Also by this author: That Which Should Not Be, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Seeing Evil, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Genres: Apocalyptic, Cosmic Horror, Extreme Horror, Horror, Supernatural, werewolves
So 2015 winds to a close. And that means it’s time for me to reflect back on what has been a busy (though not insanely so) year of reading. I wound my way through upwards of 150-odd books this year – mostly novels and novellas with the very occasional graphic novel or short story wovem in for good measure. And the following are those that I found to be the very best. Every one of these reads affected me significantly, be it by eliciting actual excitement, reigniting my passion for reading after a short bout of “reader’s fatigue”, or by having me shake my head in bewilderment at some of the wordplay I had just consumed. Regardless, I’ll be counting these books down from ten to one, saving the very best for last, with the only requirement for the list being I had to have read it between Jan 1st and Dec 31st, 2015, rather than the book being published in 2015.
So let’s get down to it, and hopefully I can add a book or five to what I’m sure is already your mountainous TBR pile!
10. He Who Walks in Shadow by Brett J Talley
The sequel to That Which Should Not Be was anticipated with all kinds of excitement, but Talley manages to exceed them all with an intelligent expansion of his established universe. He lovingly re-creates scenes from the early parts of the twentieth century, yet unlike many of Lovecraft’s works, his styles remains eminently accessible. Talley also does not shy away from describing the horrors his characters find on their journey across much of Europe (and beyond), and at one point he pokes a little fun at the master when one of the characters acknowledges that another contemporary writer had the “inability to describe properly the things he has seen”. Pure gold.
9. Bad Apples 2: Six Slices of Halloween Horror by Edward Lorn, Kealean Patrick Burke, Evans Light, Adam Light, Jason Parent and Gregor Xane
Bad Apples 2 is the rarest of beasts: an anthology that does not contain a bad story. All six of the tales contained within fall on the good side of three stars, and one even comes close to cracking my very rare and exclusive club of five star reads. Special praise is reserved for DOCTOR PROCLIVITY & PROFESSOR PROPENSITY by Gregor Xane and Edward Lorn’s HALLOWEEKEND – which was exactly my kind of mix of weird monsters, engaging characters and gruesome gore.
8. Days of Rain by Ray Wallace
Wallace weaves an intriguing and not at all predictable tale of a town upon which the shadow of Lovecraftian evil is falling. It is an excellent example of a beautifully written, atmospheric and tension-filled novella. It also marks the emergence of a major talent and should not be missed.
7. Blood and Rain by Glenn Rolfe
Brutal, tension-fuelled and captivating, Blood and Rain is the strongest indicator yet that Rolfe is an author who could one day hold his own with the big names in the horror genre. And in the meantime, his growth as an author is exponential. Perhaps the most surprising entrant on my list, but also the most pleasing as I’ve followed Rolfe’s career from the early days.
6. Wolfland by Jonathan Janz
Truth be told there’s little to separate Wolfland from Rolfe’s entry on this list, except that Janz has been around that little bit longer and has a slightly better grasp of character development. It’s a wonderful werewolf novel that is savage in its intensity, and unforgiving in whom it dispatches.
5. Whom The Gods Would Destroy by Brian Hodge
I remain uncertain as to how Brian Hodge managed to squeeze an abusive childhood, a strained sibling relationship, elements of the science of astronomy, and a whole lot of cosmic horror into one 85 page novella, but I know he did it and did it extremely well. Whom the Gods Would Destroy is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a little science mixed up with their fantastical horror.
4. White by Tim Lebbon
White is a fantastic novella depicting a refreshingly different type of apocalypse referred to by the characters as The Ruin. Lebbon’s writing has a way of insidiously weaving its way into your psyche to leave you shivering – both in fear and in anticipation of more…
3. Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke
Dealing with an everyday man in an everyday situation who finds his world turned upside down when he accepts a morsel of sour candy from a not-so-everyday kid, Sour Candy is the cliched page-turner made real. It is fast-paced, gripping, more than a little disturbing, and wonderfully written. Every scene was necessary; every character served an important function; and when the horror is unleashed, it is truly eye-widening in its intensity.
2. Bleed on Me by Shane McKenzie
Bleed On Me tells the story of an everyday-shmoe who finds himself embroiled in demons raising themselves from hell, before slowly coming to realise his blood is all that stands between the earth and demon domination. Channeling the spirit of John Carpenter’s The Thing is just about the complete package. It is outrageously inventive, original, gore-laden, and features some more-than-memorable set pieces.
1.Snow by Ronald Malfi
Survival horror at its very best, Snow epitomizes the very best of a group of characters stranded in a remote location, being set upon by some nasty creatures who have naught but bloodshed on their mind. Malfi’s creatures are inventive and imaginative and his characters just flawed enough to be real. This was as good as 2015 got for me and I would recommend it to all fans of horror of the more fantastic type.
So there it is! My best reads of 2015. Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss something important? Let me know in the comments section and let’s discuss. Otherwise, I’ll (hopefully) see you back here at the end of 2016 for my next 10 best reads. Happy horrific reading.
About Brett J Talley
A native of the South, Brett Talley received a philosophy and history degree from the University of Alabama before moving to witch-haunted Massachusetts to attend Harvard Law School. When people ask, Brett tells them he writes for fortune and glory. But the truth is the stories in his head simply refuse to stay put. Brett loves every kind of fiction—from horror to literary to historical to sci-fi—as long as there are fantastic characters with a compelling purpose. There’s still magic to be found in fiction, the mysterious and the unknown still beckon there, and the light can always triumph over the darkness, no matter how black the night may be.
Brett writes when he can, though he spends most of his time working as a lawyer so that he can put food on the table. That is, until the air grows cool and crisp and fall descends. For then it is football time in the South, and Brett lives and dies with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Roll Tide.
About Brian Hodge
BRIAN HODGE, called “a writer of spectacularly unflinching gifts” by no less than Peter Straub, is the award-winning author of ten novels of horror and crime/noir. He’s also written over 100 short stories, novelettes, and novellas, and four full-length collections. His most recent collection, 2011’s Picking The Bones, became the first of his books to be honored with a Publishers Weekly starred review. His first collection, The Convulsion Factory, was ranked by critic Stanley Wiater among the 113 best books of modern horror.
He’s recently finished the time-consuming task of porting over his earlier works for e-book editions, using it as an opportunity to do a fresh line-edit and polish on every novel and collected story.
He lives in Colorado, where more of everything is in the works. He also dabbles in music, sound design, and photography; loves everything about organic gardening except the thieving squirrels; and trains in Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which are of no use at all against the squirrels.
About Edward Lorn
Edward Lorn is an American horror author presently residing in the southeast United States. He enjoys storytelling, reading, and writing biographies in the third person.
Once upon a time, during a session of show and tell, a seven-year-old Edward Lorn shared with his class that his baby brother had died over the weekend. His classmates, the teacher included, wept while he recounted the painful tragedy of having lost a sibling. Edward went home that day and found an irate mother waiting for him. Edward’s teacher had called to express her condolences. This was unfortunate, as Edward had never had a baby brother.
With advice given to her by a frustrated teacher, Edward’s mother made him start writing all of his lies down. The rest, as they say, is history.
Edward Lorn and his wife are raising two children, along with a handful of outside cats and a beagle named Dot. He remains a liar to this day. The only difference is, now he’s a useful one.
About Glenn Rolfe
Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
He is the author of Becoming, Blood and Rain, The Haunted Halls, Chasing Ghosts, Boom Town, Abram’s Bridge, Things We Fear, and the collections, Out of Range and Slush.
He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!
About Gregor Xane
Gregor Xane writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories in Ohio. His dog is usually napping nearby.
About Jason Parent
In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.
In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it’s harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he’s back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that’s another story.
When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody’s head off – he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.
Please visit the author on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJasonParent?ref=hl, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AuthorJasParent, or at his website, http://authorjasonparent.com/, for information regarding upcoming events or releases, or if you have any questions or comments for him.
About Jonathan Janz
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, which explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”
2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species Publishers Weekly said, “Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” Jonathan’s Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.
His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, on Instagram (jonathanjanz) or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.
About Kealan Patrick Burke
Born and raised in a small harbor town in the south of Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke knew from a very early age that he was going to be a horror writer. The combination of an ancient locale, a horror-loving mother, and a family full of storytellers, made it inevitable that he would end up telling stories for a living. Since those formative years, he has written five novels, over a hundred short stories, six collections, and edited four acclaimed anthologies. In 2004, he was honored with the Bram Stoker Award for his novella The Turtle Boy.
Kealan has worked as a waiter, a drama teacher, a mapmaker, a security guard, an assembly-line worker at Apple Computers, a salesman (for a day), a bartender, landscape gardener, vocalist in a rock band, curriculum content editor, fiction editor at Gothic.net, and, most recently, a fraud investigator.
When not writing, Kealan designs book covers through his company Elderlemon Design.
A number of his books have been optioned for film.
About Ronald Malfi
Ronald Malfi is the award-winning author of the novels Floating Staircase, Snow, The Ascent, and several others. Most recognized for his haunting, literary style and memorable characters, Malfi’s dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres. He currently lives along the Chesapeake Bay where he is at work on his next book.
About Tim Lebbon
I”ve been published for over fifteen years and have written over thirty horror, dark fantasy and tie-in novels, including Coldbrook, The Cabin in the Woods, the Noreela series of fantasy books (Dusk, Dawn, Fallen and The Island), the NY Times Bestselling novelisation of the movie 30 Days of Night, Alien: Out of the Shadows, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void, and several books with Christopher Golden, including The Map of Moments and The Secret Journeys of Jack London. I’ve also written hundreds of novellas and novels. I’ve won several prestigious awards, and some of my work has been optioned for the big screen.
A long time lover of horror fiction and film and "for fun" writer of the same, I enjoy reviewing what I consume, forever seeking the next high that comes with discovering the next great read.