunks 'o' flesh kind of horror, you'd probably like Clive Barker's Books of Blood. (One of these stories formed the basis of the Hellraiser films: The Hellbound Heart.)

For more recent stuff, I'd say that Douglas Clegg's Neverland was the best ghost story I've come across.

If you like your zombies, you can't do any better than Max Brooks' World War Z, which is written documentary-style. It's an excellent book even if you're not normally interested in this kind of thing. (Word has it that a movie version of the book is due for release soon.)

I'm not singling out any of Lovecraft's stuff because all you Morons already know that stuff is great, right? But a writer in the "Cthulhu mythos" you may not know is Arthur Machen, who wrote a great story called The Great God Pan. Recommended if you like this kind of thing. Robert Bloch and Clark Ashton Smith have also done some really good stories -- there are lots of collections out there.

Happy Halloween, Morons!

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posted by Monty at 09:49 AM

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