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New from Stephanie Perkins, author of New York Times bestseller There’s Someone Inside Your House, soon to be a Netflix feature. Best friends Neena and Josie spent high school as outsiders, but at least they had each other. Now, with college looming on the horizon, they have one last chance to be together—a three-day hike deep into the woods of the Pisgah National Forest. Simmering tensions lead to a detour off the trail and straight into a waking nightmare … and then into something far worse that will test them in horrifying ways. A heart-stopping, gut-wrenching novel about friendship, survival, and navigating unmarked paths.
Hey there horror fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.
I don’t know about you, but with everything going on right now my brain feels like mush. Screaming mush in a constant state of existential crisis. And every single topic I almost settled on for this week’s Fright Stuff felt “too real” to be fun. I know that horror is about catharsis, but sometimes I look at the various fires, literal and figurative, around me, then at the book in my hand riffing on the same themes, and I am just out. It all feels so heavy.
Which is why it’s time to play my favorite, joy-sparking horror game of all time:
WHAT IS THAT, AND WHY DOES IT HAVE SO MANY TEETH?
I was wracking my brain for something fun and deeply entertaining, but still horrific(ally delightful) to talk about this week, and what can I say? I am always a sucker for killer animals and animal-like creatures, with sharp claws, vicious horns, or entirely too many teeth. I really wanted to focus on books that pit people against beasts/monsters, duking it out for survival in an amped up variation on that classic human vs. nature theme. If it had fangs, fur, or scales, I wanted it, and gosh have I got some recommendations for you!
The Roo by Alan Baxter
This was The First book that I thought of when I decided on this topic. In fact I’m pretty sure that that cover has permanent residence in my subconscious (and my nightmares). Right next to that terrifying video of that real life kangaroo trying to get into some guy’s house that’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life. The claws! Why does it have claws?! Basically: Kangaroos are terrifying. Which means that they make for perfect foil for some classic creature horror in Alan Baxter’s The Roo in which an evil kangaroo menaces a remote little town, taking out the inhabitants one by one. The locals are going to have to join forces if they want to survive this hippy-hoppy menace from hell.
Near the Bone by Christina Henry
I didn’t get acquainted with Christina Henry’s work until this year, but I’m definitely well on a way to becoming a fan. She’s got fantastic range, and having Near the Bone be the first book of hers I read was a good life choice. It’s also a book that I wanted to include on this list because there is a genuinely creepy wolf/bear/monster/thing in this book, capable of snatching a grown man clean off his feet in the blink of an eye. But, it’s not the only, or the biggest monster in this book. Yes, Mattie and the cryptozoology enthusiasts trying to rescue her from the mountain are trying to make it to the bottom without getting monster snatched. But they wouldn’t be trying to rescue her in the first place if it weren’t for William, the real monster in this book, who has kept Mattie captive on the mountain since she was child. The monster was scary, but it was definitely William I wanted to stab.
Playing Possum by Stephanie Rabig
Okay, so, technically this is a were-possum (omg that just make’s me so happy) book, but aside from poor Tiffany’s sudden marsupial evolution, Playing Possum is really about a small town being pitted against, and I quote, an army of “ravenous furry hell-beasts”. So it qualifies. It also gets bonus points for being queer horror! Tiffany’s life was going pretty well before her late night encounter with the possum of doom, she was even saving up to buy an engagement ring for her partner. Let’s just hope Vanessa doesn’t mind dating a were-possum, because ever since that parking lot run in, Tiffany’s been acting a bit… odd. I love this book so much. We have a delightful small town ensemble cast, including our leads, a deadly (cuddly) army of killer possums, and I honestly ask you: what else do you need?
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Two words: Elk. Monster. One more word: Antlers. Listen, antlers are one of the gnarliest accessories in nature. Putting aside what they can do to us and all our vulnerable organs if applied correctly, have you ever seen an elk or a deer shed its velvet in the fall? Look it up, it’s amazingly disgusting. Now here’s were I admit that I hesitated to add The Only Good Indians to the list because technically the Elk Head Woman isn’t really an elk/animal/beast-thing. Not all the time, anyway, and not entirely. But I solemnly swear that this book will make you look sideways at every antlered animal that crosses your path, possibly for the rest of your days. And you didn’t even do anything to make the elk lady angry! But the four male leads of the novel did, and she will not stop until she has exacted her revenge on each one of them in as violent a manner possible.
Up From the Deep by Vaughn A Jackson
Confession: my only real exposure to kaiju is the 1998 Godzilla movie, which I grew up with. Which I love, fight me. But I love the idea of giant creatures doing whatever it is kaiju… do? Knocking over buildings, eating some people, you know. The norm. Anyway! Ancient creature that’s basically a giant crocodile-thing from the Mariana Trench with a mouth full of teeth that are probably as long as I am tall? Yes, please. Awakened by a covert operation gone awry, this sleepy lizard baby is not happy that someone woke it up before its alarm, and it’s ready to wreak some havoc. The detective responsible for waking the creature finds himself teaming up with a couple of “Kaiju groupies” in an attempt to bring it down before it can cause anymore damage. But they’re up against not just the creature itself but also the shadowy criminal organization determined to harness the creature’s power to conquer the world.
Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth
The 2020 This is Horror Award winners have been announced! Get ready to load up those TBRs for the long winter ahead.
Ready to make the jump from creatures to full-blown monsters? Anne Mai Yee Jensen has a fantastic list of horror books about monsters for you over at Book Riot. Or if you prefer (mostly) human monsters, make sure to check out K.W. Colyard’s list of the slasher novels!
As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.