2016 Reading Wrap-Up: The Weirdest, Scariest, and Grossest Books I’ve Read This Year!

From the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” vibe of Micro to the classic demoniac puking of My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a tribute to all of the nasty, creepy, nauseating, perverted, horrifying literature I’ve ingested since January 1, 2016:

Most Likely to make you skip dinner: 

The Troop by Nick Cutter

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A mash-up of Cronenbergian body horror and Freudian nightmares, this book will worm its way into your skin with its grotesque imagery. A Lord of the Flies mentality only increases the horror.

The “Consumerism KILLS!” Award:

The Store by Bentley Little/Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

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You’ll find everything you never knew you needed, whether it’s the array of dangerous and illegal merchandise in The Store or that haunted torture chair perfect for your reading nook. The price is only your soul!

More Baffling than your GPS

The Ritual by Adam Nevill/Ring by Koji Suzuki

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Our wonderful human brains are wired to constantly evaluate our environment and make predictions, like whether that jerk is actually going to stop at the stop sign. It’s why we love mystery stories and why a good twist always startles and excites us.

Some stories, though, are better left untwisted. The Ritual begins as a morons lost in the woods story and takes a hard left into territory better left unexplored, and to this day I’m still thinking about whether I liked it or not.

The Ring is a rare case of the movie improving upon the book. Because nothing kills atmosphere like misogyny and transphobia. God, this book was so bad!

Overrated, like Buffalo Wild Wings

Annhilation by Jeff VanDerMeer/Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

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Seriously, B-Dubs (as the kids call it) isn’t that great.

I’ll never understand the phenomenon of Annihilation. I saw it pop up on “best of” lists everywhere after I read it. It’s not even mediocre. It’s bad. The characters are sketchy, and despite the propulsive nature of “Area X,” the book is boring. It reads like an outline for a longer book. I read the second book, Authority, and somehow made it through, but finally came to terms with bailing on a book in the middle of Acceptance. My boat was not floated.

Carrion Comfort was disappointing because it was both hugely hyped and written by the brilliant Dan Simmons. The writing and characterization was solid, but the plot seemed to follow a by-the-numbers Evil vs. Good scenario that didn’t allow for ambiguity.

Proof that “L’enfer, c’est l’autres”

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi/The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

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Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn! – Robert Burns

A true story and a novel based on a true story, both books will have you up at night with despair at the cruelty we can inflict on others. Pain reverberates out like a shockwave, down through centuries and bloodlines. Brutality is delivered with a laugh. People die in service of (always) false gods and despair. As Dostoyevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov, “no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.”

Grooviest Creature

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

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One of the most inventive horror stories to come along in a while, our very sight betrays us. If we don’t look, we stay alive. But the temptation to look…the scariest things you see are with your eyes closed.

Squarest Creature

Wolfen by Whitley Strieber

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Semi-sentient wolf creatures with terrifying claws and feelings. Proto-Twilight Werewolves. This is the result of half-ass anthropomorphization. What’s scary about creatures is that they kill without discrimination, without intent, without remorse. But give them a love story and suddenly they’re just big fluffy cuddlebears (with teeth for shredding people like pulled pork.)

By the Power of Shirley Jackson!

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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Anyone who pays tribute to my personal Jesus Shirley Jackson is deserving of accolades. Tremblay, who also happens to sit on the board of directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards gives numerous shout-outs to the Great One in Ghosts, from the protagonist’s name to certain plot elements. Unreliable narrator and questionable existence of supernatural elements? Sounds familiar…

The “You Deserve to Die You Idiot” Award

Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates

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How can a story with such a bitchin’ setting be so lame? Honestly. How did you expect to hike Mt. Fuji with sneakers and a package of Japanese noodles? Is there a staircase to the top? Why do you suck so much, young people? I wish this book were a little better, because I enjoyed watching you die.

Fire and Ice: Best Dystopian Nightmare

Swan Song by Robert McCammon

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Sister Creep, makin’ it happen!

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I have a terrible deformity caused by radiation poisoning!

No, I don’t feel fine.

 

 

 

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