This has been a blood-drenched reading month—something that happened quite by accident. Three of the five books below I would label as “extreme horror,” while a fourth had plenty of disturbing imagery. There would be more books on this list, but I gave up on two large novels halfway through each.
Next month, I may have to take a break from the violence with some softer material. I’m a bit worn out.
Gods of the Dark Web by Lucas Mangum
I thought I had the stomach for extreme horror, but this book proved me wrong. One scene physically hurt to read, and I almost skipped it. But beyond the disturbing imagery is one incredible novella. It is techno-horror at its finest. The internet can be a terrifying thing and Mangum explores its dark unknowns. The protagonist Niles is one of the more complex characters I’ve read in horror and the fact that these complexities are achieved in such a short book is a testament to Mangum’s skill. Ultimately, the brutality is not superfluous but rather hammers home its chilling message.
Messenger by Edward Lee
This is the second book I’ve read by Lee, and it won’t be the last. It took hold of me on the first page and didn’t let go until the last. The violence was certainly disturbing, but this novel gave me genuine chills at the same time. I’ve never been a fan of demonic possession, but Lee does this right. It employs one of my favorite tropes: who can you trust? That said, I would have enjoyed this book more if certain scenes were more believable. Multiples characters made me say, “that’s not a real person.” But considering how thrilling it was, I was able to overlook this for the most part.
Selleck’s ‘Stache is Missing by Charles Chadwick
As a fan of Jeff Burk’s Shatnerquake, I was eager to read another pairing of bizarro fiction with a celebrity. Chadwick did not disappoint. As the title tells you, Tom Selleck’s famous mustache has gone missing—or rather stolen. What ensues is an incredible adventure. Some of the best bizarro feels like an engrossing dream that you never want to end, and that is where Chadwick succeeds. It is a book of laughs and smiles, of B-movie action and clichés, filled with cameos of stars big and small. My biggest complaint was that it went by too fast.
Visceral by Christine Morgan and Patrick C. Harrison III
I much prefer novels to short stories. But once in a while, a collection blows me away. Visceral was such a collection. From the brilliant yet twisted minds of Christine Morgan and PC3 are eight incredible stories, gore-drenched and disturbing, body horror at its finest. The tales are unique, well-written, and engaging. Many were like nothing I’d read before, and even the story that involved werewolves took a fresh approach to the trope. Morgan’s “Little Fingers” was by far my favorite. I must admit that one story didn’t do it for me, a single blemish on an otherwise stellar book.
Dark Hollow by Brian Keene
I jinxed myself last month when I said I hadn’t read a Brian Keene book that I didn’t love. Not to say this book was bad, I was just expecting so much more. From what I know of the author, this novel was autobiographical in many ways. That both helped and hindered it. While it had a very “real” feeling to it, this hyper-realism left swaths of uninteresting text. Having a satyr as a monster didn’t do it for me, but I enjoyed how everything tied into his Labyrinth Mythos. Despite my complaints, it was still a strong book in many ways.