The 15 Best Books of the Century, Thus Far
It feels like it was just last week when we all woke in a collected state of paranoia. Is the world going to collapse around itself now that Y2K is officially here?
As it turns out, not much of anything profoundly impacting happened in 2000.
Still a year out from one of history’s most brutal and shocking terrorist attacks, the year arrived on the heels of a controlled panic. Concern over a computer’s ability to count beyond 1999 spread through the television, the newspapers and the workplace.
What if my computer freezes?
What if my time card stops working?
Are we going to lose track of accurate time?
The world no doubt breathed a sigh of relief upon realizing the technological downfall so many had predicted eventually proved to be little more than a strange and jaded prediction.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome that the Millennium Bug effected far fewer than imagined. It’s just a little humorous to think of the fear that wriggled its way into so many minds. Most of us were a little nervous, and it’s nice to look back and scoff at our collected over-active imaginations.
In the years that have followed we’ve seen some interesting things happen. Cell phone owners skyrocketed, the one-time luxury eventually becoming a near-essential for everyone over the age of 10. CD players are sprinting to extinction, digital files replacing the scratch-prone discs. Electric cars are now spotted everywhere. We no longer mail our payments in, we log on, and do the footwork on the internet as opposed to the streets. People stopped jumping in the car to visit their friends, now they just log in to Facebook and pretend they haven’t lost that special spark associated with human interaction.
For some of us, it’s all been a little bit overwhelming. For others, it seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered, evidenced, in part, by the continued technological strides (leaps and bounds may be more accurate) we’ve seen in the last decade and a half.
Those of us who aren’t over eager to swallowed by technology still get a kick out of the simple things in life. Simple things like mesmerizing paperbacks. Whether you realize it or not, the visionaries of the world have continued to shine through works of fiction.
Stephen King still dominates sales charts.
Books are still being transferred to film with great success.
Brilliant minds are still finding a way to get their stories out there.
Here’s to hoping none of this changes in the future. For many, living in a strange world isn’t necessarily a blast. We need those old, familiar feelings in our lives. And we need jarring novels. We’ll always need jarring novels.
Here is a look at 15 (in no particular order) of the absolute greatest horror novels released since 2000. Take note, as many of these pieces feel like true throwback works, designed to cater to the hardcore anti-evolutionist in some of us.
Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
It is autumn 1981 when inconceivable horror comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.
But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night. . . .Sweeping top honors at film festivals all over the globe, director Tomas Alfredsson’s film of Let the Right One In has received the same kind of spectacular raves that have been lavished on the book. American and Swedish readers of vampire fiction will be thrilled!
The Terror – Dan Simmons
The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of finding the Northwest Passage. When the expedition’s leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the Terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape. A haunting, gripping story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core.
The Ruins – Scott Smith
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.
Dark Harvest – Norman Partridge
Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.
Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror–and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy…
The Lost – Jack Ketchum
In 1965, teenage friends Ray, Tim, and Jennifer liked hanging out in the campgrounds, but Tim and Jennifer didn’t know what Ray had in mind for those two girls in the neighboring campground. Four years after Ray murdered the two girls, he’s never been charged. Tim and Jennifer thought the worst was behind them. They were wrong.
Horns – Joe Hill
Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.
At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.
Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .
Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge. . . . It’s time the devil had his due. . . .
Drood – Dan Simmons
On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens–at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world–hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.
Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?
House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.
Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.
The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.
John Dies At The End – David Wong
You should not have touched this book with your bare hands.
NO, don’t put it down. It’s too late.
They’re watching you.
My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours.
You may not want to know about the things you’ll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it’s too late. You touched the book. You’re in the game. You’re under the eye.
The only defense is knowledge. You need to read John Dies at the End, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.
The important thing is this:
The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension.
John and I never had the chance to say no.
You still do.
Unfortunately for us, if you make the right choice, we’ll have a much harder time explaining how to fight off the otherworldly invasion currently threatening to enslave humanity.
I’m sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind:
None of this is was my fault.
Ghost Road Blues – Jonathan Maberry
Evil Doesn’t Die
The cozy little town of Pine Deep buried the horrors of its past a long time ago. Thirty years have gone by since the darkness descended and the Black Harvest began, a time when a serial killer sheared a bloody swath through the quiet Pennsylvania village. The evil that once coursed through Pine Deep has been replaced by cheerful tourists getting ready to enjoy the country’s largest Halloween celebration in what is now called “The Spookiest Town in America.”
It Just Grows Stronger
But then–a month before Halloween–it begins. Unspeakably desecrated bodies. Inexplicable insanity. And an ancient evil walking the streets, drawing in those who would fall to their own demons and seeking to shred the very soul of this rapidly fracturing community. Yes, the residents of Pine Deep have drawn together and faced a killer before. But this time, evil has many faces–and the lust and will to rule the earth. This struggle will be epic.
The Bottoms – Joe R. Lansdale
Its 1933 in East Texas and the Depression lingers in the air like a slow moving storm. When a young Harry Collins and his little sister stumble across the body of a black woman who has been savagely mutilated and left to die in the bottoms of the Sabine River, their small town is instantly charged with tension. When a second body turns up, this time of a white woman, there is little Harry can do from stopping his Klan neighbors from lynching an innocent black man. Together with his younger sister, Harry sets out to discover who the real killer is, and to do so they will search for a truth that resides far deeper than any river or skin color.
Lisey’s Story – Stephen King
Lisey Debusher Landon lost her husband, Scott, two years ago, after a twenty-five-year marriage of the most profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey had to learn from him about books and blood and bools. Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went — a place that both terrified and healed him, that could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to face Scott’s demons, Lisey’s turn to go to Boo’ya Moon. What begins as a widow’s effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited. Perhaps King’s most personal and powerful novel, Lisey’s Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.
Joyland – Stephen King
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.
Lunar Park – Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Ellis, the narrator of Lunar Park, is a writer whose first novel Less Than Zero catapulted him to international stardom while he was still in college. In the years that followed he found himself adrift in a world of wealth, drugs, and fame, as well as dealing with the unexpected death of his abusive father. After a decade of decadence a chance for salvation arrives; the chance to reconnect with an actress he was once involved with, and their son. But almost immediately his new life is threatened by a freak sequence of events and a bizarre series of murders that all seem to connect to Ellis’s past. His attempts to save his new world from his own demons makes Lunar Park Ellis’s most suspenseful novel.
In this chilling tale reality, memoir, and fantasy combine to create not only a fascinating version of this most controversial writer but also a deeply moving novel about love and loss, parents and children, and ultimately forgiveness.
Odd Thomas – Dean Koontz
“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Meet Odd Thomas, the unassuming young hero of Dean Koontz’s dazzling New York Times bestseller, a gallant sentinel at the crossroads of life and death who offers up his heart in these pages and will forever capture yours.
Sometimes the silent souls who seek out Odd want justice. Occasionally their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time it’s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of hyena-like shades who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn, and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil. His account of these shattering hours, in which past and present, fate and destiny, converge, is a testament by which to live—an unforgettable fable for our time destined to rank among Dean Koontz’s most enduring works.
I’ve read about half of these, which are all excellent choices, btw:
Let the Right One In; The Terror; The Ruins; Odd Thomas; Joyland. I loved John Dies at the End.
Rather than Horns, I preferred NOS4A2. I thought it a much better book.
And rather than Liseys Story, I preferred Under the Dome.
If I had to pick just one of these it would be really hard, but I’d go with The Terror.
Any list like this is going to have people who are upset that their favorite didn’t make the cut. I can think of a number of books I would add. However, I think this is a great general horror list. Dark Harvest is on my list to read as is House of Leaves. I suppose for a general horror (not my beloved splatterpunk) I would add Ghoul by Brian Keene, World War Z by Max Brooks, and Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky.
The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale will stun and surprise. Read it!