BY OCTOBER 22, 2014 LEAVE A COMMENTON
It’s Halloween—time to get ready for the hordes of patrons who will begin to haunt the library and are in the mood for a good scare. From the hard-core enthusiast to the more timid bibliophile looking for a taste of terror, this list will help librarians arm themselves with some bloody-good suggestions.
Josh Malerman’s terrifying debut, Bird Box (Ecco: HarperCollins. 2014. ISBN 9780062259653. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062259677), immerses readers in a claustrophobic world in which the only way to survive an unknown threat is never to open your eyes. A young mother and her two children brave these strange horrors, piloting a boat downriver to a possible place of salvation and keeping their eyes shut. Told both in the present and via flashbacks to four years before when the known world ceased to exist, Malerman’s novel presents a deep and oppressive sense of dread.
On an isolated, uninhabited island a few miles off the mainland, a group of Boy Scouts and their leader embark on a survival excursion in Nick Cutter’s The Troop (Pocket. 2014. ISBN 9781476717722. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476717753). The outing is interrupted by the appearance of a stranger, the Hungry Man, who is completely consumed physically and mentally by hunger. Now the scouts’ fight to stay alive really begins, and they are forced to face monsters both of this world and unearthly. The distress never stops, the panic keeps escalating, and the gore is bountiful in this fluidly shifting plot. However, there is more than just visceral fear at work here; there is also the desperation of these characters knowing that they are trapped, contagious, and doomed.
Haunted house lovers who find popular adult writers a little too intense can try the recent YA offering Amity (EgmontUSA. 2014. ISBN 9781606841563. $18.99; ebk. ISBN 9781606843802) by Micol Ostow. It purposely plays off the anxiety and trepidation associated with the infamous town of Amityville, NY, but do not mistake the homage of the title as a sign of a copycat story. Instead, Ostow weaves a distinct and unsettling tale of two families, living in a house called Amity, on two different time lines, ten years apart. As the evil of the house slowly reveals itself, people are corrupted, frightening events take place, and no one is left unscathed. Or is it all in their heads? Once inside Ostow’s dark, distinctive world, it is hard to be sure what is real.
What is a list of Halloween stories without some vampires? Lauren Owen’s debut, The Quick(Random. 2014. ISBN 9780812993271. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679645054), introduces James Norbury, a shy young Victorian poet who accidentally gets wrapped up in the complicated and secretive Aegolius Club. Owen’s narrative has the leisurely pace of the gothic novels from the era in which it is set, but those who settle in and let the well-drawn characters, intrigue, and intricate plot sweep them away are in for a great ride. Think Dickens meets Dracula for a sense of what Owen’s textured novel has to offer.
Short stories are often a great bet during the season because they allow the casual horror fan to indulge in snippets of creepy fun. A superb and recent collection is The New Black (Dark Horse. 2014. ISBN 9781940430041. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940430126), edited by Richard Thomas and with an introduction by Bram Stoker Award–winning author Laird Barron. Featuring tense, atmospheric, and twisted stories by acclaimed authors Benjamin Percy, Roxane Gay, Craig Davidson (who published The Troop under the pseudonym Nick Cutter), and more, these neonoir tales merge literary fiction with any combination of dark genres from crime and horror to fantasy and Southern gothic, with touches of the grotesque along the way. Those who are looking to dip their toes into the forbidden depths of chills and thrills should start here for a sampling of the best.
Finally, try one of the traditional titles of horror. The 40th anniversary edition of James Herbert’s iconic The Rats (Pan Macmillan. 2015. ISBN 9781447264521. $32.95; ebk. ISBN 9780330469203), which will feature a new foreword by Neil Gaiman, is set to be released in January 2015. But why wait? Most libraries likely already have an older copy of this backlist gem lurking on their shelves. Herbert’s grisly novel takes the ubiquitous, urban menace—rats—and unleashes a more intelligent and predatory version onto the populace of London with gruesomely petrifying results. You think zombies are scary? At least they don’t actually exist. (Right?) Get patrons in on the buzz that will certainly follow Gaiman’s contribution by recommending this disturbing classic.
This column was contributed by Becky Spratford, a Readers’ Advisory and Teen Librarian at Berwyn Public Library, IL. She is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2d ed. (ALA Editions, 2012), and a proud member of the Horror Writers Association. For more horror suggestions from Spratford, visit raforallhorror.blogspot.com