October always gets me in the mood to give myself the creeps. I’ve been behind in posting book recommendations lately, so here are three recs for the price of one, all guaranteed to make you shiver.
First up is The Three by South African writer Sarah Lotz. Four planes crash simultaneously in different parts of the world, three children survive and behave strangely afterward, and conspiracy theories run rampant, including a cult of Christians who believe this event signals the End Times. This book has an interesting structure: a nonfiction book-within-a-book made up of interviews, newspaper articles, chat logs, and the like that gradually unfolds the aftermath of Black Thursday, as it quickly comes to be called. This story is rife with ambiguity: Is there really something off about the surviving children, or are folks just going nuts and trying to make sense of a senseless coincidence? A very readable thriller, and different enough from the norm to keep my attention.
Next we have Broken Monsters by another South African writer, Lauren Beukes, but appropriately set in Detroit. A young boy is found murdered with the top half of his body attached to the legs of a fawn, kicking off a hunt for a serial killer-avantgarde artist who is definitely operating outside of the mainstream. Beukes tells the story from several points of view and takes her time showing the connections between the characters, so it may take a while to get immersed, but stick with it. This is not just a police procedural about an investigation into a string of bizarre murders; it’s also an examination of urban decay and, I think, literal decay between the edges of our reality and other places. Broken Monsters is the written equivalent of all those now-famous haunting photographs of the abandoned, decaying city.
Finally, there is Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, set near Detroit in suburban Michigan. (See how I made all those neat connections between the books–fun, right?) Suddenly, people who see mysterious creatures inexplicably turn violent and attack one another or themselves, so everyone who survives must barricade themselves indoors and not open their eyes outside. First of all, the premise for this book is ridiculous, but when reading horror, we must accept the ridiculous. Malerman handles this by not making the story at all about the “creatures” but instead about the effects of having to avoid seeing them. Since this is a horror story, not a survival story, Malerman glosses over the niceties of staying alive in such an environment. As a result, he keeps the tension high and the pace quick, offering several genuinely creepy moments, and the story works on that level as long as the reader doesn’t get overly concerned about the details.
If you have any creepy books to recommend, please tell me about them. Enjoy fall!