Halloween is upon us! Brace yourselves my fellow geeks, for we are entering the darker half of the year, a time when it is believed that the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thins and the souls of the dead return home to be appeased…or at least so Wikipedia tells me. Yes I know, I just ruined the atmosphere completely. But fear not! Or rather, do fear, because I have rounded up some of my favourite scary stories from this year to get you in the spirit of things. Spirit of things, get it? Tough crowd…okay, here we go!
The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
Arachnophobes look away now, it’s not safe for you until the end of his paragraph! In this creepy-crawly-fest, an unknown species of deadly spider suddenly erupts in various places all over the world to wreak eight-legged havoc. Switching perspectives between characters around the globe, from the President to a spider expert to doomsday preppers, gives The Hatching a really apocalyptic feel. Combining the science fiction of John Wyndham’s Web with the visceral horror of James Herbert’s Rats, The Hatching is terrific (if nightmare inducing, and I speak from experience) fun. The itchily titled sequel, Skitter, is due out next year.
Invasive by Chuck Wendig
Our second creature feature follows FBI consultant Hannah as she investigates murder by the unconventional method of genetically engineered ants. The DNA patent leads her to a shady billionaire and the scientists he employs on his privately owned island. Hannah must find out who is behind the bizarre murder before it’s too late. It’s all very James Bond until the island is swarmed and Hannah fights to literally save her skin. Think Jurassic Park, but with an R rating. Invasive isn’t available in UK shops until next year, but can be ordered online if you’re an impatient bookworm like me.
They Say A Girl Died Here Once by Sarah Pinborough
Anna’s mum and grandmother move Anna and her younger sister from the bright lights of the city to small town America in an attempt to leave Anna’s past behind. Anna struggles with her personal demons while caring for her grandmother who is displaying signs of dementia, getting up in the night inexplicably desperate to get into the basement. When Anna learns about the mysterious murders of two local teenage girls, she sets out to solve it. A fantastically twisted tale about holes in the mind and soul – but be warned, perhaps the true terror lies in its limited print run.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
After a night doing acid, Abby’s best friend Gretchen disappears into the woods. When she returns, she has completely changed. Gretchen’s behaviour slowly but surely escalates from being merely creepy to totally terrifying, and believing her possessed, Abby does what any BFF would do, and organises an exorcism. The usual tropes you might expect here are cleverly and touchingly subverted, while the horror aspect is disgustingly creative. An eerie and compelling horror story about what it means to be best friends forever with an 80’s vibe so strong you can smell the hairspray. You can read our full review here.
The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell
It’s set at Christmas, but there’s a ghost so it’s totally allowed on my Halloween list. Reverend Lizzie has more than enough on her festive plate when the ghost of a small boy appears to her. She calls on her friends Autumn and Judith for help (magic shop owner and local kook, introduced in The Witches of Lychford, which you should also check out). There’s a very English cosiness to the rural village setting, which works surprisingly well with supernatural evil, perfectly balancing humour and horror, darkness and light, all with a side of terrible music. Kind of like Christmas, really.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Merry’s life is turned upside down when her older sister Marjorie begins showing signs of schizophrenia and claims to be possessed. When religion and medicine both fail, their parents agree to be the stars of a reality TV show called The Possession. We follow their lives through a series of flashbacks as told by Merry, and through the anonymous blog she writes in which she analyses the show in the guise of an irreverent uber-fan. Smart and self-aware, this does for possession stories what Scream did for slashers and is sure to shock with its sucker punch of an ending. You can read our full review here.
Rawblood by Catriona Ward
Rawblood is the name of the remote mansion on the moors which is home to Iris Villarca, her father, and the ghost of a bone-white woman. Which is only to be expected with a name like “Rawblood”. The Villarcas are cursed to a life of loneliness, as if they dare fall in love, the bone-white woman will visit in the night and leave death behind. Winner of Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, this is a wonderfully old-fashioned yet original gothic horror, sort of like Wuthering Heights if it had ghosts and you didn’t hate everyone in it.
Feedback by Mira Grant
I love the Newsflesh trilogy so I was really excited when this companion novel was announced. Part political thriller, part hard science fiction and part horror, this is a post zombiepocalypse world where we kind of won; life goes on, although it has changed significantly, with security taking precedence over privacy. Feedback follows a diverse team of bloggers reporting back from the Democrat’s campaign trail and what looks like attempted assassination by zombie. It works as a stand-alone (although it runs parallel with the first Newsflesh book, so beware of spoilers) and as a biting satire on current American politics.
Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts by AK Benedict
Maria King is a blind mudlarker who spends her days searching for treasures left behind by the Thames. She gets more than she bargains for when she receives a proposal via an engagement ring still on a severed finger. Jonathan Dark is the DI assigned to protect her, and he soon comes to realise that this is much bigger than one stalker, and involves much more than our physical plane. It’s fascinating to follow Maria and experience London through her sense of touch and smell, and her inability to see adds a claustrophobic side to a very spooky story.
The Apartment by SL Grey
This is the latest horror from the always unsettling SL Grey (Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg, check out their back catalogue) in which a couple seeking to escape their trauma after their home is invaded agree to a house swap, exchanging their lives in South Africa for the luxury and romance of central Paris. Unfortunately they end up in the kind of derelict dump which puts people off Air BnB, with a side of creepy neighbours, dead kids and mutilated animals. Spielberg has already snapped up the movie rights, so watch this space – carefully from behind a fluffy pillow.
Happy Halloween everyone, however you like to celebrate! Sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs (or ants, or spiders) bite…
GS Blogger: Michaela Gray (@bookiesnacksize)