My greatest literary loves touch on the darkest elements of the human experience, where we confront our own mortality and the existential dread of an unforgiving cosmos. I’m delighted to share a small selection of some of the dark, twisted, or otherwise unsettling novels I’ve enjoyed over the past couple of years.
Beautifully-paced and dreadful in the most satisfying of ways, with an emotional punch and depth that elevates the story well beyond mere suspense. Everything about this book is claustrophobic, from the setting and theme to the limited cast of only two characters.
Inspired by the classic cosmic horror tale, “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood. Set within the quirky walls of a museum of oddities, this book balances its unforgiving horrors against a thoroughly likable cast and a story full of heart and humor.
Swedish author Camilla Sten brings us an atmospheric journey with a documentary film crew, an abandoned village, and a vanished cult. Sinister dealings from the past trickle down through the generations, propelling the protagonist toward her family’s long-kept secrets.
A collection of interconnected macabre stories that evoke a sense of alienation and displaced desperation, with exceptional attention to atmospheric detail. Revenge drips with high strangeness and quiet suffering, artfully conveyed through Ogawa’s subtle voice.
A group of precocious teens and children confront the apocalyptic consequences of climate change and late capitalism while their parents drift on a cloud of inebriation and denial. Astute, clever, and surprisingly beautiful amidst its (very human) horrors.
If you’ve ever thought, “I need a supernatural Donner Party novel,” then The Hunger is for you. Katsu depicts this agonizing journey through a restrained and brutal drip-feed of uncanny threats, breathing fresh dread into an already horrifying historical event.
J Koyanagi writes horror and science fiction with an eye toward exploring consciousness, mortality, and embodiment. Her novel Ascension landed on the James Tiptree Jr. Honor List, her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies, and she is a staff writer on the series Ninth Step Murders and Ctrl-Alt-Destroy through Realm. In her free time, she plays D&D and thinks about how good dogs are.