Horror on the Horizon

Another year just begun, and the same old adage: Quot libros, quam breve tempus.

Here are 15 books scheduled for release in 2024 that I can’t wait to read (unless otherwise noted, descriptions are drawn from each book’s dedicated Amazon page).

 

The Haunting of Velkwood by Gwendolyn Kiste (S&S/Saga Press, March 5th)

From Bram Stoker Award­–winning author Gwendolyn Kiste comes a chilling novel about three childhood friends who miraculously survive the night everyone in their suburban hometown turned into ghosts—perfect for fans of Yellowjackets.

 

The Angel of Indian Lake by Stephen Graham Jones (S&S/Saga Press, March 26th)

The final installment in the most lauded trilogy in the history of horror novels picks up four years after Don’t Fear the Reaper as Jade returns to Proofrock, Idaho, to build a life after the years of sacrifice—only to find the Lake Witch is waiting for her in New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones’s finale.

 

A Better World by Sarah Langan (Atria Books, April 9th)

The author of Good Neighbors, “one of the creepiest, most unnerving deconstructions of American suburbia I’ve ever read” (NPR), returns with a cunning, out-of-the-box satirical thriller about a family’s odyssey into an exclusive enclave for the wealthy that might not be as ideal as it seems.

 

Midwestern Gothic by Scott Thomas (Inkshares, April 30th)

Close your eyes. Picture open plains, wheat stalks swaying gently in the wind. Picture the quaint Main Street of a one-stoplight town. Picture endless summers on sunny, tranquil lakes. With four provocative novellas, Kill Creek author and Kansas native Scott Thomas takes a hatchet to the idyllic tropes of the American heartland.

 

No One is Safe! by Phillip Fracassi (Lethe Press, April)

NO ONE IS SAFE presents fourteen stories of macabre, pulpy terror; a book filled with futuristic noir mysteries, science fiction thrillers, alien invasions, and old-school horror tales that will keep you up late into the night. Inside these covers, you’ll discover haunted dream journals and evil houses, birthday wishes gone wrong, a neighborhood cat that cures any disease, a flesh-eating beach, and mysterious skeletons on a hidden moon base. You’ll meet wise-cracking detectives, suburban vampires, murdered movie stars, and monsters of the deep. And remember—don’t get too attached to the characters you’ll meet on these pages because there’s no holding back in this book. Anything can happen, and no one is safe. Featuring an introduction by Ronald Malfi. [Lethe Press book description]

 

The House That Horror Built by Christina Henry (Berkley, May 14th)

A single mother working in the gothic mansion of a reclusive horror director stumbles upon terrifying secrets in the captivating new novel from the national bestselling author of Good Girls Don’t Die and Horseman.

 

You Like It Darker by Stephen King (Scribner, May 21st)

From legendary storyteller and master of short fiction Stephen King comes an extraordinary new collection of twelve short stories, many never-before-published, and some of his best EVER.

 

Horror Movie by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow, June 11th)

A chilling twist on the “cursed film” genre from the bestselling author of The Pallbearers Club and The Cabin at the End of the World.

 

Incidents Around the House by Josh Malerman (Del Rey, June 25th)

A chilling horror novel about a haunting, told from the perspective of a young girl whose troubled family is targeted by an entity she calls “Other Mommy,” from the New York Times bestselling author of Bird Box.

 

I Was a Teenage Slasher by Stephen Graham Jones (S&S/Saga Press, July 16th)

From New York Times bestselling horror writer Stephen Graham Jones comes a classic slasher story with a twist—perfect for fans of Riley Sager and Grady Hendrix.

 

Witchcraft for Wayward Girls by Grady Hendrix (Berkley, July 16th)

The latest horror comedy from bestseller Hendrix takes readers to a home for teen mothers in 1970s Florida, where five denizens discover latent talents for witchcraft. [Jump Scares book description]

 

Clown in a Cornfield 3: The Church of Frendo by Adam Cesare (HarperCollins, August 20th)

Quinn has just survived yet another bloody run-in with the murderous clown Frendo, but somehow still she knows this won’t be the last. Tired of being hunted and seeing innocent people hurt, Quinn believes the only way to beat the horror is to take justice into her own hands–and stop the Frendo followers herself. Little does she know that this path will take her across cornfields and state lines, to where she will have to face the most dangerous and bloody menace yet: True believers.

 

Crypt of the Moon Spider by Nathan Ballinggrud (Tor Nightfire, August 27th)

Book 1 of the Lunar Gothic Trilogy: a dark and dreamy tale of horror, corruption, and identity spun into the stickiest of webs.

 

Not a Speck of Light by Laird Barron (Bad Hand Books, September 10th)

Bram Stoker Award-winning author Laird Barron returns to the dark and dreadful with his fifth horror collection, which weaves sixteen weird tales into a mosaic of the bloody and the macabre.

 

The Unlikely Affair of the Crawling Razor by Joe R. Lansdale (Subterranean Press, release date TBA)

Edgar Allan Poe’s great private investigator, Auguste Dupin, gets a make-over in this unusual adventure involving a bloody mystery dipped deep in the strange.

A young woman comes to Dupin and his assistant for help concerning her increasingly obsessed brother; obsessed with the dark world that sets alongside our own, where strange creatures dwell and even stranger events occur. A world where our laws of physics are no longer applicable. A world with its own geometry of evil. It’s the place from which all our nightmares spring.

And now that dimensional world, due to spells and sacrifices, is wide open into our own, releasing the deadliest denizen of the dark—The God of the Razor.  It’s a case that will require all of Dupin’s knowledge and the highest courage from his faithful assistant, as they traverse the Parisian streets, as well as the famous Catacombs of skulls and bones, in search of answers. [Subterranean Press book description]

 

For the most comprehensive compendium of pending publications, check out Jump Scares’ 2024’s New Horror Books.

 

Goblin (Book Review)

Reviewers of Josh Malerman’s Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas (first published in 2017 as part of Earthling’s limited-edition Halloween book series; re-released as a Del Rey hardcover in 2021) have been quick to invoke Stephen King’s Derry. The comparison is no doubt apt–Malerman’s central locale (more Michigan city than small-town Maine enclave like Castle Rock) is rooted in/haunted by the otherworldly. There are also discernible echoes of Creepshow here, especially considering that the book’s opening frame story features a mysterious crate that seems to contain something monstrous. The reader, though, should not be led to expect simplistic, E.C.-style tales of garish comeuppance, as Malerman takes his horror narratives in various and unexpected directions.

The first novella, A Man in Slices, recalls Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. But the childhood friendship of Richard and the more mischievous Charles (Malerman’s answer to Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade) is extended here into adult life and grows increasingly troubled when Charles gets involved in a long-distance relationship with a woman requesting self-mutilating gestures of love that would make Van Gogh cringe. Matters shade off finely into mortuary darkness by narrative’s end, and the novella tantalizes with its introduction of the folklore of the typically-rainswept Goblin–a place where the sun sets a full minute before in neighboring towns; where people gather in “Perish Park” every winter to reenact a historic death-by-strangulation; where the off-limit North Woods are said to be the habitat not only of mythic owls but also a sinister witch whose whispering words can explode a person’s heart.

Kamp concerns a Goblin resident petrified of being scared to death, and who accordingly takes some drastic measures to ghost-proof his apartment. It’s a wonderfully offbeat premise, and since the eponymous protagonist is also a local-history buff, much more of Goblin’s shadowed history is revealed in the course of unsettling events. The tale deftly draws readers into Kamp’s dreadful fixation, demonstrating all the strengths of Malerman’s writing: original situations, filtered through the viewpoint of well-rounded, psychologically-complex characters.

The next novella, Happy Birthday, Hunter!, constitutes the book’s most satisfyingly shivery entry. The renowned big-game hunter, Neal Nash, decides to punctuate the night of his lavish birthday celebration by attempting to bag the missing piece from his trophy collection: one of Goblin’s Great Owls. Nash’s ill-advised adventure (with his colleagues) into the dark woods delivers white-knuckle tension. The plot is shot through with startling twists, and fortifies the bloodshed with a rich dose of irony.

Presto! conjures both Bradbury and Clive Barker (“The Last Illusion”), with its story of a Goblin child’s idolizing of a dark-carnivalesque figure whose magic act relies on more than just prestidigitation. But Roman Emperor is no standard villain–rather a tragic, Faustian character. A lot of the fiendish fun here comes from the discovery of the source of Emperor’s “dirty magic” and the macabre lengths the entertainer must go to to fulfill his end of the bargain.

A Mix-Up at the Zoo reads like Winesburg, Ohio by way of The Twilight Zone, in its focus on an obsessive, mentally-disintegrating “grotesque” of the Sherwood Anderson variety, a lonely young man feeling ground down by his dual positions at the Goblin zoo and slaughterhouse. Slow-moving and overlong (the shock ending is foretold by the very title), this is arguably the least successful of the book’s sextet of novellas. Nevertheless, the protagonist’s steady descent into nightmare is distinguished by a slew of disturbingly surreal images.

As a site of misdirection and twisting turn, the hedge maze in The Hedges forms a perfect symbol of Malerman’s narrative approach. When a precocious young girl is the first to solve the sculpted puzzle, she discovers something shocking hidden within the heart of the maze, but this MacGuffin (un-identified for much of the suspenseful novella) ultimately defies reader expectation. The action detours back into the North Woods, and includes a dogged pursuit by Goblin’s bizarre police force (who form a grim joke on the very notion of protecting and serving).

The book’s epilogue (which returns to the story of the strange crate) ties everything together, showing that the interconnections between the novellas involve more than the overlap of character- and place names. Reminiscent of Trick r’ Treat, Goblin‘s narrative folds back over itself: the events of the individual novellas all trace to a singular stormy night in town, where further grisly mayhem appears to be in store for the hapless residents at epilogue’s end. Malerman invokes some of the horror genre’s hoariest elements (cursed land; disgruntled/displaced Native Americans) yet still manages to produce an original work containing no shortage of surprise.

The (fictional) town of Goblin itself is not a nice place to visit, and you likely wouldn’t want to live–or die–there. But Malerman’s Goblin is an inviting haunted attraction, a creepy and darkly atmospheric novel/linked-collection that makes for a terrific read on a dreary autumn evening.

 

Frightfully Timely

An invisible scourge that originates in Asia before spreading devastation across the U.S….

Civilization brought to an abrupt standstill…

Sheltering at home to limit exposure to the dreaded threat…

Face coverings as a new way of (helping to save one’s) life…

No, I’m not talking about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rereading Josh Malerman’s 2014 novel Bird Box this weekend (in anticipation of the July 21st release of the sequel, Malorie), I was struck by just how relevant the book feels to the crisis currently gripping the country. Bird Box doesn’t deal with the spread of a terribly infectious disease per se, but Malerman’s clever variation on the post-apocalyptic novel (willful blindfolding becomes the permanent norm after the arrival of mysterious creatures whose merest glimpsing induces madness, homicidal violence and spectacular suicide in people) captures the panic and paranoia (but also the resilience and heroism) that have marked the past three-plus months. It dramatizes the need to adapt, and the struggle to survive in a world that is suddenly drastically different from the one people had grown up in (and accustomed to).

The novel affords the modern reader the opportunity to address fears (for the health and safety of one’s family, for example) that our present reality has made quite prominent. Bird Box forms a testament to the psychological import of horror fiction (make no mistake, the novel has the thoughtful extrapolation of science fiction, and all the suspense of a thriller, but is ultimately a work of horror featuring some unforgettably harrowing set-pieces). It exemplifies Stephen King’s notion (stated in the foreword to Night Shift) that “the horror story is not so different from the Welsh sineater, who was supposed to take upon himself the sins of the dear departed by partaking of the dear departed’s food. The tale of monstrosity and terror is a basket loosely packed with phobias; when the writer passes by, you take one of his imaginary horrors out of the basket and put one of your real ones in–at least for a time.”

Malerman’s forthcoming novel Malorie was completed prior to the outbreak of the ongoing pandemic, but it will still be interesting to see just how much the Bird Box sequel speaks to this uneasy moment that Americans are enduring.