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The witching hour is, as always, approaching, which makes it the perfect time to ask yourself the all-important question: when was the last time you read a really scary story? The answer is, of course, “not recently enough,” but that’s fine; we’re here to help.
To celebrate the season, here are seven of the best horror novels — well, six of the best horror novels, and one of the best horror graphic novels — from the last year or so to add to your bedside to-read pile. Which, if we’re talking about scary things, have you seen the size of that thing…?
‘The Final Girl Support Group’ by Grady Hendrix
What happens after the final reel of the movie has left one lone girl standing and the killer revealed? Grady Hendrix’s book is part love letter to the slasher movie, and part deconstruction of the whole thing, as the survivors of a number of horrific slaughters (inspired, of course, by some iconic movies) get together to form a support group — except, of course, death isn’t quite done with all of them just yet. If you ever dreamed of a Friday the 13th/Halloween/Scream crossover, this might be the bloody team-up you’ve been dreaming of.
‘Horrid’ by Katrina Leno
Sometimes, the best horror is the most understated. That might be the case with Leno’s tale of a young girl who leaves California with her mother after the death of her father, moving to Maine, where things start to go… wrong. It’s not just the bullying at school, or her mother’s withdrawal into grief; there’s also some strange things about the new house where they’re living — such as the locked door that keeps her away from a storage room that definitely isn’t a storage room at all. Prepare for some understated, all-too-successful creepery.
‘Tender is the Flesh’ by Agustina Bazterrica
Meat, as Morrissey once memorably warbled, is murder. The connection between the two has rarely been as clear, or as disturbing, as in Bazterrica’s near-future tale where, after a mysterious virus makes animal flesh poisonous to people, the human race makes a shocking choice — and turns to cannibalism. To be precise, it turns to corporate-sponsored cannibalism, with humans being packaged as “special meat” thanks to official government-sponsored “transitions.” What does that do to those who work in the processing plants? And how scared should we be about this kind of thing happening in the future, anyway?
‘The Only Good Indians’ by Stephen Graham Jones
A welcome entry into the “Something You Did Years Ago Is Back To Haunt You” hall of fame, Jones’ acclaimed 2020 novel sees four members of Blackfeet Nation having to deal with the aftermath of a hunting trip-gone-wrong a decade earlier. At times violent, spooky and grounded, “The Only Good Indians” trades off between supernatural horror and a more realistic, mundane take on what terrifying can mean allowing the book to create a unique take on the genre that won’t be easily forgotten.
‘Wonderland’ by Zoje Stage
Released to comparisons of “The Shining,” there’s also a “Midsommar” feeling to this story of a family that escapes the rat race by moving to the country, only for things to fall apart. After years of supporting her family, ballerina Orla hopes that the move will allow her husband’s art career take off, but the isolation — and the unnatural nature of the nature surrounding their new home. Expect slow mounting dread and an ancient force looking to ensure that families stay where they’re supposed to. Well, the right members of the family, anyway. Consider this the ideal antidote to pursuing that pastoral dream you have.
‘Fellside’ by M.R. Carey
Carey’s “The Girl With All The Gifts” redefined the zombie genre for many, and “Fellside” offers him the opportunity to do the same for the classic ghost story, thanks to an ingenious and elaborate set-up involving a prisoner whose attempts to commit suicide instead result in her being able to see something that no-one else can, which offers an unlikely chance for redemption. The result is something that’s eerie and atmospheric, but also surprisingly emotionally affecting.
‘The Nice House on the Lake Vol. 1’ by James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno
We’ve all been there: a new friend invites you to a dinner party filled with strangers and passing acquaintances, at which they reveal that the apocalypse is underway and you’re the only humans left alive. The new comic book series from “Batman” and “Something is Killing the Children” writer Tynion is at turns surreal, hilarious, and deeply upsetting, focusing on the small horrors of social dynamics as well as the larger issue of knowing everyone else in the world has just melted through mysterious-yet-possibly-supernatural means. It’s a dizzying mix, made all the more appealing from some beautiful artwork from Martínez Bueno and color artist Jordie Bellaire.