By Jake Myers
Full disclosure: I love horror, sci-fi horror and horror suspense novels. So, October is the perfect time to share some of my favorites. If you are looking for some newer authors to stir up chills this Halloween season, I can help with that.
Recently, I discovered Nick Cutter, who has written four novels. I have read “The Troop” and “The Deep” which are engrossing and terrifying. I would describe his writing as the horror of Stephen King meets the technological and entomological aspects of Michael Crichton’s writing. Both novels are approximately 400 pages of “I can’t put this down, sheer terror goodness.”
For any of you who have gone on a group camping outing or wondered what it was like to go on one, the novel “The Troop” will give you pause. It is about a Boy Scout Troop that arrives on an uninhabited island for a weekend camping trip. Cutter does a great job of divulging character strengths and weaknesses that make you relate to the kids. He also dives into the groupthink aspects of such a trip. Beware: you might just develop a taste for Cutter’s writing style and crave some more.
“The Deep” on the other hand explores a more intimate aspect to the human psyche. A deep sea diving expedition sets out to harvest a promising substance called “ambrosia,” which the team believes will cure human ailments. This novel will blow your mind and you will develop new phobias. You will struggle to turn the page: you NEED to know, you MUST turn the page, but something tells you that you really shouldn’t turn the page. Go ahead, turn the page.
Another author I would recommend is Michael Koryta. So far, I have read two of his 12 novels.
“Those Who Wish Me Dead” is about a kid who witnesses a murder and goes into a non-traditional witness protection program. He ends up in a camp for teens with behavioral issues. There are a lot of twists and turns to this superbly written novel. I would venture to say the psychopath twin villains in “Those Who Wish Me Dead” rank in my top-5 villains of all-time. They are the Blackwell Brothers, and each chapter with them in it fascinated me, as I imagine they will you. I listened to the audio of this book which is narrated by Robert Petkoff. Petkoff’s narration adds an eeriness and intensity to the brothers’ psychopathic bantering. At 392 pages, you’ll burn through this book.
If you prefer binge-reading instead of binge-watching, one of my favorite characters of author Dean Koontz’s is Deucalion of the “Frankenstein” series, which is five novels long. Each 350- to 450-page novel follows the investigative team of Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison as they pursue Victor Helios, alias Frankenstein. It is a sort of continuation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” set in the modern era. Once again, humankind is threatened by a narcissistic evil, the likes of which have never been seen before. Even though the five novels continue with the same four characters, Koontz creates a vastly different riveting scenario for each book. His writing is charming, funny and engaging while exploring the most horrific aspects of human nature. Warning: if you don’t have time for this series now, don’t start the first book. One of my biggest regrets, other than the series ending, was the endless wait for the next book to grace the shelves. It might be better to binge-read them over Christmas break.
I can’t talk about horror stories without mentioning Stephen King. I’ll just name one of his novels that stood out to me. “Doctor Sleep” came out in 2013, and is the sequel to “The Shining” (1977). You may want to read or re-read “The Shining” before you pick up “Doctor Sleep.” If you are thinking, ‘I’ll just revisit the Stanley Kubrick movie of “The Shining” (1980),’ please don’t. “Doctor Sleep” is a sequel to the book, not the movie. There are some significant differences.
“Doctor Sleep” focuses on the character Danny from “The Shining.” Danny is a recovering alcoholic who is an orderly in a nursing home. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He still has the ability to shine. He isn’t the only one with this “gift” or “curse” whichever way you look at it. It is the mission of Rose the Hat and the True Knot to hunt down these gifted people including memorable characters like Rattlesnake Andy. I will say that “Doctor Sleep” will forever change the way you look at RVs again.
If you are familiar with the realm of Stephen King, meaning his universe of previous works, you will delight in his references to characters or places in novels past, which are referred to as Easter eggs. Something new for King is to include Easter eggs from somewhere other than the King universe. “Doctor Sleep” has Easter eggs from one of the offspring of the King universe.
I am referring to King’s son, Joe Hill, author of five novels: “20th Century Ghosts” (2007), “Heart-Shaped Box”, (2007), “Horns” (2010), “NOS4A2” (2013) and “The Fireman” (2016).
Spoiler alert: King mentions Charlie Manx, the main villain in “NOS4A2” who is a character that will haunt your dreams and clearly left an impression on King himself. Charlie Manx left an impression on me as well. Although I have enjoyed all of Hill’s novels, “NOS4A2” along with “The Fireman” vie as my favorite Hill novels thus far.
If you are faint of heart, these are NOT the novels for you. Might I suggest “Life Expectancy” by Dean Koontz. It is lighthearted and well-written and more of a suspense novel. Koontz sent a copy of this novel to me after I wrote him a letter in the seventh grade. He said it was one of his favorites and he thought that I would enjoy it. I did and I think you will too.
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