We’re heading into Halloween fast, so I wanted to take the time to make some recommendations. After obsessing over what kind of category I wanted to tackle, I went with the weirdest horror novels I’ve read. I especially love weird stories, and chances are good you’ll encounter something totally unique on this list. Time to get weird.
Dominion by Bentley Little. I admit that when I first read this, I wasn’t as well-versed in Greek mythology, so it might not shock me as much now. Even still, when was the last time you heard about a horror novel that pulled solely off of Greek myth for its scares? It’s very different that way. It being Bentley Little, it goes farther than you’d imagine, with all those old-school monsters running around. This is still one of his more well-loved books and with good reason.
The Regulators by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman. King always takes a few more chances with his Bachman books. That’s just as true here. It’s a sister book to Desperation, and where that book was a dose of survival horror with a lot of great scares, this one is a much weirder take on the same theme. We’re in an alternate universe to Desperation, where some characters are even topsy-turvy. The world suddenly becomes the gore-infested love-child of a kid’s cartoon and a western. What… do you want me to say about that? It’s odd. Completely, randomly odd. Even though sense is made of this in the end, the way the setting gets warped puts it in a class all its own.
Horns by Joe Hill. This is my favorite of Hill’s books. While he always does things his own way, whether it’s a haunting or an apocalypse, this stands out as his most unique idea yet. A young man gets slobbering drunk on the anniversary of his girlfriend’s murder and wakes the next day with horns on his head. When he tries to get some help, he realizes that people generally don’t notice the horns, but they do have an effect. They make people confess their worst crimes and their nastiest desires. It goes from slapstick silly to deadly serious in a turn that is absolutely delicious. It will make you feel all the things. If you were tired of hearing about this, as it is widely read, let me be one more person to nag you about it.
Wetbones by John Shirley. This book is flat-out nasty. It’s very splatterpunk in the way it deals with the violence, if the title wasn’t a clue. We’re dealing with some creatures you could loosely call “vampires”, and what they leave in their wake are piles of wet bones. This book is unflinching, and the ending we barrel toward is bizarre. Shirley doesn’t pull punches on gore, but he also doesn’t give you what you expect.
Gyo by Junji Ito. Adding a little Japanese horror into the mix. This two part manga is not my favorite of Ito’s work. Some might argue that Uzumaki is just as weird and better. Better, sure. Just as weird? I feel like this takes the cake. Bio-mechanical zombie fish? This is another that feels like it started as a comedy and gets gradually creepier and creepier until you’re thoroughly freaked out. There is nothing like that panel of that shark, by the way. Google it.
The Cipher by Kathe Koja. Two people discover a hole in their apartment building. It’s empty, perhaps bottomless, but it has a will. That’s weird and scary enough. But it gets worse. Which means it gets better, too. The writing is really gorgeous and lyrical. It has that dreamy, Eraserhead vibe that has you questioning everything. You’ll find yourself tensing up without realizing it, and you’ll never forget the strange ride this book took you on.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. Of course I recommend the entire Southern Reach Trilogy, but even if you find yourself not following it up with the other two books, this one is fantastic on its own. A group of scientists are sent to Area X, a place full of alien wildlife that simply appeared one day, to try to find answers. They aren’t the first, and the trip proves to be as dangerous and terrifying as you’d imagine. There’s a lot of cosmic horror here. The sort of thing that makes you feel so small in the face of something so frighteningly big and incapable of being fully understood. Also, VanderMeer is one of the forerunners of the New Weird movement, if that tells you anything.
John Dies at the End by David Wong. I will keep talking about this book until everyone reads it. It’s a comedy, horror, science fiction novel with a fantastic set of characters and an unpredictable plot. It’s wildly entertaining and surprisingly frightening in-between the laughs. While we all know that’s the point of this list, have I mentioned it’s weird? To the point that I can’t really describe the plot. If I did, it would make it sound much more simple than it is. Read it for yourself. Despite the main character’s various and vigorous warnings, read it.
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