The Fright Stuff

Science and Surveillance– The Fright Stuff

Look me in the eye and admit to me if you weren’t freaked out when your Furby started talking from deep within your closet where you thought you’d safely stashed it after it learned to speak.

If that didn’t freak you out, I don’t know what to tell you. The idea of being constantly surveilled, or influenced by technology beyond our control is one of the freakiest things about our contemporary world–I mean, just this past weekend when I was narrating my audiobook, the technician said that another author’s phone kept coming on until they realized it was listening, and every time she said the word “Syria,” it was ready to take orders. Don’t get me wrong, I put plenty of my business out in the street/on the internet, which is why I don’t need to be wondering if not having a band-aid over my webcam means someone is watching me from the other side of the world. And although fame would make this hair justifiable, and all press is good press, et cetera, I just DO NOT NEED A SWIMFAN.

In case you didn’t realize it yet, you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s weekly newsletter featuring the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through this realm of hell, science and surveillance–but, a big thanks goes out to the Book Riot community, who recommended a LOT of these books to us.

Ear worm: “She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby

little eyesLittle Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

This new novel from the inimitable Samanta Schweblin will be released in its English translation this May, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pre-order it immediately, like I did. If you’re not familiar with her other novel, Fever Dream, or her collection of short stories, Mouthful of Birdsthis book is a great one to start with: it’s a true work of horror focusing on what happens when you let strangers (in the forms of robots) into your home.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

In this retelling of the Henry James classic, The Turn of the Screw, Ruth Ware tells of a governess accused of murder awaiting trial. Her letters inform her lawyer of the strange goings-on at the house, the lack of any adults nearby, the odd behavior of the children, and the constant surveillance of the “smart” house.


Follow Me by Kathleen Barber

Just the web copy of this description will have you rushing to erase your digital footprint: when the it-girl with the broken apartment lock and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers gets ONE follower who is SUPER interested in following her… it turns into a creepy stalker situation. Even in 2020, y’all got to remember to be careful what you put on the internet.

Cryptkeepers (FKA the backlist):

“The TV People” by Haruki Murakami, in the book The Elephant Vanishes

This story creeped out both me and my world literature class A LOT. When people–regular people, but all dressed alike, and just slightly smaller than most people–show up to deliver TVs unannounced, it’s not the last uncanny thing that happens. Also, why are they here? And WHAT IS GOING ON?


cover of The Changeling by Victor LaValleThe Changeling by Victor LaValle

In plot, the synopses are correct, but in practice, according to one reviewer, the book is a changeling itself. It says, “It plays with memory, fairy tale, and the stories we tell each other about ourselves; it walks around the walls we build of our stories — whether out of family memorabilia or photos on Facebook — and probes them for holes.”


I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

Aside from having the immediately most horrifying title ever, this classic science fiction horror novel demonstrates one instance of what happens when artificial intelligence gains sentience. In this version, the AMs obliterate nearly all of humanity, and, out of the spite of not having its own agency, entertains itself by torturing the species who made it.


Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk

You likely are familiar with this author from his cult classic, Fight Clubbut this book made my brain loud in such a way that even a near decade after reading it, I still remember details of its plot: when time travel overlaps with the technology of sensory experiences that can be LITERALLY recorded and inserted into someone else for them to experience, what IS authentic?

cover of The Dark Net by Benjamin PercyThe Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

You’ve probably heard of the mysterious dark web where anything goes, from criminal trade to bitcoin exchange, but in this novel, an “ancient darkness” gathers there as well, and a group of unlikely heroes has to band together to stop it.



The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick

This YA novel is a great one for any fan of Stranger Things who is nostalgic for the 1990s. When Trish notices a familiar face in the crowd around her work at the mall, she can’t unsee him. If you can stomach a stalker plot line, you’ll love this read.





Want to know how the famous painter, Peter Brueghel, interpreted the census as a Doomsday book? Check out this article.

Want to know why absolutism is almost always a horrorshow? Of course you do.

Book Riot’s own Zoe Robertson writes about what Eco-Horror teaches us about ourselves.

If you’re looking for horror reviewers and horror reviews, this list seems to be the truest utopia.

Women in Horror Month has just wound to a close, but the Women in Horror Film Festival in Atlanta is still riding that wave. Though it’s literature-adjacent, there’s a ton of literary stuff written ABOUT these films.

And if you missed Women in Horror Month–or, who do I think I’m talking to?–if you just MISS Women in Horror Month, here’s a great list of women authors of horror whom you may have missed!

Check out this article about Queer Characters in Horror from Book Riot’s own S.F. Whitaker, too!

Time to turn off all my electronics forever! JUST KIDDING. But seriously, that’s all the horror I can stand for this week. Until next time, I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and you can FOLLOW ME (see what I did there?) on Twitter or Instagram, as long as you’re not the dreaded SwimFan.

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing