Lately I’ve heard a few people say horror is in a great place right now. Well, if some of my recent reads are any indication, they’d be one hundred per correct. Over the last few weeks, I’ve absolutely a blitzed a spate of books that have left me slavering for more. I’m not sure how I’ve managed it, but in the last term (sorry, I’m a teacher, I think in terms when it comes to the chronological) I’ve ploughed through about seven novels on top of the ones I’ve been teaching and short story digests/magazines I’ve been flicking through whenever I’ve had a spare moment.
I’ll get you started with the list:
- A Head Full of Ghosts: Paul Tremblay
- Bird Box: Josh Malerman
- Bone Saw: Patrick Lacey
- Video Night: Adam Cesare
- Ararat: Christopher Golden
- Island Red: Matt Serafini
- The Cabin at the End of the World: Paul Tremblay
As you can see, this list is book-ended nicely by a couple of Paul Tremblay’s heavy hitters, but I’ll save those two for last and try to get to them in one hit, although that’d probably be doing them a disservice. We’ll start with Bird Box and I’ll try to bleed out the rest over the next few days.
First things first, this one’s an absolute ripper. When I first picked it up, I honestly thought it sounded a bit gimmicky despite the fact I’d heard good things. To be clear, I’m absolutely down for some gimmicky goodness in a horror, but it doesn’t often translate to the kind of book that just oozes quality in the way this one does.
After the arrival of creatures so horrifying, so beautiful, so maddening that none can stand to look at them without instantly losing their mind, murdering those around them, and then taking their own life, humanity collectively loses its shit. The survivors are forced to board up the windows and wear blindfolds so they do not succumb to madness.
We join the tale in media res, with chief protagonist Malorie fleeing to the river, blindfolded, with two small children in two. As she navigates the treacherous waterways, Malerman weaves in flashbacks that flesh out her backstory, and describe the disastrous chain of events that left her in such a terrifying predicament.
For me, this one took its Lovecraftian influences, wore them on its sleeves – or should that be blindfolds – and used them to ratchet the tension up to maximum. There are points in this book so dread-inducing you just want to scream at the characters and tell them to run. Malerman uses the constant building of suspense to drive the novel towards a completely gripping crescendo that expertly ties off the interwoven threads and leaves you exhausted.
You won’t want to put this one down. I certainly didn’t. I’d easily give it five indescribable insanity-inducing monsters out of five.