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  • 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, , the face that must die, the girl next door, , the ruins, the walking, thrills and chills, , 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.

     
  • BN Editors 5:00 pm on 2015/09/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , thrills and chills   

    An Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Filming of Room 

    Fans of Emma Donoghue’s unnerving novel Room know that it is the ultimate page-turner: The story of a young boy who has been raised by his mother in a small eleven-by-eleven-foot space, blissfully unaware of their captivity, or of her increasing desperation to return to an outside world he has never known. Room is by turns thrilling, affecting, and hair-raising; the sort of book that is nearly impossible to describe—or to forget.

    On October 16, Room will make its highly anticipated big-screen debut. Here author Emma Donoghue shares her five favorite moments from the filming of this movie adaptation—and an intriguing exclusive video, which offers a sneak peek behind the scenes.

    MY FIVE FAVORITE MOMENTS FROM MAKING ROOM:

    5. My first visit. The moment I first stepped onto the sound stage and saw the set for Room itself: a wooden shed, but with big square ‘blacks’ (to vary the light through the skylight) angled above it so it looked like a weird little Noah’s Ark, dwarfed by the huge space. Inside, the shed was so much more shabby and grubby than I’d imagined it, and I realized one important way the movie would be different from the book: in the novel, we only see through Jack’s eyes, but the film would have to pull off the trick of showing us how things really looked in that prison cell as well as the rose-tinted way Jack saw them.

    4. The moment Jacob [Tremblay] shouted out to warn a Grip not to trip over a wire, and I realized it was possible for a child actor to star in several films, with hordes of adults fussing over his every move, and still be a nice, ordinary kid.

    3. The wonderfully perfectionist Production Designer really wanted snow for the final scene, in which Jack and Ma emerge into a wintry world after saying goodbye to the shed in which they spent all those years. But apparently fake snow—made of potato—is hell to clean up, and would have really eaten into the budget. So no to snow. (A previous morning, when we didn’t want any, there was lots of snow that had to be hosed away with hot water.) But then on the day, Mother Nature provided: faint but visible snowflakes spiraling poignantly down on Ma and Jack as they walked hand in hand into their future.

    2. There was one strikingly handsome Assistant A.D. who seemed so competent that he was always there when you needed something…and I only realized at the Wrap Party, when two of him in matching white suits walked in, that they were a pair of twin brothers. It was a shock reveal more like a movie than real life.

    1. Paradoxically, some of my favourite parts of the film are details—actions or spoken lines—that I didn’t write. But the thing is, whenever the actors improvised something good, it was in character, and in the spirit of my script. So I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t necessarily matter how many lines get cut, and when people ask me “So what percentage of the book got changed?”, I tell them that’s the wrong question.  What matters is, has the magic survived the translation from one art form to the other? One example: there’s a scene I put in the script in which Ma and Jack are lying in the bath and she tells him the Selkie (Fisherman captures Woman from the Sea) legend. In the book it’s a key reference, not only emphasizing the timeless, archetypal element’s of Ma’s story of captivity, but gesturing towards the possibility of escape.  What made it into the finished film, instead of that conversation, was a wordless scene of Jack and Ma in the bath, splashing each other relaxedly: two people who love each other, on a tiny planet of their own, with all the time in the world. Which works even better.

    Room will be in theaters October 16. You can read the book now.

    Author photo credit: Nina Subin

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:38 pm on 2015/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , renee knight, s.k. tremayne, stephen hunter, , , thrills and chills   

    May’s Top Picks in Thrillers 

    Spring is finally in the air, and that means your daily commute, wherever it takes you, is going to become even more intolerable as the good weather tempts you into making bad decisions. Instead of leaping off the bus or train to play hooky, however, why not distract yourself with a great book, the sort of thriller that absorbs you completely and makes your trip fly by? Lucky for all of us, May is bringing a fresh crop of thrillers for every possible taste, to help you maintain your sanity before that first cup of coffee, on your lunch break, or any time you need a little escape. Here are eleven new books out this month that will keep your heart pounding (in a good way).

    Radiant Angel, by Nelson DeMille
    John Corey fans rejoice—the seventh novel in DeMille’s bestselling series is here, and if Corey is no longer part of the Anti-Terrorist Task Force after the events of last year’s The Panther, it doesn’t slow him (or the story) down. Corey is working the supposedly “quiet end” at the Diplomatic Surveillance Group, keeping an eye on the Russian diplomats at the United Nations, and DeMille smartly posits a simple enough premise: what if the Cold War, if it ever really ended in the first place, is back? Mixing intrigue, diplomacy, and the possibility of a nuclear threat—the titular “Radiant Angel”—DeMille has crafted a note-perfect re-imagining of the classic Cold War espionage thriller in a chillingly believable plot that never tips its hand.

    14th Deadly Sin, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
    The Women’s Murder Club is back, and once again Patterson and Paetro know exactly how to balance their characters against a classic Patterson plot that twists and veers unexpectedly without ever sacrificing fun—or credibility. The story begins with everything settled for our favorite police detective, Lindsay Boxer: new daughter, great marriage, professional success. Then a gruesome series of crimes, marked by the release of a horrifying video that sets the whole city on edge, sets the Club into motion in a desperate and dangerous race to solve the mystery before fear and rage consume everything. Patterson and Paetro have found clever ways to inject their story with more than enough energy to make this an instant Women’s Murder Club classic.

    Gathering Prey, by John Sandford
    One of the great pleasures of following a character like Lucas Davenport over the course of 25 thrilling novels is not only seeing that character change and evolve over time, but following him as he takes us into subcultures and areas of the world that we would otherwise not be able to—or perhaps even want to—experience. Keeping things fresh, Sandford offers us a story involving Travelers, harmless drifters who go from place to place panhandling for spare change, as well as a sinister Manson-like figure called The Pilot and his followers, who are Juggalos (obsessed fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse). If that sounds like a recipe for a uniquely exciting story, you’re absolutely right. With its glimpse into worlds most of us never take notice of, Sandford once again keeps the pages turning with a story that will have you doing your own research into these fascinating worlds.

    Piranha, by Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison
    Juan Cabrillo, the Oregon, and its crew are some of the most welcome additions to the literary landscape Cussler has ever offered—and that’s saying something, considering how many popular characters he’s already given us. In this tenth novel involving Cabrillo and company, Cussler and Morrison take us a century back in time to 1902. A German scientist on the verge of an incredible breakthrough is killed when a volcano erupts, burying an entire city and the ship he was traveling on. In the present day, Cabrillo and the Oregon think they’ve faked their own sinking, but quickly become the target of a seemingly omniscient enemy who is up on everything they do. The solution to this mystery is one of the more imaginative literary moments of recent years, and guarantees that fans of both Cussler and thrillers in general will love this one.

    The Forgotten Room, by Lincoln Child
    Who says an effective thriller can’t also be a great mystery novel? Well, no one, probably, but just in case someone has, Child puts the question to rest with this assured, spooky novel, the fourth standalone to feature everyone’s favorite “enigmalogist,” Professor Jeremy Logan. Logan is called in to assist Lux, a respected think tank he was once expelled from due to his unusual methods. One of the organization’s members, overseeing the renovation of an unused wing of the sprawling old house they’re using as a headquarters, seemingly went mad in a matter of moments, attacking an assistant, then committing suicide horrifically. Logan soon discovers a hidden room filled with old scientific equipment, strange music, and ominous clues about a sinister “Project S.” This is one you’ll be recapping over the water cooler after each chapter.

    The Enemy Inside, by Steve Martini
    Martini returns with defense attorney Paul Madriani for a lucky 13th chapter in this clever story that begins with the death of high-powered lawyer Olinda Serna, a woman who knows all the secrets of her even higher-power clients. Her client list includes politicians and other power brokers who are naturally worried about the security of the dirty laundry Serna was privy to. Madriani is called by his daughter to help the young man charged with vehicular homicide in the case, who claims he is innocent despite the evidence. The accident begins to look staged, and suddenly the people with answers start to die—and Madriani and his partners find themselves almost certainly the next target. The story gets bigger faster than you might expect, which means you’re going to have to hang on by your fingernails.

    I, Ripper, by Stephen Hunter
    Who says all thrillers have to involve lawyers, police, or special agents? Hunter takes us back to the original serial killer, Jack the Ripper, and extrapolates from the infamous details of the case to offer up a chillingly believable alternate take on one of the greatest mysteries of the modern day. Hunter ingeniously mixes three distinct perspectives—an ambitious Irish reporter who matches wits with the Ripper, a prostitute working in the midst of the terror, and extracts from the Ripper’s diary. Best of all, Hunter doesn’t go for safe ambiguity: he names the Ripper and offers explanations for some of the bizarre details of the crimes that puzzle experts to this day, all while keeping up masterful levels of tension and excitement.

    The Ice Twins, by S.K. Tremayne
    Literally all you need to know about Tremayne’s fabulously entertaining debut novel is the premise: the Moorcroft family—father Angus, mother Sarah, and twin daughters Lydia and Kirstie—endures the death of Lydia, and the parents deal with this shattering loss by taking Kirstie to live on a remote island—where Kirstie announces that they are mistaken, and she is actually Lydia. That sound you hear is reality melting away as the novel grabs you by the hand and drags you down into a rabbit hole of steadily mounting tension as Angus is called away for work, leaving Sarah alone with Kirstie/Lydia as a violent storm moves in. This is that novel everyone will be talking about, like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train before it.

    Disclaimer, by Renée Knight
    Imagine you have a secret—a dark secret that haunts you—and the only comfort you have is that the only other person who knew the secret is long dead. Now imagine you find a books left for you on your doorstep. It’s intriguing, and as you read you have the growing sense—then the frightening certainty—that the book is about you and your secret. Now imagine someone else has read that book, and sets about to punish you for that secret. That’s the incredibly tense and fascinating premise of Knight’s debut novel, and it’s a story that will keep you awake at night, turning the pages as you race for answers.

    Independence Day, by Ben Coes
    A lot of writers can come up with a great idea for a thriller, and a lot of those writers can also create a likable character. But only a true master like Ben Coes can create a character like Dewey Andreas (and a long list of supporting characters who are equally unique and compelling) and then come up with a story that not only moves briskly from exciting moment to exciting moment but sets up a mystery that really grabs the reader as well. The fact that Coes then manages to make the resolution of that mystery truly incredible—equal parts believable and mind-blowing—is just icing on the cake. In his fifth outing, Andreas starts the story off as a broken man who later defies orders and “goes rogue,” finding himself the sole survivor of a broken mission, and the reader is expertly carried along with him on an adventure that feels both personal and electric.

    Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other Stories, by Mary Higgins Clark
    They don’t call Clark the Queen of Suspense for nothing. The short stories in this remarkable collection span the whole of Clark’s celebrated career, including her first-ever published story, “Stowaway,” which appeared in 1956 after she’d racked up forty rejection slips. But the real find here is the titular novella Death Wears a Beauty Mask, begun in 1974 and then put aside so Clark could write her breakthrough novel, Where Are the Children? Clark hasn’t lost a step in the intervening four decades.

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