5 Contemporary Horror Novels You Must Read ASAP

Written by: Matt Molgaard

Quality terror meets the page, printer, distributor and retailers on a near daily basis. Keeping up with it seems all but impossible, but for those of us driven by internal beasts that eat at the psyche, delivering constant pressure and inundation to seek out the greatest works possible, seem to find a way, and adequate time to cram countless pages of stellar fiction into our brains.

There have been some truly superb novels to hit the market in the last few years. In the chance that you may have missed some serious treasures, I’m going deliver a recommendation of 5 must-read novels. We’re talking mesmerizing works that should under no circumstance be neglected. Check it out, and bear with me: I’m sure you’ve already read at least a few of these. For those you haven’t caught… well, I recommend opening the pocket book.

John Dies at the End

05. David Wong: John Dies at the End: This book is so insanely outlandish, yet wonderfully infectious that I don’t even want to spill a single detail! But I guess, what fun would that be? Here’s all I’m going to say about this one, so pay attention: straight up out-of-this-world dope, another dimension full of wild suggestions and deliveries, some mind blowing transformations. Did I mention that far out drug is known as “Soy Sauce”? David Wong may not be a household name yet, but he’s a wizard with a creative story to tell! Check out the novel’s synopsis below.

“It’s a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. On the street they call it Soy Sauce, and users can drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human.

Suddenly a silent, otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs.

Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity?

No. No, they can’t.”

Bad Moon Rising

04. Jonathan Maberry: Bad Moon Rising: The third and final book in the Pine Deep trilogy, Bad Moon Rises creates an end of humanity scenario by pitting monster against monster. Expect werewolves, expect vampires, expect damn resilient human beings and best of all, expect a wealth of absolute chaos and true ultra-violence. This story thrills from beginning to end, and it really offers a little bit for everyone. There isn’t a single page of downtime to be found in this beauty, and if you’ve missed it, you’re out your mind, plain and simple! Check out the novel’s synopsis below.

“Each year, the residents of Pine Deep host the Halloween Festival, drawing tourists and celebrities from across the country to enjoy the deliciously creepy fun. Those who visit the small Pennsylvania town are out for a good time, but those who live there are desperately trying to survive…For a monstrous evil lives among them, a savage presence whose malicious power has grown too powerful even for death to hold it back. Only a handful of brave souls stand against the King of the Dead and a red wave of destruction. Daylight is fading and a bad moon is rising over Pine Deep. Keep watching the shadows…”

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

03. Seth Grahame-Smith: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: I’ve never read a horror novel that left me compelled to actually venture out, and do a wealth of historical research. Seth Grahame-Smith’s remarkably intelligent tale of our sixteenth president and his days spent hunting bloodsuckers prior to taking office, did just that for me. This book incorporates an attribute that most lack: the ability to induce a heavy influence on the desire to learn. It’s wild, because that may not even be the greatest quality to be found here. There are some sublime action scenes, top notch emotional explorations and cruel, cruel supernatural monsters to take in. A piece of gold is this one here! Check out the novel’s synopsis below:

“Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”

“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.”

77 Shadow Street

02. Dean Koontz: 77 Shadow Street: While I’m not always overjoyed with some of Koontz’s contemporary works, 77 Shadow Street is a sure fire winner. This profoundly eerie tale boils down to little more than a “haunted house” tale, but oh how it moves at an unrelenting pace that keeps the eyeballs glued to the page, and oh how I dearly appreciated the many layers of this spine-tingler. I’ll tell you this: expect the unexpected from 77 Shadow Street. The typical slow burn build ups delivered in tales of hauntings and paranormal activity is absolutely abandoned here. Koontz aims to contain the attention of readers immediately, and he does so damn successfully. Check out the novel’s synopsis below.

“Welcome to the Pendleton. Built as a tycoon’s dream home in the 1880s and converted to luxury condominiums not quite a century later, the Gilded Age palace at the summit of Shadow Hill is a sanctuary for its fortunate residents. Scant traces remain of the episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder—and whispers of things far worse—that have scarred its grandeur almost from the beginning.

But now inexplicable shadows caper across walls, security cameras relay impossible images, phantom voices mutter in strange tongues, not-quite-human figures lurk in the basement, elevators plunge into unknown depths. With each passing hour a terrifying certainty grows: Whatever drove the Pendleton’s past occupants to their unspeakable fates is at work again. And as nightmare visions become real, as a deadly tide begins to engulf them, the people at 77 Shadow Street will find the key to humanity’s future . . . if they can survive to use it.”

The Ruins

01. Scott Smith: The Ruins: Scott Smith digs his way into the mind of his characters, and he holds the reader’s hand throughout the entire journey. It’s rare you’ll find a story this absurd prove to be so mind bogglingly successful, and strangely… believable. It’s an even rarer feat to see the idiosyncrasies of a novels focal lineup so beautifully examined and illustrated. Reading this book made me feel like I’d known Eric, Jeff, Stacy and Amy my entire life. Completely connected to the group, it’s harrowing to follow their trek into Hell, and while you really want to see as many of these foolish youngsters survive, there’s something in the pit of the belly that ensures you, without a shadow of a doubt, that if anyone makes it out alive, they’ll be damn lucky. Looking for a masterpiece? This is the one! Check out the novel’s synopsis below.

“Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine.

Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.”

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About Matt Molgaard (1015 Articles)
Writer for Dread Central, Best Horror Movies and Starburst Magazine. Owner, operator and contributor of Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies. Obviously, hooked on all things horror, for a great number of years now!

12 Comments on 5 Contemporary Horror Novels You Must Read ASAP

  1. I definitely agree with Jonathan Maberry being on the list. In fact, he could make up the entire list by himself, but to be fair, I would put Joe Hill’s Horns before Seth Graeme-Smith’s work. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter has many good qualities, but while popular, it does not stand out in a pack that includes: Tim Powers’ Hide Me Among the Graves, a brilliant novel about vampires, or Richard Kadrey’s Butcher Bird, a novel that convinces me Kadrey held a seance calling up the spirits of Joseph Campbell and Hunter S. Thompson and bitch slapped them until they collaborate on this novel.

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  2. I echo the Joe Hill recommendation. Horns was an amazing piece of work. Heart Shaped Box was also ridiculously amazing as well.

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    • which would you recommend I start with?

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      • BrienBear // August 29, 2012 at 6:01 am //

        Well Horns is the one everybody raves about, but honestly, Heart Shaped Box is probably my fave. So I’d go with that. Followed by 20th Century Ghosts (a collection of short stories by him.) Then Horns last. I loved all 3, but HSB has that… umph for me that the other two didn’t quite hit, if that makes sense.

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      • Then I’ll give Heart shaped Box (what is it about by the way???) a go first. I’ll probably follow up with Horns as it’s taken on such massive praise. Conclude with his collection of shorts. i really like to know what an author is capable of in regards to more challenging, longer works, before i dive into the short stories. Kind of always been my thing I guess.

        Any other RANDOM recommendations you’d make (note, I LOVE monster stories that hearken back to classic Universal days)

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      • BrienBear // August 29, 2012 at 6:16 am //

        You know, honestly I don’t read much random stuff. I have the worst ADD possible so when a book catches me, I know its good (For me). That’s how I found your blog – just by looking for random books on Reddit!

        Heart Shaped Box is about a rock star who gets a random… well heart shaped box in the mail with a dress in it. Then really strange shit starts happening to him, like getting attacked, etc and he has to figure out WTF happened there. LOL It’s got a pretty crazy ending, I think I read the entire book in like a week or so.

        Horns is about a guy who sprouts horns on top of his head. He tries to figure out why he has them, which is also an interesting story. It was just slower paced than HSB which is why I think I liked HSB more. Very fast moving.

        If you dig Stephen King at all, Hill is a lot like him (which makes sense). You can tell where the son got his genes from.

        Hope that helps, man!

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      • that helps quite a bit actually. I know without a doubbt to start with HSB first. I really like the slow burn effect, but I dont th)ink its the best way to make an introduction. HSB sounds like the way to go to me (apoligies for the typos, i put in 11 hours todfay and I’m enjoin my beer lol) A few recommendations for you: Winter Haunting by Dam Simmons. It works at a GREAT pace and while fairly complex, its REALLYY well written and EXTREMELY engaging. I read it in 24 hours (work schedule included thats how good i was). If you havent looked nto The Ruins – DO SO ASAP, one of the greatest chracter studies ive ever read with lods of stomach turning gore. amazing piece of work. Another one: Dont Stand So Close – by Eric Red. He captures the essence of teenage life in GREAT fashion (kind of brings back some nostalgia to be honest) and works upa fear in me – but i fear the fatal capacitty of women as it is. Ive been married for 12 years and seem every side imaginable. Some of which are fuckin scary!

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  3. Actually, I haven’t searched your blog yet, but if you’ve read House of Leaves, what was your take on that?

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    • Havent read it yet. Have a digi, but haven;t gotten to it unfortunately.

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      • BrienBear // August 29, 2012 at 9:33 am //

        Holy crap man – got your message and immediately went and got The Ruins. It’s now 3 hours later and I’m probably 1/3 of the way through it. This shit is crazygood! Thank you so much for the rec! I also got Winter Haunting so that’ll be next. And my fave author of all time is Christopher Pike so I HAVE to get Don’t Stand So Close!

        Thanks again man!!! You rock! :D

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      • Glad you took my advice my friend! The Ruins is one to never look past… it’s a seriously chilling read! I’ll have more recommendations for you in the future!

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2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (08/27/12) | The Writerly Reader
  2. Great “Time Wasters” « Pilgrim Outskirts

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