We are almost through October, and unless you have a free five hours a day, there is no time for a classic horror doorstop like It by Stephen King or House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski this month. Thankfully, horror novellas have been having a massive resurgence. Here are five great ones you can read before Halloween.
Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
Tender is the Flesh paints a horrifying dystopia. Agustina Bazterrica’s second book (first translated into English) paints the picture of a future world where animals have almost all gone extinct, leaving the denizens of this world to go vegetarian or cannibal. Marcos works in a slaughterhouse until his boss gifts him a human to slaughter at home one day. He finds that he cannot do it, but he will face severe consequences if caught with the cattle still alive.
The Writhing Skies by Betty Rocksteady
Betty Rocksteady is a fantastic writer and illustrator. The Writhing Skies showcases her ability to slither into the brains of readers. Putting it into words is difficult, but there is something greasy about Rocksteady’s fiction, something that will stick with you long after you put her books down. The Writhing Skies tells the story of Sarah navigating an alternate reality and features twenty of Rocksteady’s illustrations. In the novella, Rocksteady manages to creep readers out while also addressing social issues and difficult to deal with emotions.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
H.P. Lovecraft is famous for two things: the Cthulhu mythos and virulent racism. “The Horror at Red Hook” is arguably his most racist story, which is what makes Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom so incredible. LaValle’s novella is an adaptation of that Lovecraft story, which removes many racist elements by including scenes from the perspectives of characters that Lovecraft treated as caricatures. However, all of it works and does not take away from the cosmic horror Lovecraft was famous for.
We Need to Do Something by Max Booth III
We Need to Do Something by Max Booth III is a masterclass in pacing and ambiguity. It opens with a family sheltering in a bathroom during a tornado warning. They are trapped when a tree falls through the house, pinning the door shut. As time passes without food and alcohol, they break down. Strange things may be happening outside, and readers are left to wonder if teenager Melissa has caused the disaster.
We Need to Do Something was adapted into a film this year.
The Possession of Natalie Glasgow by Hailey Piper
Hailey Piper’s The Possession of Natalie Glasgow has one of the most original non-religious riffs on demonic possession. The genre was popularized by William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist and its film adaptation. Both are great, and it might be obvious, but it still bears stating: they were meant to scare audiences into converting to Catholicism. The Possession of Natalie Glasgow goes in a completely different direction without diminishing the horror.