Whoa, it’s the day before Halloween, and I haven’t posted anything remotely Halloween-related yet! I usually maintain a lukewarm attitude towards the occasion; I enjoy the decorations, seeing kids and adults dressed up in the most awesome and imaginative costumes, the movies on t.v. – speaking of which, I’m sad that this year I won’t be able to watch John Carpenter’s The Thing on constant replay on Spike or SyFy or whatever channel it usually shows on. Other than that, my husband and I have spent every Halloween for the last 5 years shut up in our apartment with the lights turned off and the blinds drawn. Sorry, kids. There be no candy ’round these parts!
So in place of awesome sugary goodness, I’ve come up with a very VERY short list of books that have made a significant impression on me in the last few years as far as spook-factor is concerned.
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James
This was my first download off of Project Gutenburg. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into back then, but it sounded scary enough in the reviews. It took me less than a day to finish it, and by the end, I was hooked. My favorite thing to do is reminding my husband, who’s a big fan of cosmic horror, that M.R. James was one of Lovecraft’s influences. James’s ghost stories are more about slow-building terror, the kind that starts at the base of your spine and crawls its way up on cold fingertips. Ugh, I freaked myself out with that one. Anyway, if you’re a fan of Victorian ghosts stories, James is your man. And if you find yourself enjoying his work as much as I do, there’s a podcast on him, A Podcast to the Curious, hosted by the awesome duo of Will Ross and Mike Taylor.
The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers
The was the first book I ever read by Tim Powers, and by the end of it I found myself frantic for more books like it. His work introduced me to mythopoeic fantasy and led me to other writers like Elizabeth Hand. Set in the early 1880’s, the tale follows Michael Crawford, a doctor who finds himself on the run after he wakes up the night after his wedding to find his new bride murdered in their bed. He soon finds that he has unwittingly become the object of affection for an unearthly creature with a need for blood. He finds himself in the company of other individuals plagued by similar entities, men like Percy Shelley, John Keats, and Lord Byron.
This book is incredibly lush and evocative of the period. Michael is a flawed protagonist, and can be very unlikable sometimes, but you do find yourself rooting for him nevertheless.
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
In the summer of 1937, Jack Miller accompanies three other men on an expedition to the High Arctic, setting up base at Gruhuken, an abandoned outpost. At first Jack is optimistic and looking forward the year-long stint, but soon problems begin to beset the camp, and by the fourth month Jack finds himself having to stick out the long, dark Arctic winter alone. But as night stretches endlessly in that vast, icy waste, Jack senses that he isn’t alone, that there’s something out there.
One of the most haunting books I’ve ever read, the story staying with me well after I had shelved the book. I recommend this one 100%.
World War Z by Max Brooks
Max Brooks said it himself at a past Denver Comic Con I attended, when he referred to the movie as simply, ‘Brad Pitt Making Pancakes’. And it is, but with zombies thrown in. The book, however, is an entirely different entity. There is no main protagonist and ultimately, no magic bullet. Just survival.
World War Z is collection of personal accounts taken from people all over the globe who had lived through the worst years of the Zombie War. Written more like a historical document than a straight forward novel, it’s smart, scary, and very insightful. It makes you almost forget that you’re reading a work of fiction.