1. Hell House by Richard Matheson
Psychics and para-scientists gather in a reputedly haunted house.
This book scared me so much that watching the movie version (considerably tamed) triggered my fear. A lot of people are much less susceptible than me, so I will say it’s a good haunted house story. It features mutilation, ungentle death, vicious psychological attacks and an intriguing back-story.
2. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
Dracula has taken over Great Britain by turning Queen Victoria into a vampire. A few people attempt to stop him.
Woven through the book are various literary characters and historical personages and it’s fun to pick them out. I was studying the Victoria era when I read this and it matched all the facts I had gleaned. Newman manages to be erudite and engrossing.
3. Vampire$ by John Steakley
A small, secret army kills vampires nested among humans.
First of all, I have to say that I could not bear to watch the movie by John Carpenter after about 4 minutes. John Carpenter was not fully responsible for the film: on his first location, his budget was unexpectedly cut in half. Still, I felt like my heroes were being spat on.
The vampires are definitely rapacious, evil predators here not glamorous or tragic figures. There are many, many human deaths and all of them matter. The only equivalent I can think of is Dog Soldiers. They both have a “we happy few” soldiers against an unknowable, powerful enemy vibe.
4. The Song of Kali by Dan Simmons
A reporter takes his wife and baby to India, and he manages to annoy a cult.
Simmons lays out the plot in the first couple of pages. Although his other books are excellent, halfway through the book, I started thinking this one was fairly mundane.
About a year later, I woke up from the worst nightmare I’d had since I was 13. I dreamed a family member suffered the same fate as a character in the book, and I had been unable to stop it.
Highly recommended, though I’m too disturbed by it to ever read it again.
5. The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
Aliens impregnate human women, and the subsequent spawn are telepathic psychopaths.
Anything by Wyndham is worth a look and this is a classic in the field. When I first read it, I was intrigued by the mixed feeling of repulsion and sympathy the alien brats inspired in me.