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.