Down with the King

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Down with the King

Great Horror Novels by Authors Other Than Stephen King

Yes, we all know that Stephen King is the reading world’s Master of Horror and Sultan of Scare, and that he can churn out books faster than I can write this list, but he doesn’t own the market on tales of terror. So if you’ve worked your way through his extensive repertoire, or hit all the King classics like Carrie and The Shining, or if his style just never grabbed you, perhaps some of these other selections might make your spine tingle and your skin crawl. But be warned: library copies do not come with night lights.
 
American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis

Wall Street maven Patrick Bateman is savvy, well-educated, refined, and handsome. And he’s earning a fortune that’s quickly rivaling the one he was born with. His days follow a meticulous routine designed to propel him towards physical and financial triumph. His nights follow an equally methodical routine, though of a far more sinister nature. Patrick Bateman is 26 years old, and he is living his own American Dream. It’s difficult to articulate what it is that’s so chilling about Ellis’s novel. On one hand, the vapidity of 1980’s business culture and the vacuous drones that fed into it is stomach-churning enough, but add in Patrick Bateman’s sociopathic rampage of blood against prostitutes and business rivals and this book will make you squirm long after the final page.
 
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

This one might be cheating a little bit as it’s written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hillstrom King, who goes by Joe Hill professionally. While there are certain similarities in writing style between father and son, Hill’s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, proves that he doesn’t need dad’s help to conjure his own unique brand of horror. The novel follows self-absorbed, washed up rock star Judas Coyne, a collector of the macabre and unseemly—sketches from serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, a used hangman’s noose—who is intrigued to find a ghost for sale on an online auction. He bids on the ghost and wins. When the black, heart-shaped box arrives, Judas eagerly opens it, and unleashes the catalyst for a trail of madness, murder, and suicide that will push the rocker to dark depths and the brink of insanity.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

A young family moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane. Then, they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Will Navidson and his longtime companion Karen Green are not prepared to face this impossibility, until the day that their two children wander off and their voices begin to return a different story—one of creature darkness, an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and an unholy growl that threatens to tear through the wall and destroy all the dreams on the other side. House of Leaves is not for the faint-hearted or for the wary reader. It’s a postmodern mind trip full of bizarre typography, narratives-within-narratives-within-narratives, and 200 pages of index that aren’t supplementary material, but an active agent of the story. And at almost 800 pages, this is a novel you’ve got to commit to finish, but House of Leaves is so engaging, so mysterious, and so hauntingly beautiful that if you do make it to the end, you won’t approach literature the same way again. Nor will you be able to face dark hallways for awhile.
 
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

In the autumn of 1981, the inconceivable comes to the Swedish suburb of Blackeberg. Discarded in the snow, the body of a teenage boy is found, drained of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar takes this as a sign that revenge has come at last, revenge against the bullies who torment him every day at school. But Oskar has other things on his mind as well. A new neighbor has moved in next door, a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it instantly. There is something wrong with her, though. Something…odd. The international bestseller that inspired the critically acclaimed Swedish horror film and its American remake is everything fans of the horror genre crave. Lindqvist tells the story in an off-kilter tone and builds an unhinged, dreamlike atmosphere that ratchets up the tension until it hits a fever-pitch in the devastating, and quietly heartbreaking, finale.
 
The Ritual by Adam Nevill

Four old university friends reunite on a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer the young, carefree men they were, they find they have little in common now, and so tensions quickly rise in the face of their failed attempts to reconnect. Frustrated and tired, they take a shortcut. Soon, they are lost, irritable, and hungry, and then they stumble upon an old, isolated house. Inside, they find the macabre remains of pagan sacrifices, primeval artifacts, and unidentifiable bones. The house is a dark place, home to a bestial presence that still stalks the dark forest around the house. As the four friends desperately struggle not to become prey to this vicious predator, they learn that death does not come easy in this ancient wood. If you like your horror with more psychological dread than guts and gore, The Ritual is an excellent choice. This book is all about dread—sweaty palms, tingling spine, and a paranoid, pounding pulse are all likely reactions you’ll have to reading this selection. The tight, descriptive prose makes you feel very close to the characters and their peril, and the atmosphere throughout is intense while still staying creepy.