October has arrived and that means, Halloween is approaching. Back in Greece, Halloween is not celebrated or given any attention really. When I came to live in the Netherlands I was very excited for a few things that we don’t have in Athens where I am from. Snow for once, but also decent Halloween decorations. So, this year I went crazy and bought a crate of small pumpkins for the house and other small props. But, back to the books.
This month I have decided to do a project that I lamely named Horror October. October and Halloween are, of course, associated with horror themes and in the spirit of that I thoughts I could spend October reading only horror fiction. The main reason that I wanted to do this project though, is that I really enjoy reading horror books. Since I was young, I remember reading Goosebumps in bed and being really frightened by noises and by the dark because of what I was reading. And I loved it. I thought, and still think, that it’s wonderful that a book can actually get me scared.
As I grew up, I started reading more fiction and severely neglected diving into the horror genre because there were so many books I wanted to read and I simply never prioritised it. Another reason is that, now that I grew up and became a skeptical and somewhat cynical adult, I am not as easily convinced when a book tells a story. I question everything and I find it hard to get into a plot if it is not very well done. This is the problem with me and horror. I need to find books that will suck me in, and to do that I need to search for them. Oh, but it’s ever so difficult to find book recommendations that apply to me, or at least, I feel that way! What better way to devote some quality time in the horror genre, discover new books that I think will be very enjoyable for my so difficult brain, and then actually spend a whole month reading them instead of having them sit on my bookshelves looking disapprovingly at me.
And I have done just that. This October I have chosen a horror trilogy and four books to get me through this scary month with the appropriate mood. Here is my Horror October TBR.
Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
This book recommendation, as all others comes from Thomas’ BookTube channel over at SFF180. He did an excellent video on Halloween horror recommendations back in 2015 which I regularly consult to find books I want to read. He also does a Halloween special which I urge you to go check out if you are interested in the genre. Here we have a science fiction, horror trilogy by an author that has a very similar style with China Miéville, this peculiar, weird kind of science fiction that many people love to read. I haven’t read anything by either of these men but I am very interested in their work. This trilogy is about Area X which is an anomalous place where animals and plants have taken over and thrived despite human attempts to rule the whole world, as we know. Expeditions have gone to investigate this terrestrial anomaly and all come back damaged or sick or, I don’t know, dead. As you can imagine, in the first book a new expedition is up for the challenge to investigate Area X, and I would bet things get bad from there.
Funnily enough, I just discovered a couple of days ago that the first book in this trilogy, Annihilation, is soon to be out as a movie starring Natalie Portman (February 2018). I guess I wasn’t the only one thinking of Area X this Halloween!
Book 1: Annihilation
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
Book 2: Authority
The bone-chilling, hair-raising second installment of the Southern Reach Trilogy
After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X–a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization–has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.
John Rodrigues (aka “Control”) is the Southern Reach’s newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he’s pledged to serve.
In Authority, the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Area X’s most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.
Book 3: Acceptance
It is winter in Area X, the mysterious wilderness that has defied explanation for thirty years, rebuffing expedition after expedition, refusing to reveal its secrets. As Area X expands, the agency tasked with investigating and overseeing it–the Southern Reach–has collapsed on itself in confusion. Now one last, desperate team crosses the border, determined to reach a remote island that may hold the answers they’ve been seeking. If they fail, the outer world is in peril.
Meanwhile, Acceptance tunnels ever deeper into the circumstances surrounding the creation of Area X–what initiated this unnatural upheaval? Among the many who have tried, who has gotten close to understanding Area X–and who may have been corrupted by it?
In this last installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, the mysteries of Area X may be solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound–or terrifying.
BookDepository: Area X: Southern Reach Trilogy
Unto Leviathan by Richard Paul Russo
Also titled Ship of Fools in the American edition, this novel by Richard Paul Russo follows a huge generation ship so many years into the future that everyone alive on it cannot even remember what their mission on the ship is in the first place. That fact, by itself, creeps me out. Basically, the come in contact with alien life and things go really, really bad from there. Book synopsis:
Home to generations of humans, the starship Argonos has wandered aimlessly throughout the galaxy for hundreds of years, desperately searching for other signs of life. Now a steady, unidentified transmission lures them toward a nearby planet, where the grisly remains of a former colony await the crew. Haunted by what they have seen, the crew has no choice but to follow when another signal beckons the Argonos into deep space — and into the dark heart of an alien mystery.
What is fascinating about Starfish is the setting. Scientists have sent people into the depths of the ocean with modifications that allow them to sustain life under immense pressure and darkness. Their purpose is to harvest energy so the rest of humanity can enjoy the luxuries of life on the ground. Of course, the people who are sent to work under these extreme circumstances are a special kind of people. The book sounds terrifying, the setting by itself is mysterious and dark and scary and I can’t wait for this one. Starfish is the first book in the Rifters series but I believe it can be read as a standalone. If not, well, there is always room for more books! Book synopsis:
A huge international corporation has developed a facility along the Juan de Fuca Ridge at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to exploit geothermal power. They send a bio-engineered crew–people who have been altered to withstand the pressure and breathe the seawater–down to live and work in this weird, fertile undersea darkness.
Unfortunately the only people suitable for long-term employment in these experimental power stations are crazy, some of them in unpleasant ways. How many of them can survive, or will be allowed to survive, while worldwide disaster approaches from below?
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The final two books have not yet arrived in the mail, sadly, but they will be coming soon. I have here another book adapted for the big screen, The Girl With All the Gifts. I hear zombies, dystopian and horror and I am in. I know nothing else about this and I don’t want to know more. I’m going in blind hoping for the best! Book synopsis:
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.
BookDepository: The Girl With All the Gifts
The last book tends towards a more dystopian than horror direction, but it still counts. Plus, it is yet another book-to-movie adaptation. I have so many movies to catch up on after this horror October! The Road is also another book I wanted to know nothing about, and I seriously can’t tell you how I manage to avoid any kind of information about books I want to read. It takes a strong will that’s for sure. I know it is an apocalyptic, dystopian end-of-the-world kind of story. Book synopsis:
A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food–and each other.
So, these are the books I will be reading and reviewing this October. Hopefully, they will all be enjoyable and even better, scary! And now the search for next year’s horror month begins again.
If you’d like to ckeck out more SF horror recommendations here is Thomas’ wonderful video (SFF180) of creepy books:
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