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Voice of the Fans: What’s Your Favorite Horror Novel?

Although we mostly talk about science fiction here, and sometimes fantasy, we also like the horror genre as well. But horror doesn’t get nearly the props that sf/f does. Let’s address that imbalance right now.

Tell us: What’s Your Favorite Horror Novel?

I can probably name several, but for the sake of laziness, I’ll name the most recent great horror book I read: Necroscope by Brian Lumley. When I reviewed it in October 2008 (Has it been that long? Time to dig out the sequel!), I said “I can’t remember the last time I wanted to return to a book as much as this one.” And few books since that can claim as much.

Your turn….

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

33 Comments on Voice of the Fans: What’s Your Favorite Horror Novel?

  1. Demon Theory – (Stephen Graham Jones)  So much fun to read.  If anyone is even slightly interested in horror film, you really need to check it out.  A love letter to horror films. 

  2. “Going Rogue”?

    No, seriously, my favorite horror novel is Robert McCammon’s “They Thirst”.  I feel like I should name one of the classics, but the imagery and overall tone of this vampires-done-really-right novel sticks with me twenty years after my first reading.  McCammon hit on the idea of vampires in the snow long before there was 30 days of night, and carried off the concept with chilling effectiveness.  I’ve long since read my copy to shreds, and would recommend it to anyone who likes good, not just horror, writing.

  3. You can only be bothered to name the most recent horror novel you read – one of “several” horror novels you have read, apparently – and this is your way of giving “props” to the genre.

    I have a better idea. Let’s name the lamest blog posts we have ever read. I have read several lame posts but for the sake of laziness one I just read leaps to mine.

  4. Depends on how you define horror. Does House of Leaves count?

  5. World War Z by Max Brooks.  I have a bit of an obsession with the zombie apocalypse genre.

  6. @Flea: You know, you’re right.  Here are a few more I enjoyed:

    @Gary: I’ll leave genre classification up to you. As you can see, much of my “horror” reading is written by folks though of as sf writers. 🙂

  7. I’m not a fan of the horror genre although I don’t mind reading traditional horror short stories, Lovecraft and Poe are my favorites. I did enjoy Piers Anthony’s “Shade of the Tree” some years ago. It was more of a ghost story then a horror novel but it was a darn good read.

  8. Jeff VanderMeer // March 5, 2010 at 8:56 am //

    There are very few great horror novels, although many great novels that include some element of horror. There are, however, hundreds if not thousands of amazing horror stories and novellas. House of Leaves avoids the normal trap by being horrific and also about horror at the same time.

    Daphe Du Maurier’s “Don’t Look Now” is a truly great novella. Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” is a great SF-horror story.


  9. Jeff VanderMeer // March 5, 2010 at 8:58 am //

    DaphNe, I mean.

    Kathe Koja and Caitlin R. Kiernan have both written excellent horror novels.

  10. My favorite of all times is T. E. D. Klein’s “The Ceremonies”.

    And I agree with Jeff, Kiernan’s novels are very good.

  11. The Cipher by Kathe Koja

    Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

    City of Dreadful Night by Lee Siegel

    ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

    Weaveworld by Clive Barker

    At the Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft

    Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Lieber

    The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

    The Drive-In I and II by Joe R. Lansdale

    World War Z by Max Brooks


    Haven’t read House of Leaves but I’ve been hearing about it for *years.* Thanks for the heads-up on Demon Theory; sounds cool.

  12. And oh yeah, Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite!

  13. I agree with JeffyV… Horror’s mostly about the shorter forms :


    James’ Turn of the Screw

    Hill’s The Woman in Black

    Du Maurier’s The Birds and The Apple Tree

    Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

    King’s The Shining

    Matheson’s The Shrinking Man

    Obviously Lovecraft

    Obviously MR James


    I also quite liked Necroscope but anyone tempted by the very British take on Buffy-style monster hunting (done better than Stross’s Laundry novels if you ask me) must remember that the second they discover the homeworld of the vampires then you must STOP READING.  Lumley drove that franchise into the ground with astonishing speed and force.  It was like the fucking Tunguska explosion.

  14. Call me a classicist but from the few horro novel’s I’ve read thus far, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been the one to keep me most tense and enthralled.

  15. Definitely House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski for its twisty inventiveness, the mounting dread, the choking sense of claustrophobia conveyed by the type. (yes, the type)

    World War Z by Max Brooks, fantastic global perspective on a zombie apocalypse cunningly told through reportage that read as real; thoroughly researched, distinctive voices. Smart, smart, smart.

    Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis, which rivalled anything Stephen King has put out lately (although I haven’t yet read Under the Dome). That goddamn trilby animatronic toy pterodactyl scared the crap out of me. 

    Fangland by Jon Marks – another journalistic perspective on traditional horror, Dracula reinvented where Mina is a 60 Minutes producer. It’s very much rooted in our contemporary lives and it’s a horrifying indictment of the nature – and depth – of human evil

    Slights by Kaaron Warren gave me the grils (this is an Afrikaans term, there’s no direct translation, the “dreads” maybe.). Nuanced, horrible, a growing sense of things being very, very wrong and not being able to look away. A bit like American Pscyho in its restraint and carefully constructed metre.

    And John Joseph Adams’ awesome zombie anthology, Living Dead, which is packed full of goodness like undead sardines.



  16. Allen Edwards // March 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm //

    World War Z by Max Brooks: Not only very well told, but in several instances an emotionally wrenching combination of horror, pity and deep sorrow for the victims (living AND zombies). Did I say “tears”? There … I did.

  17. Scott Cupp // March 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm //

    For me, it was The Nightrunners by Joe R. Lansdale.  I read it in manuscript form the week it was finished.  At that time it was called Night of the Goblins.  I was rapt for the entire time it took to read and have not been the same since.  The horror field has not been the same since.

  18. Gary Pooler // March 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm //

    Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

    Ship Of Fools by Richard Paul Russo


    I second I Am Legend. 


    Neil Gaiman writes wonderfully weird, ghostly, horrorish stories as well. Snow, Glass, Apples for instance.

  19. Jeff VanderMeer // March 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm //

    Lauren–good call re Lunar Park. An amazing horror novel, I thought.

    Re Gaiman–I don’t really consider him horror in that most of his stuff is not really dark enough.

    I like Hill’s stories a lot, but Heart-Shaped Box is pretty poor.


  20. Jeff VanderMeer // March 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm //

    Ship of Fools is a great, totally underrated novel, and definitely horror! Really chilling! Great call.


  21. Read some really, great horror lately:

    A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans

    The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom

    Drood by Dan Simmons

    Infected/Contagious by Scot Sigler

    The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff


    But my old time favoriet is

    The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

  22. Oops I forgot…

    Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco

    Hell House by Richard Matheson


  23. I’ll go for Dracula, too.  Then Anno-Dracula. 🙂

  24. Matt A. // March 5, 2010 at 5:56 pm //

    It by Stephen King –  I love almost all of his work, but this might be the scariest. The leper under the house scared the crap out of me

    Books of Blood by Clive Barker –  most beautifully written and terrifying short story collection out there

    Grimm Memorials by R. Patrick Gates – lesser known horror novel with a fairy tale twist. Incredibly gory and disturbing

    Mine by Robert McCammon – More of a thriller, but definitely horror elements to be found.  Also unique for having a female protagonist and antagonist

    The Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector – Vampire tale set in the 80’s.  Basically started the splatterpunk movement

  25. I truly do not have a single favourite horror novel, but I do have several that I like enough to read over and over and over again:

    • Robert McCammon, Swan Song (best depiction of nuclear war I’ve ever read) and Stinger (bad-ass alien bounty hunter gives Texan town the beatdown)
    • Stephen King, Christine (becuase I love old Plymouths)
    • Caitlin R. Kiernan, Threshold and Silk (Lovecraft goes Goth)
    • John Skipp and Craig Spector, The Bridge (it’s the paperback equivalent of a C-grade drive-in theatre classic)
    • Cormac McCarthy, The Road (if this book doesn’t terrify you, you’re probably already dead)
  26. Curt Jarrell // March 5, 2010 at 7:45 pm //

    The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice.

  27. I love HP Lovecraft, and I like some of Stephen King’s shorter stories (like The Mist) and enjoyed his novel “Misery” quite a bit. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics are superb. 

    There was a novel called “The Auctioneer” from the 60’s (the author’s name escapes me) about a man who moves to a small town and begins to bully the farmers (with the help of local police) to give up their belongings for a town auction. It’s slow, insidious and scary, though not actually a “horror” story.

  28. I sadly don’t read much horror.  The only horror novel I remember reading and liking was Cell by Stephen King.  I watch more horror than I do read the stuff.  But I’m picky there too.  Zombie movies are generally the only things that work for me anymore…

  29. I quite liked Heart-Shaped Box actually but it is ultimately a very traditional Jamesian ghost story.

  30. Graham T // March 6, 2010 at 7:14 am //

    Bring Me Children, Lie to Me and Tap, Tap – all by David Martin.

    I read Bring Me Children in one sitting, scared the hell out of me and had to sleep with the light on.






  31. Jeff VanderMeer // March 6, 2010 at 10:38 am //

    I think Hill’s treatment of the female characters turned me off, in part. I’ll have to revisit it.

    Re McCarthy–Blood Meridian!! That’s more horrific than almost anything on this list. Holy crap!



  32. Roddy Reta // March 6, 2010 at 11:18 am //

    PHANTOMS, by Dean Koontz.   This is the closest thing that Koontz has written to a pure horror novel, and it’s one of the best in the genre.

  33. These selection of books are worth checking :-

    The Damnation Game – Clive Barker

    The Big Nowhere – James Ellroy

    Burnt Offerings – Robert Marasco

    By Bizarre Hands- Joe R Lansdale

    The Wine Dark Sea – Robert Aickman

    Hiroshima Joe – Martin Booth

    Slob – Rex Miller

    The Hungry Moon – Ramsey Campbell

    Pet Semetary – Stephen King

    The Howling Man – Charles Beaumont

    Of Saints And Sinners – Christopher Golden

    A Simple Plan – Scott Smith

    Mine – Robert McCammon

    The Haunter Of The Dark – HP Lovecraft

    Ghost Stories – MR James

    The Dark Descent – Edited by David Hartwell

    Last Call – Tim Powers

    American Gods – Neil Gaiman

    Deathbird Stories – Harlan Ellison

    Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons

    Floating Dragon – Peter Straub

    You’ll have plenty of bad dreams after reading that lot ! 


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