Saturday, 31 October 2015

Scary Books To Read This Hallowe'en

The evenings have drawn in, the leaves are falling from the trees, the shops are already stocking Christmas stuff... it must be Hallowe'en again. So how should you spend your time scaring yourself silly at the witching hour? Gorging on sweets while watching the latest slasher film? Psh! From the Hallowe'en-themed reading I've done this month, might I recommend these four tomes of terror, each guaranteed to give your Goosebumps book collection goosebumps. Read on... if you dare.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Much like Frankenstein and Dracula, the legend of Jekyll and Hyde has been so embellished over the past a hundred-odd years that the original tale by Robert Louis Stevenson will come as something as a surprise. Firstly, it's less of a horror tale and more of a detective story as the lawyer, Utterson, sets about investigating the hold the mysterious Mr Hyde has over his friend Dr Jekyll. Despite this, the story's climax - when all is revealed - is top-class Victorian gothic horror.
The novella is also a perfect companion to ITV's new Jekyll and Hyde drama (which I'm reviewing over on CultBox). 

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Exploiting the inherent eeriness of carnivals and travelling shows, Ray Bradbury's terrific novel is also a touching coming-of-age story, centreing on two boys who are growing up all too quickly. Bradbury's prose is lyrical and evocative, giving real weight to the unfathomable evil of the suitably-named Mr Dark's carnival - with the likes of a frail, impossibly aged man being called 'a great flake of winter' sticking in this reader's memory.
If you haven't read Something Wicked, you should as it is a cornerstone of American horror literature. The tale of children having to face a supernatural force without the help of adults can be seen as a massive inspiration for the likes of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. Speaking of whom...

Unnatural Creatures

I have a confession to make. Though I've placed this Neil Gaiman-edited anthology on a list of scary books, many of the included stories aren't intended to scare - for instance, one involving that perennial horror fixture, the werewolf, is played for laughs. However, others such as those involving a haunted bicycle and a mysterious ink blot play out like more conventional, if still imaginative, horror stories. Gaiman's own contribution is an enjoyably odd tale about a club of culinary connoisseurs who eat mythological creatures. Yet I'm recommending this wonderfully varied anthology here due to its premise - each story tells of an unnatural creature, either familiar or fresh. And what is Hallowe'en if not a celebration of monsters and unnatural creatures of all kinds?

Pet Sematary

Technically, I'm cheating here as I didn't read Pet Sematary this month but rather listened to a radio drama version. I've never really got into King's works due to a personal problem I have with his prose style, so, for me, an audio adaptation is a perfect way to ... enjoy(?) his work. Without having read the novel I would also say it enhances the material as, though it is a full-cast drama, the first-person narration makes you feel complicit in the terrible events, as if the main character Louis is personally telling you his story. Without going into spoilers, this was probably the most disturbing thing I came across this Halloween. King apparently wrote the book and initially didn't want it published as he thought he had made it too dark. And when Stephen King thinks he's written something too dark then you have to worry...

Addendum: I've just noticed that there's a weird theme to the covers here. For some reason, the best horror covers need either a top hatted figure or a pair of yellow eyes.

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