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The 10 Best Horror Novels of the 1990s


I’m sure I’ll get some flak for a few of these picks, but as is normally the case, I stand by my selections. The following 10 novels stuck to my psyche for years, so I felt it necessary to cast a little shine on what I consider to be the high points of the 1990s. You’re welcome to toss your votes in the mix, I’ll be the first to admit my memory can be a bit shaky, and I may well have forgotten a couple treasures. These beauties though… well, they’re unforgettable!

Stephen King: The Stand

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Stephen King’s The Stand was a bit too long for my personal taste. I don’t enjoy investing 13 years reading a novel. That said, The Stand was a damn powerful piece of work that in hindsight felt quite epic, and brought a few amazing characters to the forefront of horror.

Dean Koontz: Intensity

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Intensity plays out like a nefarious slasher flick on paper. I love slashers. While Koontz can be a bit repetitive in his concepts, I think he really nailed a realistic brand of horror in this instance. It’s not Phantoms, The Funhouse or Watchers, but it is one of, if not the go-to Koontz novel of the 90s.

Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air

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Krakauer’s Into Thin Air isn’t technically a horror novel. However it is insanely harrowing, totally haunting and about as unsettling as they come. To this day the novel remains a somewhat underrated commodity and that’s got to change. You want to read an insanely good book about life, death and the power of the elements, read Into Thin Air.

Bret Easton Ellis: American Psycho

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What can I say about American Psycho that hasn’t been said a dozen times here on HNR? This is psychological terror at its finest, but Ellis gives readers more than simple scenarios to ponder, he gives some wildly vivid and shocking moments to the masses. You’ve got to love it.

Thomas Harris: Hannibal

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I’m still the guy who doesn’t favor series’, trilogies or sequels, but there’s no denying the impact of Hannibal. It’s one of those really rare pieces of work that lives up to previous established standards, and it takes the tale of Hannibal Lecter and his malicious, man-eating ways in the perfect direction.

Bentley Little: The Revelation

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Bentley Little’s debut novel struck a chord, which is probably why it picked up a Bram Stoker nod. I love the absurdity of this one. It feels as though Little crammed about 14 ideas into one single novel, but somehow it really works, and the nightmare that the people of one quaint little Arizona town experience still boggles the mind.

Dan Simmons: Children of the Night

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Horror fans always seem to pine for quality bloodsucker tales. We don’t see them surface often, but Dan Simmons gave us a gem back in 1992. Of course just about everything Simmons touches is gold, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you want a look at a believable vampire, snatch up Children of Night (boy did that whole sentence read strangely).

Robin Cook: Invasion

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I’m not typically big on Cook’s work. He’s simply too technical with the medical jargon for me to climb onboard. But Invasion was a unique book for this brainiac. Cook doesn’t flex his intellectual muscle to a nauseating degree for Invasion, instead he gives us an interesting tale that feels part alien invasion story, part zombie story… kind of. This is a wicked read, and if you somehow missed it, start the hunt because there’s a treasure in waiting.

Robert McCammon: Boy’s Life

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Boy’s Life might very well be my favorite novel released in the 1990s. It’s an intricate coming of age tale loaded with awesome subplots that come together to create a complex yet strangely visceral read. There’s plenty to relate to in this masterpiece (still adore a few of these characters!), and there’s just enough of the dark content to send the chills running up the spine. Don’t sleep on this one, it’s so damn good it’s nearly impossible to put down once you’ve opened it.

Clive Barker: The Thief of Always

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The Thief of Always was actually written for a younger crowd, which some might be surprised by. Outside of the Abarat series, Barker tends to keep his work extremely… mature, shall we say. But this quiet offering was riveting. It’s haunting and imaginative and it’s a strong enough effort to call fans back for more than a single read. It may be one of Clive’s least appreciated efforts, but it’s one of his most engrossing tales and certainly deserves a spot on this list.

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About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

6 Comments on The 10 Best Horror Novels of the 1990s

  1. The Stand remains on of my favorites by King, Intensity by Koontz definitely holds it own…I love The Thief Of always Always…don’t know that I can really say much about Robin Cook because honestly the only thing by him I have ever read was ‘Coma’ and an clueless to this one mentioned here….as far of the rest I really have no imput because I an ashamed to admit that I haven’t read them…although I do have American Psycho and Boy’s Life on to be read list…just me…vitina

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  2. This is such a great list! I’m pleased to see many authors I love and especially Koontz’s Intensity. I’m a little disappointed not to find F. Paul Wilson in there, but perhaps he was in the 80s… But even though I’m a fan of the authors, there are some books I haven’t read, like Cook’s Invasion. Thanks for the recommendations. 🙂

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  3. Wayne C. Rogers // September 2, 2013 at 3:41 am // Reply

    If you loved Into Thin Air, wait until The Abominable by Dan Simmons comes out in October. Though The Abominable is fiction and Into Thin Air is non-fiction, both deal with Mr. Everett and how quickly death can grab you when it’s least expected.

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  4. Definitely agree with The Stand as number one. Amazing novel.

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  5. Wasn’t The Stand released in 1978?

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  6. INTO THIN AIR is not a novel, horror or otherwise, so I’m not sure why it’s included,and THE STAND was originally published in 1978 (alho’ you may be referring to the 1990 revised/expanded edition you do not state this, and the edition pictured is the original hardcover). If you’re still interested in ’90s horror check out:

    1)THE CIPHER by Kathe Koja
    2) EXQUISITE CORPSE by Poppy Z. Brite
    3) PRODIGAL by Melanie Tem
    4) NO BLOOD SPILLED by Les Daniels
    5) ANNO DRACULA by Kim Newman
    6) THROAT SPROCKETS by Tim Lucas

    I think a lot of the best horror of the ’90s was in short story form, so anthologies like BORDERLANDS, SPLATTERPUNKS, and METAHORROR have some terrific tales, as well as BRAINS OF RATS by Michael Blumlein.

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