Frightful reads for a frightful night
This is the week for chills and thrills, and the world of books has plenty to offer lurking in its darker corners. Here is a selection of tricks and treats from the horror section.
Real vampires don’t sparkle. Tales like David Wellington’s “99 Coffins: A Historical Vampire Tale” and its sequels restore the vampire to its true monster status. An archaeological dig unearths 100 Civil War-era coffins, 99 of them with vampires with their hearts cut out. While an archaeologist and a detective work to piece together the historical mystery of a forgotten Union Army vampire regiment, someone in the present day is working to reanimate the fanged soldiers.
Elizabeth Kostova made a literary splash with her debut novel “The Historian.” A volume of quaint and curious lore which hints that the official burial site of Vlad the Impaler is not the warrior’s true resting place finds its way to three generations of history scholars. Each takes up the hunt for the true tomb of Vlad Dracula, and each in turn finds their life ruined by it. Meanwhile, the author of the little book is also searching for each of the historians.
Kelley Armstrong’s “Bitten” applies a gender twist to the werewolf mythos. Wolves are plentiful in Armstrong’s “Women of the Otherworld” series, but Elena Michaels is the only known female to survive the transformation after a wolf bite. She’s become a “mutt” – a wolf who chooses to live exclusively in the human world – but pack politics keep dragging her back into werewolf wars.
Caitlin R. Kiernan brought back the series characters from her earlier novel “Threshold” to face werewolves in “Low Red Moon” and its sequel, “Daughter of Hounds.” Paleontologist Chance Matthews and psychic Deacon Silvey have recovered from their Lovecraftian adventures in “Threshold,” married and are expecting their first child. Deke is brought in to a murder investigation, while Chance tries to unravel the vivid, gory nightmares that have come with her pregnancy, and both run afoul of Narcissa Snow, someone they’d rather not get to know in any shape or form.
Alexandra Sokoloff’s horror debut “The Harrowing” mixes up plenty of classic horror novel and movie elements: a cast of young, attractive college students, a student housing hall standing virtually empty during the school’s break, a raging thunderstorm, a Ouija board and things going bump in the night. But Sokoloff’s writing is confident enough to keep the narrative fresh.
William Peter Blatty, author of the horror classic “The Exorcist,” took on the haunted-house genre last year in “Elsewhere.” Pity the real estate agent stuck with that ultimate white elephant, a haunted house. Joan Freeboard’s albatross is Elsewhere, so she invites a psychic, a parapsychologist and an author to ghost-bust the property. Throw in a raging storm, interpersonal tensions, secrets and strange occurrences, and Blatty has himself a horror story.
H.P. Lovecraft started it, and plenty of modern writers have taken up the challenge of writing otherworldly horror.
Dan Simmons combines history and dark fantasy in “The Terror,” which starts out as a fictionalized account of the lost Franklin Expedition of 1845, which took two British ships and a crew complement of 126 into the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. As the ships venture ever farther from any trace of civilization, the tale twists into something unexpected – and, yes, unspeakable, for Captain Crozier at least.
Mentioned above, “Threshold” by Caitlin Kiernan takes on the Unspeakable Creature from other dimensional space. Chance Matthews is a second-generation paleontologist, and upon her grandparents’ deaths finds a relic of her parents’ work: a fossil that, when translated into a three-dimensional shape, proves to be something mathematically impossible. That’s a mystery Chance’s brain can’t resist, but solving it might open up an otherworldly dimension of horror.
Stephen King’s “Carrie” may have telekinesis as the engine that drives her ultimate revenge, but between her and her tormentors, the story has more than enough ordinary, everyday cruelty to make this novella a Halloween classic.
Dean Koontz’s “What the Night Knows” starts out with a tale all too often told: the capture of a serial killer who butchered four families, stopped dead by the sole survivor of the last massacre. Two decades later, the murders begin again, following the same pattern. Is it just a copycat, or could it be something less mundane?
Graphic novel series “The Walking Dead” has spawned a hit cable TV show, which has in turn produced tie-in novels. The original comics are available in “The Walking Dead: Compendium One,” which compiles issues 1 to 48, and “Compendium Two,” which collects issues 49 to 98. The first novelization, “The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor,” by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, was released earlier this year, and its their follow-up, “The Walking Dead: the Road to Woodbury,” arrived in stores this month.
The Newsflesh series by Mira Grant (a pen name for Seanan McGuire) debuted to good reviews with “Feed” in 2010, followed by the sequels “Deadline” and “Blackout.” In 2014, the medical miracles that cured cancer and the common cold mutated into a zombifying secondary virus. Newsfeeds, blogs and social media restored order to the world, but as the story picks up in 2039, zombies are pawns in a conspiracy to game the latest presidential election, and so are the heroes, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason.