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  • Sam Reader 6:00 pm on 2018/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: different seasons, everything's eventual, , full dark no stars, , i know what you need, just after sunset, , nightmares and dreamscapes, , skeleton crew, stephen king,   

    A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Short Story Collection 

    On May 22, Stephen King’s hotly anticipated new thriller The Outsider arrives to scare the pants off of us again. To keep ourselves busy while we wait, we’ve already ranked every one of the Master of Horror”s novels—but for the purposes of comparing apples to apples (presumably, apples with razorblades hidden inside them), our exhaustive list did not include King’s numerous short story collections. As King is one of America’s best and foremost short story writers, this is a matter that bears rectifying—after all, there are more than 100 stories spread across his 10 collections, and that’s a considerable body of work. Here, submitted for your approval, are the short story collections of Stephen King, ranked.

    Just After Sunset
    There’s nothing particularly wrong with Just After Sunset—it even includes one of King’s most ambitious publishing experiments in “N.,” a story first released as an online motion comic serial. At the same time, there’s nothing that stands out. The stories are consistently strong, but the concepts within them are ones he has either explored fully before, or improved upon in later works. In rereading the King collections for this article, I was surprised at how many of these stories I didn’t remember encountering before. And while “forgettable” isn’t necessarily a deadly sin, considering how memorable so many of King’s stories are, Just After Sunset must logically place low on this ranking, all things (and Kings) being relative.

    Four Past Midnight
    A collection of four novellas ranging from cosmic horror, to psychological horror, to dark fantasy, Four Past Midnight is, taken as a whole, distinct and interesting, but never truly cohesive. While all four novellas go some interesting places, none stand alone as singular works. Whether they take too long to build, telegraph their twists, or feel like a prologue to a later work, all four stories are memorable but not superlative. It’s a shame, because when these tales finally do get moving, they deliver on great concepts (particularly “The Library Policeman”), but they might have worked better trimmed to the length of short stories.

    Hearts in Atlantis
    It may seem like I’m being hard on King’s novella collections, but oh, is Hearts in Atlantis an uneven reading experience. The first novella, “Low Men in Yellow Coats” (later turned into a movie that shares the name of the collection but has nothing to do with the titular story) is incredibly powerful, mining a great deal of emotion and depth out of a story of a young boy’s unusual relationship with his mother’s new lodger, who turns out to be crucial to the fate of all existence. The story works even if you haven’t read King’s Dark Tower novels, to which it serves as a rather essential sort of footnote. It offers an excellent mix of nostalgia, paranoia, and fantasy, and offer a realistic look into the minds of its young protagonist. But after that, the ostensibly linked stories that fill out the collection grow increasingly disjointed, and are all over the place in terms of tone and setting—though the title tale, about a group of college friends who become obsessed with playing cards during a summer of political upheaval, is essential reading.

    The Bazaar of Bad Dreams 
    The most recent entry on the list, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a solid collection that hangs together on a general theme of mortality and morality, with stories including a seductive avatar of death, an execution in a small western town, and “Obits,” the Hugo-nominated tale of a journalist with the strange power to cause deaths based on the obituaries he writes. It’s one of the high points of King’s recent work, and hangs together a little better, both thematically and tonally, than some of the collections on this list. And yet, taken together, these stories aren’t quite as evocative or powerful as the books below—perhaps its damning him for maturing as a writer, but this one has none of the twisted pulp of Night Shift, or the unnerving gloom of Skeleton Crew, or the colorful weirdness of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It’s solid.

    Different Seasons
    Another collection of four novellas, this one based thematically around “seasons.” It was King’s attempt to try something in defiance of his 1980s-era reputation as a horror writer (though “The Breathing Method” and “Apt Pupil” might still qualify as such). As an experiment, it worked incredibly well, proving King didn’t need supernatural twists or pulp excess to grab readers and keep them. All four of these stories are excellent, though some elements of each do come across as excessive, unsubtle, or slightly out of place (“Apt Pupil” is a notable example; it’s a novella about the banality of evil, but the protagonist starts off by cheerfully rattling off concentration camp statistics and quickly graduates to serial-murdering hoboes). Also, by this point, most will have already come across Different Seasons through the film adaptations (only “The Breathing Method” has not been made for the screen), skewing perceptions of the originals. While the printed and filmed versions are two entirely different animals, it’s difficult to look at one without seeing glimpses of the other; thus while the stories are very good, they’ve lost some of their sheen.

    Nightmares and Dreamscapes
    The most appropriate adjective to describe Nightmares and Dreamscapes is “kaleidoscopic.” It has its good moments, it has its bad moments, but the latter definitely doesn’t outweigh the former, and it’s a volume filled to bursting with all of King’s considerable talents and quirks and particular obsessions—pastiches of authors he enjoys, stories transmuted into teleplays, and, in general, ideas spanning multiple genres and styles. It’s a bizarre funhouse of stories, bouncing from tone to tone and genre to genre with abandon, from a tale of killer joke teeth, to a story about the dark secret behind a bestselling author’s success. Even the weaker entries are just interesting, and worth at least one read. The constant juggling of tone and format can get exhausting, and fictional sprawl isn’t always a good thing, especially on a reread, putting this one lower in the rankings—but we’re already well into “must read” territory at this point.

    Full Dark, No Stars
    Four novellas centered around the concept of revenge, Full Dark No Stars is a series of slow-burning, dark tales, each building tension in its own way until something finally snaps and it all goes spiraling out of control. It’s clear from  the very beginning of each story that something is going to go wrong, it’s just a question of what and when—and how it will all play out in the end (hint: not all that well for most characters). There’s not much to pick at here; it’s just an excessively rough read, even for King—not because of gore or violence, but because each story works overtime to live up to the collection’s name, from the unrelentingly grim “1922,” about a man who conspires to kill his wife with the help of their son; to “Fair Extension,” a sort of social satire in which a man essentially destroys his friend’s life through a deal with the devil, and which is either a dark comedy or a horror novel from the perspective of the monsters, depending on your point of view. Either way, the unrelenting bleakness makes it something of a “sometimes” book.

    Everything’s Eventual
    Everything’s Eventual probably doesn’t feature many stories King’s fans would call favorites, but oh man, is it evocative. Beyond its best-known story, the nightmarish ride “1408” that pits one man against a hotel room in a battle for his life, King paints on indelible image and moment after another. These stories provoke reactions, offer odd glimpses into the real world. They stick with you. (In full disclosure, I have been known to writes lines from the stark, ambiguous “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” about a suicidal traveling salesman who collects bathroom graffiti, on bathroom stalls all over the country). It is, by all measures, a good collection. Possibly even a very good one. But that its power is found in moments more often than in whole stories, it doesn’t break into the top of the list.

    Night Shift
    To be blunt, King’s first collection, published in 1978, is pure nightmare fuel. Its blend of gothic horror, pulp, suburban fiction, EC Comics-level grotesquerie, modern horror, and genuine compassion for its characters is something many have tried to replicate, but few have managed quite so successfully. While this one might be known for its more gruesome offerings (the post-apocalyptic “Night Surf,” which opens in the wake of a global pandemic; “The Mangler,” which somehow manages to make a demon-possessed laundry press into a terrifying menace, despite how ridiculous that idea is), it also contains the wrenching “Last Rung on the Ladder,” about a man who can’t forgive himself for his sister’s suicide; and the darkly hilarious “Quitters, Inc.” a far more effective smoking deterrent than any Surgeon Generals’ warning. It’s a remarkably consistent collection from front to back, even if the stories are a bit raw, and lacking the polish that would characterize the author’s later work.

    Skeleton Crew
    If there is one book I would recommend to any Stephen King neophyte, it’s this one. While no story collection is flawless (not even one of Stephen King’s), it’s more unified in tone, and contains more heavy hitters, than any other horror collection I can name, and it handles both the gothic pulp and gore a steadier hand than Night Shift (Skeleton Crew hails from a bit later in King’s career—1985). It builds dread and atmosphere like nothing else. These are stories that linger, just at the corner of your eye—images like the thrashing tentacle from “The Mist,” about monsters invading the mundane world of a grocery store and exposing the madness just below the surface of the everyday; the final, haunting line of “The Jaunt,” both a cosmic joke and one of fiction’s darkest examples of curiosity killing the cat. It’s the best display of the breadth of King’s talent, without the macabre palette of Night Shift or the referential sprawl of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It’s every bit as evocative as Everything’s Eventual. It’s a tightly curated slab of darkness that invites readers into its parlor and bites them unawares, its venom turning them into lifelong addicts.Even better, it’s eminently accessible, allowing those who haven’t experienced King’s work to take their first steps with him into the dark.

    How does your King collections ranking compare? Don’t forget to also check out our ranking of King’s novels, as well as our list of authors who might one day inherit his throne.

    The Outsider will be published May 22.

    The post A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Short Story Collection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 5:00 pm on 2018/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: 11/22/63, abraham lincoln vampire hunter, all american girl, american queen, american wife, , , , , , , dolley, eighteen acres, ellen feldman, eugene burdock, executive orders, failsafe, frost/nixon, , harvey wheeler, , it can’t happen here, jailbird, , jenn marie thorne, joe klein, , , leader of the free world, , lucy, , , mount vernon love story, mrs. President, nicole wallace, peter morgan, , primary colors, , seth grahams-smith, sierra simone, sinclair lewis, stephen carter, stephen king, , the impeachment of abraham lincoln, , the plot against america, , the wrong side of right, , wide awake   

    25 Fictional Presidents 

    President’s Day is around the corner, so we compiled a list of 25 fictional presidents for you to read about! If watching the news bums you out, but political intrigue does not, these books are for you.

    Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
    This haunting novel centers around the true story of Lincoln’s son, who died during his Presidency. While President Lincoln visits the gravesite of his son, the ghosts who have clung to life narrate a deeply moving, complex thread of tales.

    11/22/63, by Stephen King
    This political sci-fi is about a man who travels back in time with one goal—to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While the President does not “officially” appear in the story, the entire plot centers around Jake Epping managing to stop Lee Harvey Oswald…but will his actions have the opposite impact on American history than he hopes?

    American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
    Loosely based on Laura Bush, this novel stars Alice, a small-town girl who grows up to marry a future President. Follow Alice in her courtship by a dazzling Republican man she finds herself unable to stay away from…but once they enter the White House, she realizes she disagrees with in ways they may be unable to reconcile.

    Jailbird, by Kurt Vonnegut
    Watergate gets even more insidious in this story, told from the perspective of a fictional co-conspirator in the Nixon Administration cover-up. Wry and humorous, but also dark and revealing of the jagged edges of human nature, Vonnegut’s anti-hero shares the story from his perspective years later, after serving his time for the crime.

    Dolley, by Rita Mae Brown
    Dolley Madison was the fourth first lady in American history, and this novel explores her fictional diary. Being the wife of one of America’s founders was both glamorous, full of fashion and parties…and horrendous, as her husband ushers the country into war.

    Primary Colors, by Joe Klein
    Originally published anonymously, this novel takes readers behind the political curtain of presidential campaigns. Based on Bill Clinton’s rise to the presidency, told from the perspective of a lower-level aide, every moment is rife with drama on the verge of scandal.

    Eighteen Acres, by Nicolle Wallace
    Nicole Wallace is a former Communications Director of the White House (and current political pundit) and wrote a novel imagining the first woman president as she weathers a re-election campaign, an infidelity scandal, and an international blunder.

    American Queen, by Sierra Simone
    Now for a very different kind of novel, this erotic romance imagines a completely fictional scenario in which a girl finds herself in love with two men: they just happen to be the President of the United States…and the Vice President of the United States. Confused? Once you meet Greer, Embry and Maxen in this reimagining of Camelot, you’ll be in love.

    The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
    This book isn’t even available yet, but it’s totally pre-order worthy…because it’s the first novel written by a former President! Bill Clinton teamed up with James Patterson to write a political thriller about what happens when a President vanishes without a trace.

    Failsafe, by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler
    Published in 1962, when tensions between Russia and the US were at an all-time high, this speculative novel imagines a scenario in which American bombers take control of the nuclear weapons and decide to put an end to the conflict once and for all…and the President must act before Russia engages them in all-out war.

    The Dead Zone, by Stephen King
    Stephen King returns to the list with this bestselling speculative novel about a man who wakes up from a coma with the mysterious ability to see people’s futures. But this becomes a problem when he has a vision of a man running for President…and it’s disastrous. Does he intervene to prevent it from coming true?

    Executive Orders, by Tom Clancy
    The worst has occurred: the President, the cabinet, and most of congress is dead. That leaves the VP, Jack Ryan, in charge. President Ryan must govern without a government all the while trying to figure out who is responsible. Riveting and with twists that will leave you breathless, fans of Designated Survivor will love this novel.

    The Inner Circle, by Brad Meltzer
    An adventure of presidential proportions begins when an archivist and his one-time crush find a mysterious dictionary that belonged to the first president, George Washington. They must race against the clock to decipher the meaning of the dictionary, and, once a man ends up dead, hope they don’t end up suffering the same fate.

    The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen L. Carter
    This fascinating novel imagines a world where Lincoln did not die, and instead lived to face the consequences of the Civil War…namely, an impeachment trial for a breach of executive powers. When one of Lincoln’s lawyers is murdered, a young black woman working for his defense team must unravel the mystery.

    Mount Vernon Love Story, by Mary Higgins Clark
    Mystery master Mary Higgins Clark wrote an historical novel about George Washington! Did you know that many people believe Washington, despite being married to Martha, was in love with someone else? Higgins Clark is not one of them; she writes the love story between America’s FIRST first-couple as one of mutual respect, admiration, and affection.

    Lucy, by Ellen Feldman
    In contrast, this novel is about a president who was in love with someone who wasn’t his wife. Before he was President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved Lucy Mercer…Eleanor’s social secretary. Through polio, a world war, and two presidential terms, despite his promises to Eleanor, Franklin and Lucy remain connected. Heartbreaking, romantic, and beautiful.

    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith
    Presidents go paranormal in this fun novel that reveals the true story behind our 16th President. Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter, hell-bent on vengeance against the creatures responsible for his mother’s death.

    Mr. President, by Katy Evans
    Matt and Charlotte have known one another since they were kids. He was the son of a President, and vowed never to follow in his father’s footsteps…except now he has, bringing Charlotte along for the ride. The problem? Charlotte loves him, but knows she can never love a President. This erotic romance novel sizzles with political steam.

    The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth
    An Alternative history where FDR loses the 1940 election to isolationist Charles Lindbergh…who strikes a deal with Hitler to stay out of his way. But tensions rise, along with anti-Semintism, and the consequences are seen through the eyes of one boy.

    It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis
    This book was written during the Great Depression, but the subject matter is still relevant today. Featuring another character who unseats Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the Presidency, this novel details the dangers of populist rhetoric with a President who halts progress on all fronts and holds his enemies captive.

    Frost/Nixon, by Peter Morgan
    This play dramatizes the epic showdown between journalist David Frost and President Nixon, in which the former tries to get the latter to confess to his crimes. (You can watch the movie, too!)

    Crooked, by Austin Grossman
    Grossman’s reinvention of Tricky Dick as the inheritor of a presidency imbued with magical powers—a man consistently distrusted and marginalized by the people who could have prepared him for the battles to come—is thoroughly enjoyable. Most importantly, it offers up an idea of a president who has more than a veto up his or her sleeves. Certainly a little black magic would be very welcome in today’s unsettled world.

    All American Girl, by Meg Cabot
    One of my favorite YA novels featuring regular-girl Sam Madison, who saves the president from an assassination attempt. Sam is in love with her older sister’s boyfriend, but as she spends more time with the President’s son—the only person who seems to understand the downsides to her newfound fame—she starts to question both her choice, and whether she could love the kid who lives in the White House.

    The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thorne
    Kate has never known her father, but when her mother dies, he reveals himself: a powerful politician vying for the White House. Suddenly, Kate is embroiled in the world of politics, a new family, and a dangerous first-love…all the while grieving for her mom, and the life she once loved.

    Wide Awake, by David Levithan
    This speculative novel stars the first gay, Jewish President…whose election is promptly declared invalid by a governor of a crucial state. Jimmy and Duncan, a teen couple, decide to lend their support by joining the protests to support him.

    What novels featuring fictionalized presidents do you love?

    The post 25 Fictional Presidents appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/01/12 Permalink
    Tags: bag of bones, black house, blaze, , cell, christine, cujo, cycle of the werewolf, delores claiborne, desperation, dreamcatcher, duma key, end of watch, , , from a buick 8, gerald's game, , , joyride, lisey's story, mr. murder, needful things, rage, , roadwork, rose madder, , stephen king, stephen king books, stephen king books ranked, take a stand, the colorado kid, the dark half, , , the girl who loved tom gordon, the regulators, the running man, , , the talisman, the tommyknockers, under the dome   

    A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Novel Ever 

    Stephen King is a literary icon, a status he’s achieved by a) defining a genre; b) writing brilliantly; and c) being prolific. In other words, not only has Stephen King written some genius novels (and short stories, novellas, essays, and works of criticism), but he’s written a lot of them—49 novels to date, in fact, with number 50 coming up shortly.

    Note, however, the use of the word “some” up there. While we’d argue that King has never written a bad novel, there’s certainly a spread. We don’t just read the books so you don’t have to, we also rank them so you don’t have to. Without further ado, here’s how we see the novels of Stephen King—from absolute genius to, well, not so genius.

    To Be Determined: The Outsider

    King’s newest novel is due out in May, 2018. What do we know? We know it involves the brutal murder of a small boy, and that a mountain of physical evidence pointing to a beloved schoolteacher and family man as the killer. King loves stories about exploring the dark side of a person, but we’ll have to wait and see what he does with the plot this time around. After all, it’s never as simple as that.

    49. The Tommyknockers

    King has been open about his past drug abuse and other issues, and admits he wrote this book while high as a kite. It shows. Oh lord, does it show. Somewhere under the heart-pounding, jittery self-loathing, there’s a fascinating germ of an idea—alien artifacts (including an entire spaceship) are compulsively unearthed by folks in a small town, with disastrous results—but the only term that really fits the final product is “hot mess.” Though an immanently readable hot mess.

    48. Rage

    There’s a term for a writer’s early work: juvenilia. This novel was King’s first, and was later published under the Bachman pseudonym. The story of a teenager who murders two teachers and takes a classroom of students hostage, it’s quite simply not very good in comparison to what followed, filled with the sort of overheated writing that young authors often engage in while thinking they’re being provocative. After a rash of shootings at schools, King pulled this book from distribution, and it’s hard to find these days—and not worth chasing down, save out of curiosity or super-fandom.

    47. Rose Madder

    This messy novel reads like two separate stories merged together uncomfortably. In one, you have a realistic and brutal tale of an abused woman. In the other, there’s a magic painting that serves as a portal to another world. Even after the abused woman steps into said painting to flee her attacker, they never stop feeling like two separate stories.

    46. Cell

    We won’t say King phoned this one in (because that would be a bad pun), but it does almost read as a parody of his vintage work. From the flimsy premise—a mysterious pulse turns anyone caught speaking on a cell phone into a hungry, aggressive zombie—to the stiff dialogue, there’s not much to recommend here beyond some admittedly visceral thrills and the veiled references to The Dark Tower.

    45. The Regulators

    The mirror novel to Desperation is entertaining and has some moments of fantastic, chilling horror, but the premise (an autistic boy, assisted by the same evil entity that orchestrates the horrors of Desperation, gains the ability to alter reality in his neighborhood) wears thin by the end. What’s more, without the interesting parallels to its sister novel, The Regulators is much less interesting still.

    44. Dreamcatcher

    King wrote this alien invasion story shortly after he survived his famous accident, and it reads like a journal kept by a man in immense pain (and on a lot of painkillers). It’s the sort of body horror that can be—and frequently is— effectively creepy, but the verisimilitude actually goes too far, until you feel like you’re reading King’s private pain journal. On top of that, the self-consciously gross and hilariously-named monsters (literally called “sh*t-weasels”) come off as silly rather than scary. The less said about the ill-advised film adaptation, the better.

    43. Bag of Bones

    This isn’t a bad novel—in fact, it’s pretty darn good. If another writer had published it, we’d look on it more fondly. But since it was written by King, you can’t help but notice that it’s in just about every way a retread of themes, motifs, and tics he’s explored before—and usually better. A good novel? Yep. A mediocre Stephen King novel? Double yep.

    42. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

    This is the story of a girl who gets lost in the woods with nothing but her portable radio, tuned to the Red Sox game. That’s it. As exposure and dehydration worsen her physically, she hallucinates a pretty horrific scenario, leading to a battle with the God of the Lost in which the terrifying creatures and events mirror the reality of her struggle to survive. It’s a slight story that now also suffers from being a bit dated—after all, Tom Gordon isn’t exactly a household name any more.

    41. From A Buick 8

    Use a high concept (a 1953 Buick Roadmaster abandoned at a gas station is not, in fact, a 1953 Buick Roadmaster, but some kind of doorway to another dimension that occasionally disgorges bizarre alien items or creatures) to tell a series of stories about it in a campfire/ghost story structure, and the result should be something great. While the individual stories are interesting, and the overall concept creepy, the lack of a definitive ending to it all undercuts the success of the novel.

    40. Joyland

    Another story as flimsy as it is pleasant, Joyland is basically a toothless coming-of-age narrative with just a hint of a mystery. It’s an enjoyable read, but doesn’t really stick with you, good or bad. It just is.

    39. Cujo

    Cujo has some great ideas, but is among the weakest of King’s earlier novels. While it sports his usual skill at depicting characters and setting, ultimately it’s a story trying to wring horror and tension from a rabid dog; while it’s well worth reading, it never quite leaps off the page the way some of King’s more successful books have.

    38. Blaze

    Blaze is a tough one to rank. It’s well-written and often engaging, but ultimately, the story of a brain-damaged con artist who kidnaps a wealthy man’s baby for ransom then bonds with the child is kind of weightless. There’s nothing “wrong” with it, it’s just a story you forget almost immediately, which is something you can’t usually say about King’s work.

    37. Dolores Claiborne

    Your mileage will vary on this one. Some fans rank it much higher. Told as a long, rambling monologue by the title character, it’s impressive that King can maintain such a unique voice for so many pages, but rock-solid technique aside, the story—while not uninteresting—is slow as molasses. Some readers thrill to the immersive experience and the slow-burn mystery, but others find it hard rowing.

    36. Doctor Sleep

    To say there was some excitement among King fans when a sequel to The Shining was announced would be an understatement. The book is actually less a sequel and more an update on the character of Danny Torrance—which is fine. Danny is more interesting as a supernaturally gifted adult than he was as a kid, but the antagonists are, in a word, weak. You might read “spiritual vampires” and think otherwise. You would be wrong.

    35. Finders Keepers

    The middle novel of King’s Mr. Mercedes trilogy is a pretty good procedural yarn that ties into the first novel in interesting ways, but then sets up the third book in a clunky, heavy-handed fashion. Te reason it’s not a few ticks higher on this list is mostly because King engages in some rare lazy plot work, making a few things happen simply because he needs them to in order for the plot to hang together. King almost never cheats, so it really hurts this one.

    34. Duma Key

    The story of an artist who loses an arm and gains the ability to affect events through his paintings, there is much to love in this lush and often frightening novel. But it’s also rambling and a bit overlong. A tighter edit would push it up this ranking.

    33. The Colorado Kid

    When you’ve written as much as King, experiments are inevitable and laudable. This straightforward crime novel is an experiment that takes a decent if not particularly riveting story and ruins it, because it’s a mystery that is never resolved. According to King (and we believe him) that was the whole point, but while we give him credit for the artistic ambition, it renders the book frustrating.

    32. Cycle of the Werewolf

    Each chapter in this illustrated novel is a self-contained story that links with all the others to form the narrative. It’s a pretty straightforward werewolf story about a small town terrorized by one of the creatures, whose true identity is worked out by a wheelchair-bound boy—but it’s very well handled, and the unusual structure elevates it.

    31. Roadwork

    A truly underrated novel, and one of the few full-length novels King wrote that has absolutely zero supernatural or horror ingredients. It’s the story of a broken man served with an eminent domain buyout from the city, which intends to build a highway through his neighborhood, and his increasingly violent efforts to resist. It’s pretty intense novel, with a gut-punch of an epilogue, and has actually become more relevant as time has marched on.

    30. Lisey’s Story

    There is some great stuff in this novel, centered on the widow of a brilliant novelist as she reflects on their relationship and private and unique language while dealing with the emergence of repressed memories and the very real threat of a super-fan stalker who goes from threatening to violent. While King’s rumination on the inner workings of a relationship is interesting, there’s far too much of it in here, and the supernatural aspects feel tacked on. That said, at its core, this is a very good story, and certainly one of the most unusual in King’s oeuvre.

    29. The Running Man

    An early novel published under the Bachman pseudonym, The Running Man depicts a dystopia centered on an insane gameshow—this time having the contestant hunted by professional assassins on live television. It’s one of the most action-packed of all King’s novels, more of a thriller with a fantastic premise than anything else—but it’s a tightly written, gripping sci-fi story that has aged very well.

    28. Under the Dome

    King fans argue about this one a lot, but in many ways, it’s classic King. The premise is elevator pitch-ready (a town discovers that an impenetrable, invisible dome has suddenly appeared, cutting it off from the rest of the world), the characters are vividly imagined and (mostly) realistically drawn, and the payoff is one of the more clever and imaginative ones he’s ever engineered.

    27. Desperation

    Another of King’s ambitious experiments was the simultaneous publication of Desperation (under his own name) and The Regulators (under the Bachman pseudonym), with the books telling stories set in parallel universes that share characters and other elements. Of the two, we rank Desperation much higher: the tight, claustrophobic atmosphere of its premise—people traveling a lonely highway are pulled over and kidnapped by a possessed police officer and imprisoned—is a creepy and effective.

    26. End of Watch

    The final book in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy nudges the story into the supernatural, as the serial killer Mr. Mercedes has acquired some limited mental abilities that allow him to manipulate people and objects from his coma-like state. It’s a genius move, elevating the story beyond its need to wrap up the story and tie off the loose ends.

    25. Mr. Mercedes

    King’s efforts to evolve as a writer have produced some great work. While Mr. Mercedes, the first of a trilogy of crime novels, isn’t perfect (some of the characterizations are a bit thin and clichéd, as if King were aping other crime novels or TV shows) it’s tense, pivoting on a serial killer (who opens the story by running down innocent people in a Mercedes, hence his moniker) who taunts a retired police detective with his plans to kill again and again.

    24. The Dark Half

    Some of the best stories have very simple concepts. This one is razor-sharp: a writer finds that the pseudonym he’s been writing under has become much more real—and independent—than should be possible. And his dark half is doing terrible things. The psychological richness of this idea, especially considering King’s own history with pseudonyms, combined with the tightness of the writing put this one in the middle of the pack.

    23. Black House

    When King and Straub wrote The Talisman, King’s multiverse was still more of a notion than a firm concept. Its sequel, however, ties Jack’s story of parallel universes firmly to King’s Dark Tower saga, as an adult Jack whose memories of his earlier adventures have been repressed slowly realizes a serial killer plaguing a small town is actually an agent of the Crimson King. Jack retains his rare ability to flip between universes, and must reluctantly take on the task of saving not just his own, but all of them. It’s a rare example of a sequel that updates and matures its characters, themes, and universe in equal measure.

    22. Revival

    Revival is one of King’s best recent efforts—a chilling and unique work of horror that hits all the right buttons. A beloved minister loses his faith and pursues experiments in “secret electricity” that enable him to heal almost any affliction (with terrible side effects). He creates an experiment in order to communicate with the afterlife—and comes to the awful realization that the afterlife is a hell in which enormous, ancient monsters enslave and torture all humans, no matter what kind of lives they led. It’s bleak, depressing, and a fantastic read.

    21. Sleeping Beauties

    Co-written with his son Owen, this 2017 novel supports a high-concept premise (women begin falling into a supernatural-like sleep, becoming cocooned in a gauzy material, and react violently to attempts to wake them) with a rock-solidly realistic world to support it. The key to many of King’s best ideas is the futility of fighting against forces you have no control over; in this case, the women’s efforts to stay awake indefinitely has that rough-edge of pure terror that propels this novel into the top-half of King’s work.

    20. Christine

    If you stop to think about it, it’s remarkable King could take a hoary old premise like “haunted car goes on killing spree” and somehow generate a thoughtfully scary novel from it—but Christine is so much more than the sum of its parts. Tapping into the excruciating pain of being gross and unpopular in high school, King transforms adolescent rage into a universally horrifying experience.

    19. Needful Things

    The first part of this story is just King gleefully turning the crank, bringing the tension to an almost unbearable level before unleashing hell. A simple concept—a magical store where your darkest desires can be acquired, for a hidden and terrifying price—is elevated into a commentary on humanity, society, and the craven nature of people’s inner lives. When it’s casually parodied on Rick and Morty, you know you’ve written an all-time classic.

    18. Gerald’s Game

    Another choice that will likely spark some arguments, Gerald’s Game is one of King’s least supernatural horror stories, finding its terror in helplessness. The genius comes in the levels of helplessness King explores, ranging from the helpless sense of being trapped in a relationship, to the helplessness experienced by victims of child abuse, to the literal helplessness of being tied to a bed in a remote, deserted location. There’s a reason this book inspired one of the best King film adaptations of all time.

    17. Thinner

    Another Bachman Book, the premise for this thriller is so sharp and simple you can sum it up in one elevator pitch-ready sentence: a selfish, overweight man kills a gypsy woman and escapes justice, but is cursed by her father to grow ever thinner, no matter how much he eats. That’s it. It’s that simple. As the man steadily loses weight, his desperation grows to frightening levels. The richness of this plot, full of dark symbolism for modern-day America, remains powerful—and the blackly comic ending still packs a punch.

    16. Insomnia

    King himself regards the novel as something of a failure, but there are two reasons we rank this one, which is about a man who loses the ability to sleep and starts experiencing strange visions that might be more than simple hallucinations,  so highly. One, Insomnia is inextricably linked to The Dark Tower series, and could even be regarded as an essential part of it, in a sense—it features the first mention of the Crimson King, in fact. Two, it’s a daring and ambitious story, exploring some of King’s most stunning concepts with a real emotional punch, and a classic King premise involving a character who loses control of their own body.

    15. The Long Walk

    You know your writing career is going well when you’re forced to invent a secret identity in order to publish all the books you’re writing. The Long Walk, another one of the infamous Bachman Books, was The Hunger Games before The Hunger Games, except reduced to its most brutal basics—a group of young people are forced to walk until all but one of them is dead. It remains a surprisingly effective dystopian thriller.

    14. The Eyes of the Dragon

    While King is still often described as a “horror writer,” he’s been exploring other types of stories throughout his career. In this fantasy, King shows that he can craft a devious plot using any tropes at hand, and displays the same sort of worldbuilding prowess that has made The Dark Tower books so powerful.

    13. The Talisman

    Another transporting fantasy entry. Many of King’s stories involve children; the limited agency and mystification with adult concerns enhances the terror of his bogeymen and grants a level of verisimilitude to some of his more fanciful concepts. Co-written with Peter Straub, this story of parallel universes, which can be traversed if your twin in the other universe has died, centers on 12 year-old Jack. Jack seeks to cure his mother’s terminal cancer by locating a magical talisman, leading him through several dark and dangerous adventures that add up to one of King’s most satisfying stories, though the blatant homophobia throughout does dull its sheen, three decades on.

    12. Firestarter

    Ultimately, many of King’s best stories deal with primal forces, forces that are so terrifying in part because we can’t control them. Nothing is more primal than a child’s simple view of the world, when coupled with her immature impulse control—especially when that child has the power to set just about anything on fire with her mind. This one gets overlooked even by long-time fans, but a reread will remind you of its unadorned storytelling genius.

    11. Pet Sematary

    One of King’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to zero in on fundamental human experiences—like the loss of a beloved pet, the powerful yearning we all experience when we lose any creature that we care for, the state of fear parents live in for their children’s safety. What would you do to bring something—or someone—back? King asks that question and then offers a story that could have been kind of silly, but makes it absolutely terrifying when the magical titular spot does indeed bring the dead back to life—except different.

    10. The Green Mile

    One of the most successful of a string of King “publishing experiments,” The Green Mile was originally released as a “serial novel” in six installments. It’s the story of a mountainous, simple-minded black man named John Coffey, who in 1932 arrives on death row at a penitentiary nicknamed the Green Mile, having been convicted of murdering two white girls. King masterfully mixes issues of race, sadism, and mercy into the story as Coffey’s innocence becomes clear in parallel to the realization among some of the more compassionate guards that he has incredible empathetic and healing powers.

    9. ‘Salem’s Lot

    King is the consummate artist who respects what came before and builds on it. Raised on old-school vampire stories, his take on the story incorporates all the classic tropes, from the slightly insane vampire’s assistant to all the old rules involving sunlight, permission to enter, and seduction—and gives them all a modern twist that still feels fresh and frightening, even four decades after its publication.

    8. 11/22/63

    King’s career is so long, he’s been through several phases, like any artist. 11/22/63 is part of a late-career surge (still ongoing) of particularly strong, character-focused work. Time travel has been done so often in sci-fi it’s difficult to find a fresh angle, but King managed it using one of his trademark techniques: the inexplicable Mystery Spot located in a nondescript location. Tied to the Kennedy Assassination (still one of the most seismic events in U.S. history), the story morphs into a tragedy so subtly the reader barely understands why they find the ending so powerful.

    7. Carrie

    King’s first huge success is a relatively simple story that touches every reader in a universal sore spot: the hell of adolescence. King shows his talent for identifying pain points and exaggerating them just enough to make them terrifying, from Carrie’s humorlessly religious mother to her effortlessly cruel peers, building up to that classic moment when a suffering girl with strange powers makes everyone regret how they’ve treated her.

    6. The Stand

    The sheer scope of The Stand meant it was either going to be a tremendous success or a messy failure; not only does King offer up dozens of characters and settings, he tells an apocalyptic tale that starts off as a plague story and transforms into a biblical battle between good and evil. Even after he released the expanded version, replacing much of the material excised during the original editorial process, the story still hangs together perfectly, setting a multi-genre bar for success few writers could ever hope to clear.

    5. Misery

    If there’s a King novel that’s familiar to folks who don’t read King on the regular, it’s Misery, the story of a popular but conflicted writer who winds up in the clutches of his highly unstable biggest fan. Here, King perfected his technique of wringing true terror from scenarios that have nothing to do with vampires, ghosts, or ill-defined alien technologies—and everything to do with the fact that hell is other people. Crazed reader Annie Wilkes may be the most compelling villain he’s ever created, and that’s saying something.

    4. The Dead Zone

    King is at his strongest when his characters and story are rooted in a realistic world populated by regular folks—regular folks who just happen to be dealing with incredible circumstances. The Dead Zone, in which an unwilling psychic sees a terrifying vision involving an unstable politician, is the Platonic ideal of such books. As a bonus, it’s a surprisingly current book for the political present.

    3. The Dark Tower Series

    The eight novels that make up King’s multi-dimensional science fantasy epic vary a bit in quality, displaying a sag in the middle that’s surprisingly common for multi-book SFF series. But few would argue that the first three or four are mesmerizing, and the final book brings everything back to such a high level that the averaged score for the series, which tells the circular quest of the world’s last Gunslinger on a quest to reach the titular Dark Tower, the axis on which all worlds (including those depicted in many other Stephen King books) turn, puts it near the tippy-top of his massive oeuvre.

    2. It

    It can be surprisingly divisive, partially due to its epic length and partially due to a specific scene that was pointedly left out of the film and television adaptations (and thank goodness, because: gross). For our money, though, It is King tapping into the collective childhood terrors that we all share and generating a literary nightmare that finally made the world face it’s chief threat: clowns. That, and memorable characters and a palpable sense of place have made it a book that endures, and will continue to do so.

    1. The Shining

    The Stephen King Top Ten could be argued up and down, but there’s little doubt that The Shining—his most parodied, most famous, twice-adapted novel—is always going to be a contender for the top slot. We rank it number one because it’s in many ways the ideal King novel, the novel scientists would create if they sought to grow a King novel in the lab. Every theme, flat-out terrifying moment, and character is 100% Stephen King working at the height of his powers.

    What’s your number one King?

    The post A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Novel Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • BN Editors 3:00 pm on 2017/11/22 Permalink
    Tags: , enemy of the state, , , , , owen king, ruth wareorigin, , stephen king, the lying game, the rooster bar,   

    Gift Guide: Up All Night Reads for the Thriller Obsessed 

    Diving into a gritty thriller and losing yourself in a page-turning story is an inordinately satisfying experience. This holiday season, why not give the gift of sleepless nights—the kind the receiver will actually thank you for? Some of our favorite big name authors (from Dan Brown to John Grisham!) have long-awaited brand new books out, and there’s something for every thriller fan. See the complete list in our Holiday Gift Guide for more ideas for your thrill-seeking friends and family.

    The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
    Grisham proves he’s still got his finger on the pulse in his newest, telling the story of idealistic but broke law students Mark, Todd, and Zola, who mortgage their future in the form of student loans to attend a third-tier law school. In their third year, the trio realizes they’ve been victims of the Great Law School Scam: the graduates of their school rarely pass the bar and almost never get jobs—and the school’s owner also owns the bank that wrote the paper on their loans. Naturally, smart nearly-lawyers go for the only option they have available: revenge. It’s going to take planning and risks (like dropping out before earning your degree) but it’s the only option if you want a little justice—and the result is an Ocean’s 11 for the LSAT crowd.

    Origin, by Dan Brown
    Brown returns to his most successful character with an all-new Robert Langdon adventure, this time centered in Spain and focusing on more modern art. Langdon starts off the book as the guest of former student-turned-billionaire Edmond Kirsch, who is staging a provocative presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and hinting at the answers to two of the fundamental questions of human existence. Naturally, things go very, very wrong, and Langdon soon finds himself fleeing to Barcelona with museum director Ambra Vidal and working desperately to discover a password Kirsch left behind that will unlock all of the billionaire’s secrets. Their opponent, however, seems to be all-knowing, and firmly rooted in the Spanish royal palace—but there’s no one on Earth more equipped to deal with codes and symbols than Robert Langdon.

    Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen King and Owen King
    King and his son Owen team up for a book with a timely, terrifying premise: what if, in the very near future, most of the women in the world simply went to sleep and didn’t wake up? Covered in cocoon-like white membranes, the women become feral attackers if disturbed. the Kings being Kings, they set the action in a depressed Appalachian town whose main employer is a women’s prison. Men, left to their own devices, don’t react well, and society begins to unravel even as the question of what’s happening with the female half of the population lingers. One woman named Evie who appears immune, and might be a savior—or some sort of demon come to supervise the downfall of man. Filled with smart social commentary and larger-than-life characters, this is a top-notch collaboration from the biggest family name in the business..

    The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware
    Four women—Isa, Kate, Thea, and Fatima—spent their boarding school years at Salten House, sneaking away to hang with Kate’s art teacher father and her dreamy brother and play the Lying Game, a challenge to get people to believe the most outlandish stories they could dream up. It all ends in tragedy, and 20 years later, new mum Isa receives a note from Kate that sends her off on a train and back to the village of Salten, where she meets the rest of the old gang. It seems a bone has been found in the marshes nearby, and the women know all about its origins—and the discovery of a body means all of their lives, and the lies they’re built on, could come apart.

    Enemy of the State, by Kyle Mills
    The 16th Mitch Rapp novel (and third by Mills since Vince Flynn’s passing) finds Rapp enlisted by the president to clean up a growing mess in Saudi Arabia, as rival factions of the royal family and the government fund terrorists and plot against one anther, sowing chaos and supporting ISIS. Rapp employs his usual steady professionalism, assembling the sort of team you can rely on to carry out the high-level maneuvers required—including his lover, Claudia Gould, his former enemy Grisha Azarov, and former army sniper turned drug runner Kent Black. The seemingly impossible mission requires a clever plan, but as usual, readers can rest assured Rapp has one.

    Shop our Holiday Gift Guide, with prefect gifts for everyone on your list!

    The post Gift Guide: Up All Night Reads for the Thriller Obsessed appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , bentley little, bird box, blindness, , carrion comfort, , , , dathan auerbach, dawn, , exquisite corpose, , ghost story, , hell house, , , , jack ketchum, jose saramago, josh malarian, koji suzuki, lionel shriver, , , , , , penal, , peter straub, poppy z. brite, ramsey campbell, , richard matheson, ring, rosemary’s baby, scott smith, , something wicked this way comes, stephen king, the face that must die, the girl next door, , the ruins, the walking, , , we need to talk about kevin,   

    25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever 

    Literature can be a moving, beautiful artistic experience. Skilled writers can bring us face to face with scenarios and emotions we might never encounter in real life, expanding our understanding of both the universe and our fellow man.

    It can also scare the living daylights out of us. Horror novels don’t always get the respect they deserve; just because something is scary doesn’t mean it’s not “literary” or well-crafted art, but if the core purpose of a story is perceived to be “making you soil yourself in fear” for some reason that story won’t get much respect. Of course, a story can be terrifying without necessarily being great art. If your goal is to be so terrified of a book that you put it in the freezer and book a hotel room for a few days, here are twenty-five books that might not necessarily be the best horror novels, but are certainly the scariest.

    Literally Everything Edgar Allan Poe Wrote
    Poe had a knack for infusing everything he wrote with visceral dread. His characters and narrators tend towards the mentally fragile and the insane, people who are haunted by things that might be literal or might be manifestations of their unsound thought processes. Either way, stories like The Tell-Tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado retain their power to petrify more than a century-and-a-half after their publication because Poe tapped into the fundamental fear we all have that the world and people around us are not what they seem.

    House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
    Put simply, House of Leaves is one of the most frightening books ever written. From a fairly standard horror premise (a house is revealed to be slightly larger on the inside than is strictly possible) Danielewski spins out a dizzying tale involving multiple unreliable narrators, typographic mysteries, and looping footnotes that manage to drag the reader into the story and then make them doubt their own perception of that story. It’s a trick no one else has managed to such dramatic effect, making this novel more of a participatory experience than any other work of literature—which, considering the dark madness at its core, isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience.

    Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
    The film adaptation has supplanted the novel in pop culture, but the novel was a huge hit for Levin—and the film actually sticks to the plot and dialog so closely you really do get a feel for the novel from watching it. The story of a young woman who becomes pregnant after a nightmare gets its terror not from the well-known twist of the baby’s parentage (hint: not her husband), but from the increasing isolation Rosemary experiences as her suspicions about everyone around her grow. So many threads tie into the terror, from the emotional and economic uncertainty of a struggling young couple to the simple fear any mother has for their child, all expertly knotted into a story that will keep you awake at night.

    The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
    When you think about clichés in horror fiction, the haunted house is at the top of the list, an idea done so often it’s frequently an unintentional parody. Shirley Jackson, however, was no ordinary writer, and she takes the concept of the haunted house and perfects it. The Haunting of Hill House is simply the best haunted house story ever written. The scares come not just from the malevolent actions of a house that seems sentient and angry, but from the claustrophobia we experience from the novel’s unreliable narrator, Eleanor, whose descent into madness is slow and excruciating and only begins after we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the seeming relatability of her early persona.

    Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    The great sage Pat Benatar once sang that hell is for children. Golding’s account of children stranded on an island without supplies or adult supervision is absolutely terrifying for one simple reason: there’s nothing supernatural going on. It’s a story about insufficiently socialized humans descending into savagery because that’s our fundamental nature. You look into the abyss at the center of this novel and the abyss looks back.

    We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
    Another story centered on the terror of children, the horror inherent in this story comes from the fact that the human beings we create eventually become their own people—and possibly strangers to us. Not everyone has a close and loving relationship with their parents, and while the idea that your own kids might grow up to be criminals isn’t pleasant, most people assume they will at least recognize themselves in their kids. But what if you don’t? What if your child—your child—is a blank monster?

    Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
    In the Internet Age it’s pretty easy to fall down a rabbit hole of pop culture obsession, and there are still dark areas of culture that haven’t had a wiki created around them. Pessl’s story about a mysterious underground filmmaker whose movies may or may not contain hints of dark power and horrific events and the journalist who becomes obsessed with him asks the reader how you can be certain there’s a clear line between fact and fiction, then, once that wedge of doubt is established, presents a terrifying fiction to fill that space.

    Ring, by Kōji Suzuki
    The novel that inspired the horror films of the same name, the premise is well-known: anyone who watches a mysterious videotape of creepy images is informed that they will die in seven days—and then they die. The investigation into the tape and how to avoid this grim fate leads to what remains an incredibly shocking backstory involving rape, smallpox, and a forgotten well. Technology has shifted, but the terror never really relied on VHS tapes—it’s the concept that ideas can be deadly, that simply by experiencing something you can be doomed, that’s so horrifying.

    Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach
    Pivoting on the idea that we’re often blinded by the details we can see, making it impossible to see the bigger picture, Auerbach’s debut began life as a series of creepypasta stories on the Internet. The episodic nature of the story is ideal for the effect he achieves; the narrator tells of being a young boy and sending a penpal request attached to a balloon with his classmates, including his best friend Josh. He doesn’t receive a response until nearly a year later, and his life takes a turn for the bizarre shortly afterwards. A series of tragic and strange things happen to him and everyone around him, building a sense of dread that is only increased when the truth is revealed.

    Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons
    Simmons’ novel follows several groups of people who have The Ability, a psychic power that allows them to take control of others from a distance and force them to perform any action. When one of their puppets murders someone, the person with The Ability is invigorated and strengthened. Simmons doesn’t shy away from the implications of this power on history and the future, and the book will destroy any sense of security you have in the world around you, revealed to possibly be simply a worldwide board game for those who can control us all like pawns.

    Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
    Several of King’s books could be on this list, but he frequently blunts the terror of his stories with the richness and humanity of his characterizations and the sprawl of his narratives. Pet Sematary manages to be his most terrifying novel by dint of its simple, devastating concept: a magical cemetery where buried things come back to a sort-of life—but aren’t quite what they once were. From that simple idea King ramps up to a climax that gets under your skin in a fundamental way most horror stories fail to.

    The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum
    Horror often pivots on the corruption or warping of societal norms and rules; once you feel like you can’t rely on the natural social order, literally anything is possible. Ketchum’s disturbing novel about the unimaginable abuse suffered by two sisters when they are forced to live with their mentally unstable aunt and her three savage sons is based on real events, but it’s the central theme of an adult giving official sanction to the atrocities that makes this story so utterly horrifying.

    Blindness, by Jose Saramago
    Helplessness is a key factor in a lot of horror; most people labor under the delusion that they are in charge of their destiny and their lives, and horror is often effective simply by reminding us how little control we actually have. An epidemic of blindness leaves an entire city’s population secluded in a mental institution as society within and without crumbles. The brutality and descent into animalistic madness is all too realistic, and Saramago manages to capture the terrifying confusion and helplessness experienced by people in a society that no longer functions.

    Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
    McCarthy’s entire writing style and technique is terrifying; the man could write a grocery list that leaves the reader dripping with dread. This tale of extreme, ruthless, and pervasive violence in the American west emerges from under a sheen of the unreal to become all too real, and the greatest trick McCarthy manages here is by making the single most terrifying aspect of the story—the main character’s death—the one act of brutality he doesn’t depict, leaving the terrors contained within that scene to our imagination—which is infinitely worse than anything he might have conjured.

    Exquisite Corpse, by Poppy Z. Brite
    Brite’s most famous novel follows two serial killers who initially aim to kill each other but, upon discovering a fellow traveler, instead engage in a spree of horrific sex and murder. The matter-of-fact way the pair concocts a plan to kidnap, torture, and then consume a beautiful gay man named Tran is the sort of stuff that could simply be shocking, but Brite continuously considers the value of existence and what we could all be doing with the time we have left—time we too often imagine to be infinite when, of course, we’re all going to be consumed someday by something.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
    Bradbury’s epic rumination on childhood and adulthood tells the story of a magical circus come to a small town, offering the residents dark gifts they weren’t aware they wanted—most notably the carousel that can change your physical age, making boys who yearn to be adults grow older, and middle-aged men and women who yearn for their lost youth to grow younger. Bradbury knows the worst horror in the world is losing the natural order of your life, and perfectly captures the combination of dread and excitement everyone experiences as they crack the mysteries separating them from adulthood.

    Hell House, by Richard Matheson
    What Matheson taps into in this classic haunted house story is the universal fear that we are already lost, already broken. Hired to investigate the existence of an afterlife by exploring the notoriously haunted Belasco House, a team moves in and slowly succumbs to the influence of the entity within—an entity that only uses their own weaknesses and secret shames against them. Their descent into the depths of horror is too close for comfort as a result—for everyone reading the book knows all too well that they have weaknesses, and secret shames, as well.

    The Face That Must Die, by Ramsey Campbell
    Campbell wrote a number of books that are absolutely terrifying, but this one stands out in the way he forces the reader to completely inhabit the mind of a very sick man, Horridge. As he fixates on an overweight man living in his neighborhood, the reader is forced to see the world consistently through his eyes. Everything is off-beat, everything drips with ominous meaning and horrific intent. Horridge sees the entire world as a horror that must be destroyed, and for a while the reader is carried along on that uncomfortable point of view, leaving them exhausted and terrified.

    Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
    Told in alternating chapters that depict a group of aspiring writers voluntarily secluded in an unusual writer’s retreat and the stories they’re writing, Haunted not only contains one of the most disturbing short stories ever published (“Guts,” which caused several people to faint when Palahniuk read it in public) it’s also a deep dive into madness as the reality-TV obsessed characters start sabotaging their experiment in a quest for fame. The sense of suffocating dread that Palahniuk applies grows so incrementally you don’t notice it until you suddenly realize you’ve been holding your breath for five pages.

    Dawn, by Octavia Butler
    Although technically science fiction, this story of the human race centuries after a devastating apocalypse is straight terror in many ways. Lilith is one of the last surviving humans, awakened on an alien ship. The aliens, three-sexed and many-tentacled, offer Lilith a deal: they will help her repopulated the Earth, but their price is to breed with humanity to gain humanity’s “talent” for cancer (and the creative possibilities it offers) while blunting their self-destructive tendencies. The horror imbued in each page is subtle, but it exerts tremendous mental pressure as you progress through the story.

    The Walking, by Bentley Little
    Far from just another tale of zombies, Little’s story of a man whose father rises from death after a stroke sizzles with a sense of doom long before the reader understands what’s at stake. Discovering that many families are hiding zombie relatives, and have been for some time, private investigator Miles Huerdeen digs into the mystery—and what he finds is easily the scariest stuff about zombies you’ll ever read. If you watch zombie movies and shows and laugh at their shuffling, mindless threat, this book will change your mind.

    The Ruins, by Scott Smith
    Smith’s story is deceptively simple: a group of tourists in Mexico go off in search of an archaeological site where a friend has set up camp; they find a pyramid covered in odd vines, the land around it salted and barren. Once on the pyramid, they discover the dead body of their friend, covered in the vines, and that the nearby villagers have arrived with guns to force them to remain on the pyramid. The vines are one of those simple monsters that seem so easy to defeat at first blush, yet the inexorable doom that descends on the characters slowly, grindingly proves otherwise.

    Bird Box, by Josh Malerman
    Malerman’s intense story of a world that slowly crumbles as people go murderously insane after seeing mysterious creatures—referred to simply as The Problem—is so scary because the reader only has the information that the characters have, and that’s not much. The world collapses and the survivors can only seal themselves off from the outside and try to avoid the worst, leading to a torturous wearing down of hope that leaves the reader defenseless against the horrible images Malerman conjures.

    Ghost Story, by Peter Straub
    A good old-fashioned ghost story is designed to terrify and entertain, and Straub’s breakthrough novel does both. Five old friends gather regularly to trade ghost stories, but when one of them dies mysteriously and the survivors begin to dream of their own deaths, a secret from their past is revealed—and the simple pleasures of a ghost story are explored to their most frightening ends by a master of the form.

    Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    If you don’t think of Beloved as a horror story, you haven’t been paying attention. Morrison’s skill as a writer is in full effect as she draws the reader into what is assuredly one of the saddest and most horrifying stories committed to paper. There’s no more terrifying sequence than the long slide into madness as escaped slave Sethe, convinced the young woman calling herself Beloved is the daughter she murdered in an attempt to keep her safe from slavers come to reclaim them, grows steadily thinner and weaker as she gives everything she has—including food—to Beloved, who grows steadily larger.

    Did we leave off any truly terrifying books? Let us know in the comments.

    The post 25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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