Best Modern Horror Books
Some of the best horror books to come out the past two decades. Many of these are considered modern classics. It follows that IF you haven't read these, you should get busy; every single one is a shining example of some of the best modern horror novels ever written and sure to be considered classics in a few years.
Who is Patrick Bateman? Who does the best music? Who has the most glamorous business card? Bret Easton Ellis answers all of these questions in his masterpiece American Psycho. Readers get to dive into the dry, cold, and disturbing mind of Patrick Bateman, as he goes through his daily life, living much like the rest of us, though on second thought Patrick's daily life involves much more murder than is average.
As we step into the fancy shoes of Patrick Bateman we experience his night life. Discussing fashion, snorting cocaine, and talking about etiquette, when Bateman is done at the clubs typically he ventures out to brutally murder someone. As the story progresses, a wonderful and deeply disturbing Flow of Consciousness, Patrick begins to fall deeper into his psychosis. Murders begin to grow into more sadistic affairs, involving torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia. The subject matter can at points become almost too much, but the ambiguity and questions the slow descent into madness that Bateman experiences is wonderfully thought provoking.
Once more we see, in this brilliant piece of cyclic, flow of consciousness, and out right chilling work, that wealth does not make for a happy life. Honestly it is difficult to say much more about our number one spot, as I do not want to blow the ending, I will simply encourage you, yes you, to go read it!
The Dead, I know what you are going to say; "But ... but ... but I don't know this book how can it be a classic?" Well its not, not yet anyways. It is going to be in my humble opininon a cult classic. The Dead is a fantastic book. Now it is time for a disclaimer and for me to jump on my soap box. I am a religious man, and this is a religious book, but worry not I am not here to cram the idologies and religion of this book down your throat, I am here to cram this book down your throat. It will be worth it. Next all the people I saw who did not like this book were people who had a problem with the disertation and dialogue that permiate this book. Well to them I say: "Get the fuck over it." The differences in the ideals of the characters featured in The Dead sit clsoe to the heart of the story itself and so I think they do nothing but further the goal of the book.
Now onwards. The Dead centers on a catholic zombie demon apocolypse. How much more bad ass can it get? Well I dont know because this book is about at the peak of bad assness. The story takes place after judgement day, the righetous of man kind have been taken and all that are left are the dredges of society. Now this is a scary enough concept on its own. But add on top of that bone wolves, demonic zombies, and the devil himself, and we have a story that is chilling to the core. Mark E. Rodgers builds suspense in his readers while never truly letting them rest.
Mystery, cryptic clues, murderers, and gruesome cannibalism are some of the foundations of The Silence of the Lambs, one of the greatest modern horror novels I have ever read. Centering on the characters of Hannibal Lecter, a serial killer and budding psychoanalyst, and Clarice Starling a young FBI hopeful, as they hunt a notorious budding psycho called Buffalo Bill. Delving into the world of psychology and unbelievable paranoia author Thomas Harris is a masterful artist.
Exploring the twists and turns of Harris's masterpiece readers are regaled with the story of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling as they hunt Buffalo Bill. Now Bill got his wonderful nickname from his modus operandi. Buffalo Bill delights in starving fat chicks then cutting off their skin and presumably wearing it while he dances at a local club. Ok well I made that up. But the point is that Bill is a really bad guy. As the story progresses Starling, our hero, gets closer to catching Bill while getting closer in her relationship with Lecter. Manipulation abounds as all characters grow closer to their prey, some were closer than they thought before. The Silence of the Lambs is a delightful read which will have you turning pages while resisting the urge to stop altogether out of revulsion and terror!
Well here is a story that handles a huge load of meaning and depth. We Need to Talk About Kevin tackles questions like: Is evil objective or subjective, nature or nurture, or can evil be cured? We Need to Talk About Kevin is told in an epistolary style, and details numerous acts of terror propagated against protagonist Eva by none other than her son. Lionel Shriver builds a story in which the climax has already been reached, from that point the readers learn about countless terrors and petty acts of pure and unimaginable evil.
The letters in the story details the early life of Kevin and how his countless small acts of evil lead up to a horrific massacre of his schoolmates. What is perhaps more terrifying about this story is not the evil of the child Kevin (who is a remarkable archer for his age) but how quickly willing to defend him his mother is. YOUR CHILD IS PURE EVIL! ABSOLUTE AND UNREDEEMABLE EVIL! you will shout at your book quite often. You will feel rage and horror at a child, confusion at how you can be so ununderstanding of a child. One way or another We Need to Talk About Kevin is a book that you should read for the sheer and terrifying roller coaster of emotion!
The King is back for his second appearance on this list. Now I will not make a habit of refeaturing an author but I feel that this should be an exception. Stephen King is almost a godly figure in the world of literature, no other recent author can match the volume or scope of the body of his work, which is still, to this day, growing and I do not foresee it stopping until his inevitable horrific death to sate the deal he made with the devil! And that is literature in general. King is with out a doubt the most prolific modern horror writer of all time, and thus Misery is his second entry here.
When protagonist Paul Sheldon an amazing and prolific author (self insertion?) makes the terrible decision to kill antagonist Annie's favorite character in his most recent book, Annie kidnaps him, tortures him, forcing him to become addicted to pain medication. Misery is a gripping story of pain, horror, paranoia, and obsession. When read carefully and under the right lights readers could almost see King predicting his own fate as an author, though obviously in an obscenely exaggerated way. I knew Misery had to be on this list. Go read Misery!
Horror films and books are often pretty quick to put a name of a face on their antagonist. Some try but rarely succeed to simply refuse to put a face or name on it. *cough* Final Destination *cough* Other classical horrors like Bram Stoker's Dracula, make an effort, and succeed in his case, to display their villains vicariously through dialogue or a simple shadow of the character. The Ruins by Scott Smith, however, does an exceptional job of creating an environment of evil precisely because the environment is evil. The Ruins is a gritty and frightening story evolving ruins, ancient evil, and Mayans.
Scott Smith is not shy about killing his characters, in fact, he has a habit of showing his readers that he is the God of his world. When four American tourists (notice that it is never "European, Asian, or Middle Eastern" tourists. You know why? Us Americans are dumbasses that's why) take their vacation in Mexico they encounter some Mayans, which would be my first red flag seeing as how the Mayans are supposed to be pretty well extinct. All I have to say is that The Ruins was brilliant, and if you are a fan of tentacle rape (I am looking at you Japan) read it now! If not, still read it it is wonderful!
Susan Hill nails the genre, specifically she captures the essence of classical horror. Having created a creepy, English ghost story set during the Edwardian era, Hill's book has definitely earned its place as a Gothic classic.
What makes this story so provocative is how menancing the horror is. There really is no way of appeasing the antagonist which only serves to build the tension while you questions what dark secrets the woman in black harbors. You will find yourself burning through the pages trying to figure out the mystery. Hill then packages the storytelling with lyrical and vivid prose.
Interestingly and what some may not know is that this novella was adapted into two films, the recent one starring Daniel Radcliffe as the main character and the older version staring the man who played James Potter's character in the Harry Potter films as the protagonist. Bit of irony there. Anyway, it has also been made into a stage play that is the second longest-running play in the history of London's West End. With all the adaptation abound the Woman in Black is a read that will stick with readers for decades. The Woman in Black can not be overlooked in the world of horror, it is without question a Gothic and modern literary treasure!
John Dies at the End is a bit of an odd ball on this list but is none the less an amazing story. Part of a series John Dies is written by David Wong, though fairly recent I believe that John Dies at the End could well become a classic!
Popular mythology and pseudo historical demonology come together with dick jokes and absurd humor in John Dies at the End. Though it was made into a movie there is no question that it is the book, as is often the case, that really shines. While not absolutely horrifying John Dies at the End deserves its spot on any horror list; author David Wong takes his readers on a subtly unsettling, borderline disturbing ride that they will be sure to remember for some time to come. Our protagonist, also named David, one ups himself as he relates a series of bazaar events related to a mysterious paranormal drug called "Soy Sauce" to an, understandably skeptical, reporter named Arnie. All of his stories are over the top, unbelievable, and colorful each one building upon the last, culminating in an ending that isn't at all what one might expect. This one is worth the read!
Bentley Little is frankly a remarkable author, able to take the tried-and-true horror formula and work wonders with it. In The Walking, he draws from witchcraft, ancient curses and evil revenge to weave a tale that is both creepy and fun to read.
Miles Huerdeen is a detective who takes on a seemingly typical stalking case only to find himself in the middle of some bizarre supernatural phenomenon that threatens to destroy the world. What he finds is a string of horrific murders as well as more than one walking corpse; all these events eventually tie together, and Miles plays a more important role than he ever could realize. Everything keeps pointing to Wolf Canyon which was once home to a thriving witch community but is now under water between two dams. Miles starts to uncover the government secret of the canyon as well as long-buried secrets involving his father and a vile curse spoken by an ancient being.
Reading any Little novel is always a roller coaster ride. He is quite adept at setting mood and pace, and his plots are typically imaginative and captivating. The Walking is a typical Little novel, that said The Walking is worth the time to read and truly deserving of its spot on my Top 25 Classic Horror Novels!
In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war! But what makes this future so terrible, so dark, so grimdark? The Horus Heresy tells the story of how the far future became so fucked up. Though The Horus Heresy is a story told by many books and authors (Thirty to be more close) I chose it for this list because each of the books brings a new kind of fear, and introduce you to new vistas of horror and madness. Taking a page from Lovecraft's mythos, the universe of the 41st millennium features overarching cosmic horrors, mind breaking terror, and beings beyond comprehension.
Travel through the gore-splattered and viscera-smeared battle fields of future wars.
Detailing an archtypal fall from grace the Horus Heresy depicts the story of the Emperor of Mankind's favored son as he ventures throughout the galaxy reconquering it in his father's name, and eventually learning that not all things are as black and white as his father's Imperial Truth says it is, even the Emperor himself. The Horus Heresy is well worth the time it will take to travel through its action packed volumes, the distinct and visceral descriptions of violence and wonderful fears born of things greater than one's self have landed the Horus Heresy at our number ten spot! And always remember, it is better to die for the Emperor than to live for yourself!
Now in this list of modern classics I have made some odd choices, some choices that are odd in subject rather than my choice of them. If you can navigate my wording there read on. Now on this list perhaps the only book that can match Piercing in out right strange, aside from Geek Love, is the Choir of Ill Children. Now I am not one to judge a book by its cover but the Choir of Ill Children caught my attention by its name alone and has since remained one of my most beloved books.
The Choir of Ill Children takes us to the forsaken township of Kingdom Come, which is a very strange name for a town. For some odd reason Kingdom Come seems to draw all the misfits and monsters which abound in this horrifying novel. Main character Thomas has three brothers, or is it one brother? It gets terribly hard to remember as his brother/s are/is conjoined triplets with separate bodies but one shared brain. Yeah. Horror in this book is a creeping sense of menace and a terribly almost crushing sense that nothing will ever be right again. Readers who are, like me, into the bazaar should spare no time in getting their hands on the Choir of Ill Children!
The horror genre is ever evolving, and I think that Piercing by Ryu Murakami is a prime example of the a new direction that horror is taking in recent years. Now I will notate that Piercing is not a truly classic modern horror book but I feel that It could be. Bringing some fucked up desires to the forefront of the readers mind Piercing will immerse readers into the mind of a sick and twisted individual. If you can navigate the difficult words and the unidentifiable landmarks Piercing is for you.
Piercing is set in Tokyo and follows Kawashima Masayuki trying to come to terms with his overwhelming and one hundred percent fucked up desire to stab his infant child with an Ice Pick. He finally resolves to divert the impulse (seriously how can one simply feel like stabbing a baby?) into an unsuspecting prostitute(who is quite used to being pierced.) However as he begins to execute his meticulous crime everything, including his past, begins to unravel. Now if you can handle the unbelievable and screwed up (did I mention that it is really crazy) desire to stab a baby I qould highly reccomend Piercing to you! Seriously its really messed up.
Geek Love, Geek Love, what can I say about Geek Love. Well there is plenty that I can say about it. I love this book because it is one hundred percent unique, it carries themes which will haunt readers for the rest of their natural or unnatural lives. David Hughes deals with cults and brings up an almost completely forgotten culture. The Freak Show Culture. This Not only are creak shows entertaining, but they are creepy and they seem to be almost entirely meant for the purpose of horrifying outsiders. Being on the outside of this culture I must say that Geek Love brings another level of unique fear to the experience of reading it.
Geek Love takes place in two timelines. In the first one we experience the time and life of Arty, a budding leader of a horrific cult which encourages its members to amputate increasingly large portions of their body to become more like their "ambivalent" leader, who is himself severely deformed. The second timeline picks up in the life of a young girl who was somehow psychically impregnated and such, you know average stuff. Where things get freaky is she has a tail and is a stripper. Flaunting her tail as a feature to her act she is approached by a woman who apparently gets her kicks by convincing beautiful women to get disfiguring surgeries for money. Needless to say Geek Love is a unique and scary ride!
The Road is a bleak and dismal look into a frightening, not too unbelievable future. I remember when I first heard about this, it was about three years ago and I noticed the movie rendition on the rack in Family Video. I had been fighting the urge to rent it and find out what it was about. The decision was made for me when I asked an employee if I should rent it and he said: "I cried at the end of this movie. I heard the book was worse." Well I knew at that point that the book would be something I would have to get before watching it. I must say it is a heartbreaking and terrifying tale.
The Road is the story of the journey of a father and a son, also known as the man and the boy, who are traveling the wastes of modern civilization after an unnamed cataclysm. Cannibalism and violence permeate the landscape as the son and father duo etch out a painful and endlessly threatened life in the ruins of the modern world. Horrors in the road are so much more awful because of the fact that they are all very possible, and have all happened in some respect at some point in time. The Road is a great and thought provoking read that should be on anyone's top 25 list!
Perfume: The Story of Murder is a brilliant and rich story telling of the life of a young man who smells like ... nothing. Thats really it this kid smells like nothing at all. The story takes place across Europe and encompasses everything from abandonment to loss to obsession. Author Patrick Süskind (give that one a try) bridges some terrible rivers to tell the story of Grenouille, the boy with no scent.
Perfume: The Story of Murder is quite a journey, a very expansive one. Telling the life of prior mentioned Grenouille from birth, his terrible and sad birth. I mean really I must go on about this, his mother pushed him out of her vagina AT WORK, and what did she do? She kept right on working. She cut his umbilical cord and simply buried him in some fish leaving him to die. Of all the fucked up ways to enter the world this must make the top ten. Maybe I will make a list. But anyways, the horror of this story comes long after birth, after his first job and the death of his mentor. But if I told you about it it would give away almost all the fear there is to be found. Perfume is a masterpiece of horror that has stood and will stand the test of time.
The Master of Modern Horror makes his debut on this list with Under the Dome. A fantastic story of terror, control, and big brother Under the Dome was, and this is entirely speculation on my part, perhaps Kings way of letting the world know that he is still around, he is still relevant, and he is still the king. King brings us the plights of a small town in what appears to be the center of all evil Maine as a unique and horrible calamity descends on them.
Under the Dome is a social study I would say, the story of a town that undergoes a terrible transformation as they are completely sealed off from the outside world when "the Dome" descends. The Dome is semipermeable and serves mysterious purposes. As the story progresses readers are in for a treat as brutality and power struggle ensue as the members of the town trapped within the Dome vie for power and control over the city. This is an example of the trend within modern classics, which basically says "We stopped looking for monsters under our beds when we discovered they were in our heads" King's Under the Dome is a masterpiece and will soon be considered a classic I am sure.
The House of Leaves is a very unique entry in this list as it has an extremely unique literary style which I found rather fascinating. Now many readers will note that they have seen this book in 20189513541 Top X lists. But very few of them can say exactly why. Well the reason why is for the same reason I listed above. House of Leaves is absurdly unique. Paranoia, storyception (which is to say stories within stories within stories at nausium), and mind bogglingness build a shaky foundation upon which a strong and compelling narrative rests.
Whovians will litter this story with references, and to be honest I have to say that I was deeply tempted to do the same. House of Leaves is about a house that grows on the inside, becoming larger. The changes and growths are subtle at first, the house growing a door that was unexpected. Measurements showed the inside of the house was larger than on the outside, starting out small but as the story progresses the difference becomes staggering. I can not resist. It's bigger on the inside. There thats my reference, combined with the Horus Heresy that will max me out on my allowed references for this list. I must say that the House of Leaves is a must for anyone looking for modern classics!
Clive Barker is a man of many talents, he is a writer, a video game designer, and even a director. Barker's body of work is insane, bearing that in mind, I knew that Barker had to have an entry in this list, and truthfully it came down between the Books of Blood, and The Damnation Game. I decided eventually that the damnation game deserved this spot more, I feel it has more qualification as a classic. Combining addictions and the classic Faustian deal Barker tells a brilliant story with a fantastic title, masterful writing, and strong classic themes.
The Damnation Game tells the story of Marty Strauss, a gambling addict, and Mr. Whitehead, an obscenely rich man who is stupid enough to not only make a deal with Mamoulian, a devil figure, but to hire a gambling addict to protect him from the threat of a devil figure. Readers get to learn about the life of the rich man, and explore the powers of the mysterious Mamoulian, and plumb the depths of terror. Mr. Whitehead and Marty Strauss are locked in a battle of wits and cunning with Mamoulian as they engage over the fate of Whitehead's soul. Despite some terrible character names, the Damnation Game is a brilliant book by a skilled man, which I consider to be a classic!
The Throne of Bones is a collection of short stories that are frankly, unsettling. This is a work of art, literature which forced the author to pen it. Author Brian bring is some of the most iconic story mechanics and puts unique spins on them. The Throne of Bones will bring readers face to face with star-crossed lovers, crazed zealots, stalwart heroes, bloodthirsty renegade armies, hideous monsters, likeable misfits, necromancers, flesh eating corpses, and dusty tombs. McNaughton's Throne of Bones won the World Fantasy Award. And even now sixteen years later the short stories of the Throne of Bones series are relevant, fresh, and daring.
The titular Throne of Bones sequence, made up of about six stories, should prove weird and jarring even to mature dark fantasy readers. Bringing in elements of suspense, gore, and escapism, McNaughton tells many tales within the bounds of the Throne of Bones, weaving a detailed picture of the dismal existence within this dark fantasy universe. Don't be mistaken, though Throne of Bones is decidedly a dark fantasy, readers should not expect a sword and sorcery. Throne of Bones is a terrifying look into a dark world, striped with fear, loathing, ghoul sex, hatred, and love. Never underestimate the small press, take some time to read the Throne of Bones.
Sarah Langan is an author who delivers great books which carry quite a bit of weight. Mrs. Langan has won the Bram Stoker award three times. This is a prestigious award that is not handed out without true merit of the work. Now in The Missing Langan tells us another zombie story, though thankfully this is not the tired; few survivors of the zombie apocalypse story that has popped up quite a lot in the last decade. The Missing is the story of a zombie outbreak that takes off from the start and doesn't slow down until its almost over.
The Missing picks up in a remote, but wealthy community in Maine, catastrophe abounds as the small town of Bedford is wiped out by an environmental disaster. Deciding for some fucked up reason, that it's a good idea to take a bunch of children to a washed out graveyard, protagonist Lois takes her third grade class to Bedford where the shit inevitably hits the fan as a unbelievably dickish third grader discovers an ancient terror which will unleash a flesh eating (more or less) plague, the likes of which have never been seen before (outside of every zombie movie ever) upon the world. The Missing is a thrilling tale of horror that is easy to read but hard to put down.
We all, and by we and all I mean anyone who has a love of horror books, has a special place in their heart for morbid collection. In Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill details the life of a man who collects such strange objects simply for the thrill of owning them. Bringing in elements of paranoia, ghost horror, obsession, and a unique visceral fear Hill advocates not going to the Goodwill and buying used clothes, but instead going out of one's way to purchase new clothes.
An aging rock star with the astonishingly tacky name Judas has decided that his collection of horrific items is too small for his tacky tastes. So he decides to procure the funeral suit of a dead man. You know that seems like a brilliant idea right? It only had a decomposing person in it, a quick wash and its good as new right? Well it would seem that all the detergent in the world does little to exercise an evil, murderous, and obsessively controlling spirit, though I am sure Tide is working on a detergent for that exact purpose. Heart-Shaped Box is a unique ghost story that brings to the table some interesting concepts that imply that some emotions survive death, this is a book that readers will either hate or love, but it is none the less becoming a classic.
Zombie books are ... up and down. You will notice, you WILL NOTICE, that on this list there are a surprising number of zombie entries. Over the past decades zombies have come into their own as a staple in pop culture. As have vampires. With the recent increase in their popularity both genre's have received near castrating blows by romance authors with a thing for necrophilia. Thankfully Max Brooks is here to tell us that zombies are not simply "misunderstood" and can not be cured and will not fall in love with you. Sorry anyone who has a dead flesh fetish.
Brooks tells the story of a gruesome almost apocalypse brought about by zombies. The novel is a collection of individual accounts, where the narrator is an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission ten years after the Zombie War. Other passages record a decade-long desperate war against the zombie plague, as experienced by people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the social, political, religious and environmental changes that resulted from the war. Terror in this novel comes from the realism of it all. Brooks' apocolypse feels like it could happen tomorrow, almost as though one might wake up with a zombie gnawing on their leg. Thinking of it now you might aught to go check to be sure the world is not on fire. If it is not I encourage you to go pick up this soon to be classic!
Paranoia and questions abound in the horror thriller Three. (the one with the backwards e which forms the number three making the book very difficult to find in library's) Three brings readers the story of Kevin Parson an innocuous figure, a first-year seminary student who fumbles with basic cell phone technology and buries himself in books, particularly novels, of all kinds. Somehow this seemingly innocent person has a dark past that he would rather disappear completely, unfortunately for him some mysterious figure is out to make sure that exactly that does not happen.
With the advent of a vicious murderer who for some reason seems to be targeting Kevin. Our story turns down a dark path as Kevin races to discover the identity of this killer while remaining alive which is surprisingly important to the discovery of a murderer's identity. Dekker relies on stories and lessons derived from Christian scripture to paint a picture of evil and to almost literally drag his character Kevin through hell. As Kevin draws closer to the dangerous Slater, the murderer, Kevin learns that perhaps this evil is closer to home than he had hoped it to be.
As far as horror stories go Three may not be the most terrible in scope and fear, but it Dekker builds a wonderful sense of paranoia and leaves questions readers will spend years answering!
Winning the Bram Stoker Award The Cipher is a bleak and dark work. I dare say it is grim dark. The Cipher brings readers into the bleak bleak bleak life of several artists and their daily struggles. Perhaps this is a criticism of art as a job, or perhaps it was a meant for a simple plot device. Either way the "protagonists" Nakota and Nicholas discover a dark hole in their floor. Not just a "dark" hole but a borderline sentient living darkness. Nakota, conniving, manipulative, angular, and demanding, constantly pressures Nicholas to fuck with the dark hole which they had decided to name the Funhole, the original working title of the book.
As the story progresses for some unknowable reason Nakota and Nicholas decide that fucking with the Funhole is a good idea, and thus they begin to lower living things into it. They start with bugs, move on to mice, and eventually something much more personal. Each thing comes back fundamentally altered and for the most part, dead. Lowering a camcorder they could barely afford into the Funhole Nicholas and Nakota view the recording which in straight up defiance of horror standard worked without flaw or exploding. What came back was a terrible visage of horrible deformity. The Cipher is a one of a kind ride which will stick with readers for quite a while.
Let the Right One In is absolutely stunning. It is a story of love and hate, of fear and paranoia. A vampire story that brings fear back to the genre where, for some time, "authors" have been on trips for fanservice. Fans do not know what they want, fans are drones, and as such need to be told what they want. Therefore I tell them they don't want the glittery pansy ass vampires of the Twilight series. They want the dark, controlling, and horrible blood dinkers presented in Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Lindqvst brings many elements into his masterpiece which tells the story of Oskar and Eli and their budding friendship. Readers soon learn that Eli is a vampire who was turned as a child. Eli uses a human, whom is in love with Eli, to procure blood from unsuspecting people in exchange for money, though the person would gladly do this dirty work for Eli if they could only be intimate. As the story progresses our protagonist Oskar gets his fucking game on and fights back against his tormentors which promptly results in even more bullying. Eli helps Oskar with his bully problem in a gruesome manner. Let the Right One In is a wonderful story that is well worth the read and is the perfect way to start off our list!