Thursday, November 6, 2008

Scary Books

I know you're thinking, heidenkind, why didn't you do a list of scary books near Halloween when it would have been timelier and seasonally appropriate? Well, first of all, I got the idea from Babbling About Books, which I didn't read until the day of Halloween. And second of all, I don't read much scary fiction. It's not that I have anything against scary books; but I do have a mild obsession with romances, and it's hard to find scary books with romance in them. So it took me a while to come up with my picks.

In any event, better late than never, here they are:

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas is a fry-cook in Pico Mundo, a small desert town in California. Odd can only handle relatively simple jobs like line-order cooking because his true full-time occupation in communing with the dead. Although Odd makes a habit of catching killers, here he finds himself facing something truly evil. This book was a strange combination of charming and terrifying. Charming because of the main charactersOdd, Stormy, Ozzie and Chesterand the small town they live in; terrifying because of the pervading sense of doom that builds during the course of the book and Odd's unique vision of it. Despite the fact that Odd can see dead people, he knows from personal experience that what's truly terrifying is the evil humans visit upon one another, not supernatural beings.

Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

The Blood is a race of magic-users who rule the fantasy world of Bishop's books. Typically, men and women rule together; but tradition has been corrupted and twisted so that men serve as slaves to one powerful witch who wishes to rule the entire world. Children with powerful magical gifts are killed or crippled early so that they won't pose a threat to the witch's power. The only members of the Blood who could possibly challenge her are Daemon and Lucivar, the last surviving sons of Saetan, whose destinies were foretold to be tied up with the most powerful witch ever born, the only woman who will be able to take down the corrupt system of Blood and restore order to the kingdoms. They've waited for her for over 400 years; but once they finally find her, will they be able to keep her safe? This book goes to some pretty dark places; that's obvious from the first page. But it wasn't until the end that it becomes truly scary—and again, it's because of a building sense of evil in the book and the cruelty humans inflict on one another.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Have I mentioned I don't like serial killers? Serial killers bad. I found this book extremely disturbing, especially because it brings home just how random violence can be. There you are, sleeping in your ranch house out in the middle of nowheres, prairieville, and suddenly two men can break into your house and kill you and your entire family. Like, holy crap. I also learned from this book that bringing killers to justice doesn't do anything to make the friends and family left behind after a murder feel better, and that the death penalty is bull shit.

Still Life With Murder by P. B. Ryan

This isn't a scary book per se. But it is extremely dark and disturbing. The setting is post-Bellum Boston, and Nell Sweeney is governess for a Brahmin family who is asked to look after her mistress' wayward son. Said wayward son is 1. a Civil War vet who survived Andersonville and watched his brother die there (flashbacks, anyone?), 2. an inveterate gambler, and 3. an opium fiend, among other things. The scene where Nell watches him go through the ritual of smoking opium is emblazoned on my mind forever.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Note to Sylvia Plath: I don't want to follow where your sad, twisted mind is going. Nope, I sure as hell don't.


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