CLASH and DEAD END FOLLIES are doing a Halloween freaky Friday style switcharoo. Leza Cantoral is writing reviews of The Coffin Joe trilogy over at DEAD END FOLLIES and Benoit Lelièvre wrote his top ten scary novels for CLASH. Enjoy!
It’s going to be Halloween soon, the time of the year where it becomes cool to watch horror movies, get scared and crawl under the sheets when you see your pet staring at you in the dark. God knows it’s difficult to get scared by a book. Don’t give me any of your bullshit about reading being an immersive experience, there’s nothing scary about something if you can make it stop by looking up.
But sometimes it is. On rare occasions it can become impossible to look away. You just have to keep reading. You’re past the point of no return. Your eyes bleed, your soul cries, but you can’t fucking stop. Here are ten occurrence where books terrified me so fucking much, I actually liked it and lived to tell about it. If you enjoy these suggestions, there’s a lot more where it comes from on my website Dead End Follies. So please visit.
This is technically a thriller, but it doesn’t matter. It’s going to be a recurring theme in this list. Few thing terrify me like the idea of being 13 years old again. The helplessness of it. The ignorance and the blind trust you have to put in adults that oh, so don’t deserve it. The protagonist of The End of Everything Lizzie Hood is basically wandering in the dark in between dangerous predators for the entire novel. Part of me wanted to help her, part of me wanted to run away.
ZE-RO rational, I know.
That book will make you stop believing in God, move out in the forest and mail artisanal bombs to various media outlets over a long period of time. High-Rise is one of these novels where the monsters are human beings, but here they are the embodiment of ideas that swirl out of control so fucking bad, an apartment building (you know, the place you call home) becomes the setting for a civil war. When you’re surrounded by crazy motherfuckers IN your home, what do you do? Do you run away or do you stay, fight and become one of these crazy motherfuckers yourself?
Keep in mind I read that book while shopping for a condo, so my state of mind might’ve been affected.
If you find the mythos of Cthulhu scary, what will you do with a nameless ancient evil that corrodes the nature of reality around you and either kills or changes everyone you know into a monster because it decided that it wanted to fuck with you? My point exactly. Swift to Chase is a short story collection centered around the adventures of Jessica Mace, who’s battling an enemy she neither knows or understands very well. She’s merely trying to survive.
I believe I’ve stopped eating for two weeks after this one.
Man, that’s a lot of B’s. Lots of people are trying to do the fucked up and dreamlike and most of them suck at it. Not Jon Bassoff. His surrealism is terrifying because it is rooted in powerful symbolism that…most of the time, are related to bleak and hopeless situations. And nobody’s above bleak and hopeless, right? RIGHT? What if the shittiest day of your life could turn into an eternal nightmare for you? That’s Factory Town for you, more or less. Think Alice in Wonderland, except Alice dies on page two and the world goes to shit from there.
This is probably it, the most terrifying book I’ve ever read. Don’t listen to people saying the second half is unintelligible. It kind of is, but Butler’s novel of apocalypse and fragmented reality will make you feel like you’re losing control over the fabric of your own. Can you trust what you read? Why are characters’ accounts of the same scene contradicting one another? What the fuck is going on? I still haven’t figured out this novel entirely and am still exhausted from my last reading in 2016, but I will climb that mountain again.
This is not Evenson’s best novel (Last Days is), but it’s by far his scariest. See, I’m not the kind of guy who’s terrified of going insane (it’s a given by now) but I’m the kind of guys who’s terrified that I won’t make the difference between going insane and traveling to a parallel dimension where a guy who lived a hundred years ago is trying to kill me. That’s exactly what reading The Open Curtain. Evenson, like the great storyteller that he is, never feeds you any answers. He just leaves you breathing in your paperbag until the very last page.
The Whisperer in the Darkness, by H.P Lovecraft
I don’t have a review for this one, but I remember being scared out of my skull after reading it. It was on a nightshift and I didn’t want to step outside anymore because I was afraid the sun would never come up again. One of the scariest thing in the world to me is knowing we’re not alone in the universe and that in fact, we’re a very disposable life form and that everything in the history of men could be erased overnight and it wouldn’t matter. And this book pokes at that fear. A lot.
More cosmic terror? I got something right up your alley. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys watching Event Horizon at least once a year, you might want to check out Nameless, a graphic novel about a secret planet. There’s a little more than that to it, but I’m sure you can imagine a horror narrative and SECRET FUCKING PLANET make for pretty awesome scares, right? RIGHT? Nah, it’s way too fucking terrifying to be cool.
The scary thing with ghosts is that they obey to no rules. How do you kill them? Tell me, how? On top of being scary motherfuckers, the ghosts in Peter Straub’s titular Ghost Story are part of the protagonists, so they’re not getting rid of them anytime soon. At least not while staying alie if you know what I mean. Never an allegory for old age and the inevitability of death has been this petrifying. Good horror novels scare you. Great horror novels scare you with things that could happen to you…somewhat.
Another ghost story that felt way too real to be comfortable. The protagonist of Paper Tigers has been disfigured by a fire and the ghost harassing her is promising her something way too real: getting her face back. Which means getting her old life back. What is she ready to give up to make this happen? Yep. Paper Tigers goes there. It’s a novel of isolation, alienation and invisible people living in photos, promising you the moon. I sounds silly when said like that, but just read the damn this.
Benoit Lelièvre is a critic, author, sports enthusiast and apostle of critical awareness living in Montreal, Canada with his better half Josie and his dog Scarlett. Read him at www.deadendfollies.com