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Horror book reviews from October 2023

·1163 words·6 mins·
Human skull on a table in a dark room
Mathew MacQuarrie via Unsplash

Reading allows me to travel to other places and times while also reducing my stress and helping me to think more creatively. Sometimes this leads me to wild fictional stories or takes me on a learning journey into history.

(I track my reading lists on Goodreads if you want to see what I’m reading.)

In this post, I’ll list the spooky books I read this October and hopefully you’ll find at least one them interesting!

The Cabin at the End of the World #

My first book of the month was Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World. It’s centered around a family with a small child that goes on a relaxing vacation in a lakefront cabin.

All is well until a friendly stranger named Leonard befriends the child, Wen, and his three fellow travelers appear. The travelers hold the family hostage and tell them that they have the key to save the world, but it’s not as easy as it seems. There seems to be an unseen force that has some sort of control over the travelers. 🤔

My thoughts #

I thought I had this story figured out several times only to be proven wrong just as many times. There are so many themes in this book that tug at your emotions, including family, racism, homophobia, and socioeconomic differences. This book packs plenty of suspense, but the most frightening parts aren’t supernatural or ghostly. The scariest parts feel centered around the essence of human nature.

Although this felt like a quick read, it was intense in many places. I definitely enjoyed it and I was looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation, Knock at the Cabin. The movie was done by M. Night Shyamalan (of The Sixth Sense fame) and I read that he changed the entire ending of the movie. 😞

The Ruins #

I moved onto something completely different next with Scott Smith’s The Ruins. The story takes place in Mexico with several people on a beach vacation. One of the tourists notes that his brother went to check out an archeological dig further into the countryside but never returned. The group eventually decides to go search for the missing brother as some sort of vacation adventure.

The adventure turns ugly as they make their way to the country’s interior. 😬

My thoughts #

You’ll have a tough time finding the antagonist in this story until it’s too late, but that’s part of the fun. Every character in the group brings personality quirks and old baggage with them that impairs their judgement in different ways. This works well for some but not for others.

This book had several scary moments, but most of the horror came again from how humans interact with one another. As soon as someone (or something) else figures out how to exploit those against them, bad things happen.

This book was difficult to read because much of it was quite gruesome and brutal. It’s definitely a book for adults only and you should be prepared to work your way through it.

The Troop #

Everything is fine with a scout trip to an island in Canada in Nick Cutter’s The Troop. Well, it’s fine until a mysterious and incredibly hungry man suddenly shows up on the island. He looks a lot like he’s dead already and the the leader of the scout troop, a medical doctor, is completely mystified by the man’s condition.

It goes downhill from there in a story told mostly through diary entries, newspaper clippings, and court testimony.

My thoughts #

Of all the books I read in October, this one scared me the most because it felt like it was entirely possible. There wasn’t any part of the book that I looked at and said: “Oh, that could never happen.” That’s what makes this one so good.

It’s suspenseful enough to keep you turning the pages but it’s also plausible enough that you might find yourself wanting to wash your hands a little longer the next time you eat a meal. It feels a bit like Lord of the Flies mixed with a pandemic novel like Station Eleven or The Stand.

This one is also very gruesome in parts with some very difficult scenes to read.

This one was my favorite of the group by far.

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre #

Sasquatch is back in Max Brooks’ Devolution! Told through the journals of a woman living in a remote town in Washington, this book covers a modern time where Mount Ranier erupted and caused lots of species to get on the move from their habitats around the mountain. Some of those creatures are the ones you’d expect, but some are ones you won’t expect.

The small community is an experiment in green, off the grid living, and they are quickly tested by just about everything mother nature can throw at them. This includes some rather tall, furry, human-like creatures.

My thoughts #

This one felt scary due to the remoteness of the village and the unprepared people involved. Also, whether you believe in Sasquatch or not, this felt a bit more plausible than I expected.

There were plenty of difficult to read scenes in here, but the gore was reduced compared to other books listed here. Much of the suspense came from how humans interact with one another especially when faced with an adversary that presents a unique set of challenges.

This book was difficult to get into (it starts slow), but stick with it. It’s a wild ride.

Tender is the Flesh #

Be prepared when you crack open Agustina Bazterrica’s Tender is the Flesh. Imagine a world where animals somehow contract a virus that they quickly spread to each other and to humans as well. Pets are banned and animals near cities are killed. The pandemic puts a significant dent in the human population.

However, with all of the animals either infected or gone, where do people get meat to eat? 🤔

My thoughts #

This was by far the most challenging book to read out of the group because I honestly felt like I was going to be sick in places. The author doesn’t set out for cheap scares or basic unsettling events – there’s something much deeper. It really makes you question how humanity operates and how quickly boundaries can shift when hunger becomes a problem.

I had to take a lot of breaks with this book. It has some suspenseful parts but this book has a slow-burn horror feel that gives you hope, crushes that hope, and then starts the cycle once more.

I strongly recommend this book for adults only but I feel terrible recommending it at the same time. 😄

What’s next? #

After all of that horror and unsettling fiction, I’m shaking things up for November. My current book is Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. So many people have recommended it to me as a great book about the American west and I’m enjoying it so far.