Underrated Horror Books
Sometimes some of the best works don't get the attention they deserve. This is that list, a list of horror works that are highly under-rated or simply overlooked by the 'average reader of horror'.
If you've read most of the "popular" mainstream horror works, give a good gander at these reads. Chances are, you'll find your new favorite book. We've drawn books from a number of different horror subgenres even from a few genres that would not be considered "strict" horror.
The Dead, I know what you are going to say; "But ... but ... but I don't know this book!" Well that's the point. It is going to be, in my humble opinion, 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 ideologies 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 dissertation and dialogue that permeate 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 close to the heart of the story itself and so I think they do nothing but further the goal of the book.
Now onward. The Dead centers on a catholic zombie demon apocalypse. 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 righteous 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. All that said I feel that the Dead is truly deserving of its spot at number one!
Oh I can hear it now, voices crying out: "Why is Koontz on the list of underrated horror stories?!" Well because I said so. Honestly, however, I have read many of Koontz's works and I have to say that Whispers is fairly overlooked next to the rest of his body of work. Underrated is not to be confused with unskillful however. Dean creates a wonderful tapestry of fear and paranoia in Whispers, all the while engaging his readers in a story with twists and turns that would make M. Night Shyamalan blush, Whispers is a tale that I will not soon forget.
The story starts with an earthquate in Los Angeles big surprise, a large gluttonous man stopping for breakfast at a diner, a waitress making eye contact and flirting for some reason, the man harboring evil thoughts that scream danger. Enter Hilary Thomas our protagonist, a very rich screenwriter who lives Los Angeles, night hearing a noise in her house, grabs her gun, good idea, and goes downstairs to investigate,not a good idea. Pressing question is, why were the cops not called instead? It is pretty easy to give away the story here, so I won’t. I can not get across enough just how Whispers is a chilling and heart pumping journey!
There are only so many words I can use to describe Necroscope. In fact I am finding it hard to scribble down enough to make a decent entry. But for the sake of words let me try to put enough out there. Russian, Vampire, Necromancer, Math, Time Travel, Horror, Evil Eye, Crazy, Twisty, Smutty, and ... lets see, oh yes, Horror. Necroscope blends all of these elements and more into a story that is frankly genius.
Necroscope is a book told from the point of view of Harry, an Englishman who is gifted with a great many talents, however, he is also cursed with an Arch-nemesis. Over the course of the book he learns to control the skills he has and begins to uncover new skills. Eventually he is inducted into a top-secret ESPionage, THATS RIGHT BITCHES! Psychic spies who spy psychically! (can you see me reaching for words?) This is a story that is frankly is difficult to describe because so much happens. Suffice to say that Necroscope details the struggle of Harry with his Necromantic Arch-Nemesis (and Russian Super Spy) Boris Dragonasi. Necroscope is overlooked, perhaps because of all of the elements incorporated. Or perhaps because people do not have the same taste for the extreme and over the top that I do.
Now this book is about as completely underrated as they come. Daemonic by Stephen Laws, seriously go look it up on Amazon, I will be seven kinds of surprised if it has more than 5 reviews. But there is no doubt about it that Daemonic is a wonderful horror novel, one which has some flaws, I won't lie to you there. But these flaws are fairly easily overlooked. At least I can easily over look them, most people I have spoken to seem to find these flaws glaring and irredeemable. But those people are unimportant, you are hear to read my totally unqualified opinions.
Daemonic is a story with several protagonists, and about two antagonists, one criticism I heard which is well founded is that the POV changes too much. Anyways. Daemonic is about several people who have been collected to the Rock (Not the former wrestler) to fight for their lives against their own creator and a daemonic host. Archetypal characters serve their purposes in Daemonic which I am happy for since I find cookie cutter characters to be a bore. When I started Daemonic I was worried that reading it would be a chore, and for about five chapters it was, then it turned into a thriller I could not put down!
The Ceremonies is a book that owes a certain deal of its influence to the great H. P. Lovecraft. This is a slow build book which takes it time to establish a concrete setting in which to stage this wonderful story. Building a strong and almost suffocating atmosphere, Klein again, takes his time in creating an environment where horror can thrive. Klein doesn't try to scare you much to start with, no he has a lot of tact with this, later on however, when he feels the need, he will scare the shit out of you, all the while he retains a surprising level of modesty and tact. Some of the scenes depicted are unsettling to quite a degree; just wait, prepare your body for the old woman in the elevator and the rose with teeth dream sequence, each instance of terror becomes more profound and shaking as the book chugs along. And this is coming from a person who loves horror! Klein took his time with this book and the effort and time put into it really shows, you can really see that he loved this endevour. Slowly creating a narrative which is driving and creepy Klein is without a doubt an underrated master of the horror genre. I could not tell you why this book did not make more waves than it did, but one thing is for sure, The Ceremonies is a book well worth the time, and will keep you up for hours!
Ever looming, ever cycling, ever present evil. Gotta love delightful themes like that. Which is exactly why I loved Peter Straub's Floating Dragon. Yes I know another titan of horror here on this list of underrated writings. Don't whine, and those five of you who have read it go away. Now that the fuddy duddy naysayers are gone, let me tell you that you are in for a treat in this one! Reading almost like a more paranormal inspired Koontz novel Floating Dragon is a thrill ride from hell! Strap in as Straub takes you on a journey into the heart of a wealthy little town plagued by evil.
Taking place in the small wealthy town of Hampstead, Connecticut readers will explore the lives of adulterous wives, chemical husbands, and paranormally fucked up young ones as the city is beset by an ancient evil which returns every thirty years to have its way with the town. Readers are going to have a hard time not coming to care about the characters as they are shown. Don't let the characters fool you though, this is a work by Straub, one of the horror masters! For whatever reason Floating Dragon was overlooked by many, and honestly it's a shame. But don't let the underwhelming reviews fool you, Straub never lost his stuff!
This is not the only collection in this list, but it is a must read. Schow coined the term ‘splatterpunk’, but this comes from a place far more sophisticated. David J. Schow is smart, very smart, and he knows how to show you. His ability to alter points of view, vividly describe scenes, despite his mastery of this literary beauty, he can make you hate him, and like it, has earned him a place on this list. Unfortunately this is no longer in print, but if you are feeling industrious you can find it on the Kindle for a decently low price. Seeing Red is made up of a series of short stories. "Blood Rape of the Lust Ghouls" now isn't that a title. It is a true piece of about a creepy gore-movie reviewer whose critical and overly harsh review of infulential film puts him in a position which is quite precarious indeed. Another entry in this collection is "One for the Horrors," which has stuck in my mind and heart for years. I mean seriously it is a story about a theater that plays movies that were never made, shows the scenes the censors demanded cut out, and is a story of truly creepy love. All in all Seeing Red is pound for pound one of the greatest and most underrated horror books of all time.
One of the most underrated writers of Horror Fiction, Farris knocked it out of the park with book, The Son of the Endless Night. Definitely one of the greatest ‘what if’ moments in Horror Fiction, Farris gives us a demon possessed man in a courtroom, though I suspect that there are a great many of them just not necessarily sitting in as the defendant. This is not the Devil's Advocate, no this is far ... more. Prepare yourself.
This is a story that I had to do a little digging on. Do not get me wrong, I read it, and I loved it, otherwise it would not be on this list. I did my digging though because I had to know what the world though of this book, and the world ... well the world had mixed opinions. One thing I read was this: "By the way, my friend Mike was permanently traumatized by the eyeball-destroying head trauma scene. Such things are not necessary." I don't think that she realized that she and her friend had signed up for a horror book, then they were traumatized by what they got back. Without a doubt The Son of the Endless Night is an excellent story and a sadly underrate book!
John Harwood, this close to making a dick joke, must resist, .... hardwood .... there. Anyways John Harwood is a relative unknown next to the King or Lovecraft, but his works are indeed impressive. Writing on an almost master level Harwood is misirably underrated. In his second book The Seance Harwood takes us to the Victorian era where old wooden houses, fire lamps, and ghosts with malevolent intent abound.
Surrounded on all sides by death and disappearances and unnatural phenomenon, our protagonist lives in a family that seems marked with death, marked for death. A distant father and a mother who will not let the past stay past and the dead stay dead, young Constance Langon decides that to make her beloved mother healthy once more it would be a good idea to take her to a place where people would attempt to scare the (presumably unhealthy) shit out of her. Needless to say the events of this Seance are less than what she had hoped for and results in a whole lot of fuck uperry. SURPRISE! Anyways when I hear people talk about ghost stories it is really sad how often The Seance is not mentioned. The Seance is worth the time, the read, and the sleepless nights.
I was reared, nursed and fed on horror. King, Koontz, Lovecraft and Straub were my Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway. More often than not the books you found in my bag were horrible. I never quite escaped the horror genre, but I did find myself wandering, but in Joe Schreiber's 2006 Eat the Dark: A Novel, I was dragged back, enjoying it all the way. This was a book with such a fast paced thundering novel that it demanded not to be ignored.
The day before Tanglewood Memorial closed for good, Mike Hughes and a scarce crowd of hospital staff work for the last time on a shift which was supposed to be very boring. Yay. That is until the police roll in psychotic killer Frank Snow for an MRI,why they chose a nearly done hospital is beyond me. You see, Snow's no ordinary psycho, and once he's free, all hell breaks loose. And I do mean Hell. Along for the ride are Mike's wife and son, who really picked the wrong night to drop by and say "hi."
For some reason or another Eat the Dark has fallen through the cracks of horror devotee's notice everywhere. But I am here to tell you to sift it out, rarely has a book given a new perspective on horror!
When you talk about horror it is every easy to go to the old fallback of paranormal happenings, it is not all that easy to go to the sci fi domain for ideas. Infected is not what you might think, Infected by Scott Sigler is an altogether pleasant shock, and a wonderful ride full of scares, paranoia, sickness, and disturbing violence. It is hard to find words for Infected, but I can tell you why some people hated it. Get this, people knocked the book for: Using overly provoking prose, overly compelling scenes of violence, and dramatic cliffhangers. Now I would have taken this to be praise had it not had the word criticism beside it.
Infected takes you to the ground level as the shit hits the fan. The infected are everywhere, but they are not what you might think. The infected are turned into psychotic murderers and cruel sadomasochists! That's right a madness plague. Anyways. Imaginative, gross, frightening, suspenseful, funny, thought-provoking and sick in the “omigawd-I-wanna-barf” way Infected will get inside of you and steer you with crazy twists. Blasted by the press for it's driving and action packed nature I think the negativity of the reviews are enough to decide that Infected is a book you want to take home!
A Clockwork Orange is one of those books which everyone has heard of but which few people have actually read, mostly, I think, because it is preceded by a reputation of shocking ultra-violence. I’m not going to tell you that A Clockwork Orange does not contain violence. It features lengthy descriptions of heinous crimes, and they’re vivid descriptions, full of enjoyment. (Much later in his life Burges would note: ‘I was sickened by my own excitement at setting it down.’) Don't misunderstand, A Clockwork Orange is not about violence really, but it is a means by which the author explores free will and morality.
Now let me say that A Clockwork Orange is a cult classic, but I am here to say that the book went almost unnoticed when compared to the movie. The wording and language in A Clockwork Orange is at times very difficult to follow, even for vetrine readers, however when time is taken and the reader allows themselves to become immersed in the story, the pseudo-Russian-Shakespear becomes easier to read and pretty well enjoyable. Again I must caution readers that this is a violent book, and it is disturbing, containing vivid descriptions of vile acts. Warning done I must encourage you to go read it!
Everyone has the dream of being a part of something greater, unless you are me in which case you have dreams of being the villain of something greater. Anyways author Neil Gaiman is here to tell us that to be a part of something greater is not always as great as it seems to be. Under the streets of London Gaiman will take you somewhere you could hardly imagine, and it's a trip. A city filled with monsters, saints, murderers, angels, knights in armor that's not quite shining, and pale girls in black velvet. This is a place for people who have fallen between the cracks.
Our story picks up when our protagonist Richard Mayhew is living his banal life in London, with his banal girlfriend. One day when he is walking about the streets of London he encounters a little girl who is injured. Doing what any sensible and decidedly banal man would do he helps the girl, the next day she is all but recovered, and informs Richard Mayhew that she is being perused by otherworldly assassins. Soon after his life becomes much less banal as he appears to become invisible to people who once knew him. This is a unique book offering readers the chance to wander the streets of London Below, overlooked because it's not American, Neverwhere is worth the read!
Everyone knows that the government(s) is out to get us. Everyone knows that they are simply waiting, breath baited, rubbing their hands together and bathing in cash, to unleash unholy, unparalleled, and unthinkable horror on us for the simple fact that they are all greedy bastards! Well Andromeda Strain is here to tell us ... yeah pretty much that. Oh and that it will not go as well as they might like. Drumbing up some good old fashioned "plague/carrier" fear and paranoia Andromeda Strain is an delightful read that will infect readers until they put it down. Maybe even longer than that.
One of the government's "above your pay grade" projects has objects rocketing around space collecting God knows what. Its no wonder that at some point one might bring something back with it. When this happens as you may not be too surprised to find out, all the shit hits all the fans. Death and an otherworldly disease ravage the world and the few survivors of this horrible happening are left wallowing in the dust and destruction of the old world. Needless to say Andromeda Strain is a brilliant read, unfortunately overlooked by a great deal of people, then made into a movie which buried it even deeper.
Now I am not going to come in here and say that I have not watched Dexter, I will not tell you that I disdain the television show because it besmerks all that is the essence of Darkly Dreaming Dexter, I will not even profoundly state that I did not absolutely love the television show and squee and almost cry for sheer joy and sadness. I wont tell you those things because the simple fact is I did watch the show, I did watch it, I loved it because of what it brought to a character that I loved, and I did indeed squee because I loved it. My absolute adoration of the show however, is exactly why the book is on this list. Everyone knows Dexter, but so few knew that it was a book long before it was a show.
Dexter is a wonderful book that delves into the mind of a serial killer. Unlike many horror novels where the "bad guy" is a cut and dry affair, in Dexter, our protagonist can also be considered to be the antagonist. Readers will take a first seat to murder and true darkness while having their ideas of good and evil fucked with. Dexter is thoroughly enjoyable and is a book I would suggest to anyone who is after a disturbing yet moving novel. While I am sad that the book is so greatly overshadowed by the series I can not be too upset, because in truth the series brought many to the books, including me.
The Passage is a book I loved. Vampires (sorta) little girls with the key to salvation, and an apocalypse what is not to love? Written in several styles all feeling very similar to an epistolary tale our story takes place in a soon to be dystopian world, following an event that will devastate the world! Bleak and terrifying the Passage is a book that frankly was overlooked for some reason, but upon reading one can see its influence in popular horror and genre siblings of today. In fact I am actually surprised it has not been made into a movie yet. Murderers, thieves, liars, adulterers, and vial scum, collected for the sheer purpose of inflicting chaos to a world at peace, are given immense power over thousands and set loose on the world. No I am not talking about villains in the book, this is the government(s). Yes the government, the omnipresent force for evil and hatred in the world is at it once more. Fucking around with genetics and shit they should not be touching they have created themselves a viral outbreak that changes the face of the world leaving little but scraps for the survivors to fight for. Definitely an overlooked book in the world of horror.
"Henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." With hight, strength, and words on his side one of the greatest Americans of all times will set out and carve a swath of destruction all the way to the White House. Now I know it is generally accepted that right next to Vladimir Putin, Abraham Lincoln is one of the most bad ass presidents the world has ever seen. "George Washington?" You say? Get that shit out of here, he was a wimp and a sucky general. Lincoln was a seven foot tall ax wielding freedom machine, who also hunted vampires on the side.
Taking place in a shockingly accurate period novel our hero Abe sets out to get revenge for the death of his mother at the hands of a vampire. That is really the premise of this book. Now this book is without a doubt bad ass, but it is also horror themed, bringing very realistic but very thematic vampires to bare. And no they don't go suck Bambi's blood, they will suck you dry! Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is a great read and was unfortunately deeply overshadowed by the movie, which itself was pretty bad ass.
Some things should be left where they are, some things just should not have fingers shoved into them, some things get angry when you go fucking with their personal bubble. Sphere by Michael Crichton is a wonderful example. Bringing together science, the ocean (Lovecraft's favorite mistress), and sheer terror Sphere is a book that will keep readers diving deeper, if not for the fear that builds in their insides, then for the mystery of: "Just what is in this ball?" Its a thing many people encounter every day. I have a container, but I don't know whats in it. Okay, so you caught me, I over simplified. Good luck finding me to kill me! Anyways Sphere has a lot more to offer than a scary version of "Whats in the box" it is a deep journey to the depths of the sea and the human mind. Psychological terror and unbelievable sentience manifest themselves within the story, bringing readers to question themselves. What exactly will science learn on this journey to the bottom of the sea, what will they find in the sphere? Sphere is a story that seems to have influenced both horror and science fiction a great deal, that said I can not really see why it was so ill received.
You, yes you, the one with the eyes who is reading this right now. You have, more than likely spent most of your life using your eyes to see things and such. That's what they are for, (if your parents ask what you are reading tell them you are learning science) anyways, Blindness by Jose Saramago is a brilliant but underrated exploration of human psychology. Am I the only one seeing the connection between the horror genre and human psychology? Anyways, there are several kinds of fear presented here, unless of course you are blind, in which case, since computers do not yet come in braille, you are not reading this.
In Blindness, our readers are treated to a dose of blindness. Seriously who saw that coming? Anyways readers go to an unknown town where a frightening case of blindness has come upon most of the town's denizens. You will explore the fear of an Asylum plunged into chaos and other terrors that are born when people lose their sight and their shit. I can not say for sure why Blindness when unnoticed, perhaps it is because it is foreign, or maybe its because it is a very real possibility, whatever the reason do not let Blindness pass you by!
Now here is a name that everyone is going to recognize! Shutter Island. Yes it was that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. No not that one, or that one, or that one, or that one, or that one, THAT ONE yes, that one. Shutter Island is another story that would make M. Night Shyamalan blush. It is a great thriller with some truly terrifying ideas. Then just when you think you have reached the bottom of the rabbit hole you learn that you have so much farther to go. Yes I believe that this is a brilliant delve into the human mind and the horror genre.
Teddy is sent to investigate the disappearance of some lady from a mental institution for the criminally insane. As he begins his investigation all sorts of things seem to be pretty normal. But then they get pretty spooky. Then they are normal for a while again. Then suddenly the story transforms from a plane Jane up and down kinda-mystery suspense, to a five headed dragon complete with pants shitting terror. Really I couldn't say much more without giving away the story. As for why Shutter Island is overlooked, its pretty cut and dry. The movie of the same name overshadowed this book so much most people forgot about it.
"Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost." The Divine Comedy: Inferno is in itself a monster. A massive undertaking written by a Catholic in an effort to scare people to God. So we KNOW that it will be chocked full of every kind of horror imaginable. Dragging readers kicking and screaming into the bowls of Hell the Inferno is perhaps one of the most terrifying things I have ever read, full of unbelievably vivid imagery and disturbing descriptions of pain and torture unimaginable Hell is truly terrifying!
Readers will follow Dante as he narrates his journey into the darkness of hell, lead by the enigmatic and gifted poet Virgil. Virgil serves little purpose but to deliver mind blowingly lyrical and beautiful descriptions of the unspeakable. Step by step we slowly make the descent through the Nine Circles of Hell, each circle bearing an evil of greater magnitude than the one before. The Circles of Hell are: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. Dante's Inferno is a staggering venture that will take some time to complete but will scare the shit out of you! Sadly it is a work that has fallen out of prominence with the rise of secular culture.
Lullaby, what a delightful story. What a delightful concept. This is a story which has the power to instill fear of one's own self. How bad ass is that? Anyways. Lullaby is a brilliant trip into a pseudo fantasy/modern/thriller/horror world where magic is real. Ohh I love these kinds of stories! Chuck Palahniuk does a masterful job of creating a frighteningly realistic story with very real questions about ethics and power. As we all know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our hero Carl (please any authors reading this NEVER name a main character Carl, Fred, Frank, Earl, or Bill PLEASE) is an investigative journalist who is assigned a job in which he must investigate SIDS, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, from which his own child suffered. He soon learns that their deaths are all linked to a book which all of the families had, one which contains a song called "The Culling Song" which, read with proper emphasis, can kill those it is read to. Realizing that he had read this song to his wife and infant Carl (ugh) decides to set out around the nation in an effort to remove any copies of the book from existence. Now I can not totally say that this was so overlooked, but I had not heard of it until about two years ago so to me that is overlooked and underrated.
The exploration of fear is central to the horror genre. All horror books explore and provide a kind of commentary on different kinds of horror, and there are many out there. Soul Tracker by Bill Myers explores a unique kind of fear. It is not the creeping subtle fear, or the fear of a neighbor, or the fear of death, or even the "Oh Holy Fuck! Please no, no, NOOOO!!!!" Fear. Soul Tracker explores the fear of the Almighty. Yeah, God is a pretty scary dude. While technically this is more of a scifi spiritual book I classify it as horror because no matter what you believe, the idea of a Hell is terrifying. After the tragic suicide of his beloved daughter protagonist David is on a quest to make peace with her. Finally he finds a way through a mysterious and cruel billionaire who is researching the afterlife. His experiments gather data from near death experiences, and with it he is able to journey "Down the Tunnel" and find out what lies at the end, and off to the sides. Underrated because of its Christian overtones, and undertones, and tones in general, Soul Tracker and the follow up The Seeing are actually both terrifying reads I would suggest to any horror fan!
In the world of horror it is often the waking nightmare that is the foundation of a great story. In Rushed however, it is a nightmare that can not quite be grasped that is the foundation. I am one of those people, well I am not quite sure there are a those people, but I love my own nightmares, sadly I don't have them often. At least not that I can remember. How about you? Do you ever have dreams that you know are bad but you cant quite remember? Take some time to listen to them. Or not, I'm not your mom. Eric has dreams that he can not quite remember, all he knows is they wake him in the middle of the night with an urge to leave, as a result he is continually plagues by the feeling that he has somewhere to be. Not knowing what to he decides, like any rational person, to act on this insane compulsion and so he picks up and goes for a drive, hoping that once he proves to himself that there is nowhere to go, he can return to his normal life. Instead, he is launched down the road to a horrific nighmare in a crazy Wisconsin as the dream reveals itself one heart-pounding detail at a time. Overlooked for God knows why, you should find time for Rushed.
Zombies, what a wonderful way to open this list. Snatchers is a relevantly new novel, one which is not widely acclaimed, mainly, I feel. Because the writer is somewhat new to the business. Anyways. With any horror book readers should expect to be disturbed. With any Zombie book readers should expect to be treated to gore. This book delivers a little of both. Building up characters in ways that will make you love or hate them, really form a connection with them author Shaun Whittington has no problem culling his creations in gruesome and violent ways. When the zombie outbreak happens where will you be? Well Snatchers treats us to the slow decay of the human race and the rise of zombies, and a first hand experience in the lives of people as they struggle with the circumstances that they were found in during the outbreak. Fast paced with fun action and easy to read, readers will be tearing through pages trying to find out what happens next. And if they are anything like me, which is unlikely, they will be wondering when the one eyed asshole will show up. Anyways, as I said Shaun is new to the profession, with time and effort I feel he can become a titan in the industry and a legend in the world of writing!