Whilst a lot of people enjoy curling up on the sofa with a spooky movie when the Halloween season rolls around (and this is always good fun) I think that an even scarier thing to do is lying in bed in the dark with a book that chills you, and makes you scared to stick your foot out of the covers just in case something grabs you! Here are five books that I’d definitely recommend reading this Halloween.
The Book of the Baku by R.L. Boyle
The Book of the Baku is the best book I’ve read this year, by a long margin. The story follows Sean, a young teen who has to move in with his grandfather following a tragedy in his past. We’re not let in on the secret about what happened to begin with, and thanks to Sean’s trauma causing him to go mute he’s not telling us.
But his grandfather is trying his best to help, even setting him up an art studio. When Sean finds a book in his grandfather’s library, written by his grandfather, called The Book of the Baku he discovers haunting short stories in its pages; stories that seem to summon a horrific entity to come and haunt Sean.
This book is incredibly interesting, and so well paced. You spend all of your time with Sean, trying to figure him out, learning more about him through flashbacks that help you as you try to figure out what led him to this point.
And mixed into this mystery are the short stories that begin to haunt Sean, dark and disturbing tales that begin to bleed through into the real world. There is so much in this book to draw you in, and the horror is so well crafted that it kind of sneaks up on you. But the thing that sets this book up as one of my all time favourites is the end. I won’t say what it is, but be prepared, because once I finished I was in tears.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Bird Box tells the story of an apocalypse that sweeps across the globe, one that causes the lead character, Malorie, to seek refuge inside a house with a group of strangers. We never get a clear answer as to what this apocalypse is, but quickly learn that some kind of entities are walking the earth, and that anyone who looks at them is driven to attack others and kill themselves. Trapped with people she doesn’t know, and with supplies running low, Malorie is forced to venture out into the world blindfolded, searching for a way to survive.
Chances are you’ve probably have heard of Bird Box thanks to the film adaptation produced by Netflix. When it first came out it was received well, though unfairly compared to A Quiet Place, which is ridiculous as the book came out long before. Even if you’ve watched the film you should pick up a copy of the book, as the two differ in a lot of ways. Whilst the film was intriguing the book is scary in ways the film never was.
It’s told from Malorie’s point of view, so when she ventures outside with her blindfold on we don’t know what’s around her, and the tension and paranoia this brings is brilliant; was that a leaf brushing her hair, or was it some kind of creature? Bird Box is a perfect example of a simple concept that is used to chilling effect, in a story that was so hard to put down I read it in a single sitting.
Soon by Lois Murphy
Set in an almost deserted town, Soon tells the story of the last handful of holdouts in a town terrorised at night by strange spirits and haunting visions.
After the winter solstice a strange mist descends on the small town, a mist that seems to move and change, bringing with it ghastly shades that pluck fears from people’s pasts. With the rest of the inhabitants having left, only those who can’t or won’t leave remain, continuing on in homes they love, making sure they’re back inside before nightfall brings the dark forces once again.
Soon is a very haunting book, one that relies on atmosphere more than anything else. The story begins long after the instigating event, when those who are left behind have become somewhat used to the spirits that haunt their nights, having formed careful practices to keep them all safe.
The book lets you get to know the characters as it slowly builds the tension, before bringing the horror crashing to the forefront. Whilst the book may be a bit slowly paced for some it gives you a lot get your teeth sunk into, and some truly creepy and disturbing moments that will linger long after the book is done.
The Troop by Nick Cutter
The Troop follows five teenage boys and their scoutmaster as they head out to a remote island off the coast of their small town, where they plan to spend the weekend camping and spending time in the woods.
Desperate to get the group of mismatched teens into the spirit of surviving outdoors, the scoutmaster has cut off contact with their families, leaving them almost stranded for the planned trip. When a small boat washes up on the island bringing with it a strange, malnourished man, the troop is weary. Little do they know, the strange man is infected with a virulent parasite that makes you ravenous for anything you can eat, that will destroy you as it grows inside you, and is highly infectious.
The other books on this list are more spooky stories, ones that deal with strange forces and hauntings, but The Troop is full on body horror. It’s gross and disturbing in ways that I’d never encountered in a book before, and because of this it’s one of the most affecting horror books I’ve ever read.
We learn quickly that none of the characters are safe, that even being a kid doesn’t shield them from parasites eating them from the inside, or bodily mutilation. The plot is filled with paranoia the characters soon start to fear everyone around them could be infected, and as the story unfolds it’s sure to get under your skin too.
READ MORE: The Old Ways – Film Review
Litany of Dreams: An Arkham Horror Novel by Ari Marmell
Based upon the popular Arkham Horror game, which is itself inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Litany of Dreams is a cosmic horror story that follows a local student as he searches for information about his missing roommate, and an Inuk tribesman as he searches for a relic stolen from his people.
As the two investigations seem to lead to the same place, the two men band together; but little do they suspect they’re about to stumble onto a dark force that’s trying to break through into our reality, a dark force that’s twisting a small town into monstrous servants to its cause.
The Arkham Horror books produced by Aconyte Books are some great horror stories, usually dealing in cults and secret societies that are out to advance themselves through occult means, but Litany of Dreams feels a little different. It’s a story less about humans making bad choices, and more about godly beings trying to gain a foothold inside our world. Even if you’ve had no experience with this game, or even Lovecraft’s fiction in general, you can read this book with no difficulty, and the horror inside its pages is sure to draw you in and disturb.