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Straub's classic, modern, supernatural story. His prose is lyrical, lulling his readers into a false sense of security that makes his stabbing reveals of information striking and horrifying. The narrative is complex, with many shifting viewpoints, with a slow reveal of the terror that haunts this book--"Who are you?" it is asked. And its chilling answer: "I am you."
House of Leaves
The most involving novel I've ever read. Challenging, but worth it. Danielewski's masterpiece is an experience of slowly dissolving sanity. Dense and academic at times, it chronicles the exploration of a house that is much larger within than it appears from the outside, dark and empty rooms and corridors that snake below it that may be a reflection of the darkness within its explorers psyche.
Equally as impressive as Kubrick's movie, but for very different reasons, King re-writes the haunted house story brilliantly. The dread grows and grows and you can really feel the isolation and the danger as you read this story of a family snowed in at an empty hotel. Its allegorical handling of Jack's struggle with alcoholism make The Shining a classic work of literature.
Bleak and depressing, but with a strangely poignant message of the strength of the human spirit. McCarthy expertly guides us through a journey for survival of a man and his son in a world that seems to have come to an end.
The Turn of the Screw
This is an example of ambiguity and nuance woven into a story that works. It is a ghost story, but we never know for sure if the ghost exists or does not. An exercise in the uncanny. The Turn of the Screw is the literary precursor to Straub's Ghost Story.
The Haunting of Hill House
An amazingly creepy haunted house story, Shirley Jackson's subjective prose through the eyes of the fragile Eleanor is expertly drawn. Some very creepy moments and a must-read for horror fans.
Sick, just sick. This novel is the truly frightening story of Patrick Bateman, a man of questionable character driven by American consumerism and social status. I know there are people like this out in the world and you should too. A very disturbing idea and read. The movie cannot compare.
I Am Legend
Besides Stoker's Dracula, and perhaps King's 'Salems Lot, Matheson's novel is one of the only vampire tales worth reading. The prose is simple and the story is perfectly executed, unpredictable, and scary. The ending is brilliant (and never emulated in film) and elevates I Am Legend to literary status. Just don't watch any of the movies.
The issue, I believe, with various people's opinions about which works of fiction are scary--and whether fiction is scary at all in some cases--are due, mostly, to what each individual finds horrific. For me, what is truly scary, is the idea that you could be walking along on a regular day and everything seems normal, and then something odd happens. At first, you might not notice, but the oddness will grow and the veneer of the mundane world will begin to slip, and you will come face-to-face with dangerous things you can't reason with, that defy rational explanation. My greatest fear is to sink into such things and become lost, that perhaps such things are more "real" than those we perceive on our happy little trips to the grocery store or the bank. Now that's scary. But others find other things scary. What about the man who stands outside your window at night grinning insanely? Or the spiders that hatch in dark corners of the house and crawl into your ears and mouth while you're sleeping to lay their eggs? Or perhaps the asteroid that is surely speeding toward the Earth with its grinning moonface of death and extinction? But most, unfortunately and unhealthily, attempt to deny and hide from their fears. As far as those naysayers who say fiction is not scary are concerned, all I can do is sigh and shake my head. If you have the imagination for it, there is fiction out there that will terrify you. You have only to look...
So these are a few titles to begin with. I'll have more for you soon enough. ;)
An award-winning writer of fantastic and disturbing fiction, Keith Deininger is the author of several novels and novellas, including THE NEW FLESH, WITHIN, MARROW'S PIT, and THE GODGAME series. He was raised in the American Southwest and currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife and four dogs.