For decades, horror, as a genre, has captivated readers with stories of the macabre and the dark. Be it a blood-sucking immortal count who seeks a bride or a scientist who reanimates a corpse only to bring mortal danger to everyone around, it is the eeriness that truly captures the attention of readers and cine-goers alike. And when it comes to books, they tell the best horror stories creating a sense of dread, an overbearing feeling of doom and the fear of being watched in the hearts of readers.
Horror has also evolved over the years. For instance, readers would note that the setting has changed from what was once the haunted mansions deep inside the woods to what is a luxury high-rise in the middle of a big city. In fact, it may not be a straightforward good vs. evil theme anymore; shades of grey can be seen in all characters.
Horror stories today also deal with complex issues such as race and gender while narrating a story that is sure to make one wonder if it is the humans who are more dangerous than the supernatural.
These upcoming books tread this modern territory. Surely, they are tales of hauntings, but they also lift that otherworldly veil to expose the brutality of the living.
Exciting horror stories coming up through 2023
The Night House by Jo Nesbø
Release date: 3 October
Jo Nesbø is one of Norway’s biggest-selling authors, best known for his cult classic detective series, featuring anti-hero police detective Harry Hole. The Snowman, one of the Harry Hole books, was adapted into the 2017 film of the same name with Michael Fassbender playing the detective.
Nesbø is also one of the country’s richest authors, with book royalties amounting to more than USD 5 million a year. Even though The Night House is not a Hole adventure, the anticipation of the English translation of the horror novel is very high, for Nesbø’s fame alone.
The Night House is a coming-of-age story revolving around 14-year-old Richard Elauved. The young boy has been recently orphaned and is forced to move in with his aunt and uncle in the remote town of Ballantyne.
Strange events start happening to his classmates — he sees one of them getting sucked into a telephone booth, but no one believes him. When Richard decides to investigate on his own, he realises that dark magic is threatening the entire town. But the town is pointing fingers at him, while voices in his head say “She’s going to burn. The girl you love is going to burn. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Edenville by Sam Rebelein
Release date: 3 October
Edenville is the debut novel of Sam Rebelein, who is an accomplished horror storyteller. Barnes & Noble mentioned his story, “Black Fanged Thing,” as a standout piece of 2018 on its ‘Sci-fi & Fantasy Blog.’
Edenville is about a novelist named Cam P. Marion, whose debut novel has not been a success. Yet, he is invited to become the writer-in-residence at New York’s Edenville College. While he is looking forward to it, his girlfriend, Quinn, isn’t because she grew up in the small town near Edenville and believes in the tales of mysterious disappearances around it. Yet, Quinn reluctantly follows Cam to Edenville College.
There they realise that despite all the semblance of normalcy in the small town, there is something terrible underneath as Cam’s nightmares intensify and a cosmic disturbance unravels.
Last to Leave the Room by Caitlin Starling
Release date: 10 October
Last to Leave the Room is the third novel by acclaimed American horror writer Caitlin Starling. The anticipation around the book is understandably high given that her 2019 debut novel The Luminous Dead won the Ladies of Horror Fiction Award for Best Debut Novel and was nominated for Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. Her second book, The Death of Jane Lawrence, released in 2021, was a USA Today National Bestseller.
In Last to Leave the Room, Starling’s protagonist is Dr. Tamsin Rivers — a self-centred researcher in the sinking city of San Siroco. Despite her brilliance, Dr. Rivers is unable to provide answers as to why the city is sinking. As the corporation funding her mysterious project gets impatient, she finds a strange door at the bottom of her basement out of which emerges her doppelgänger who is the exact opposite of the cold and calculating Dr. Rivers. Confounded by the door, the researcher must now find answers as to what lies behind it and what her doppelgänger actually wants.
Bluebeard’s Castle by Anna Biller
Release date: 10 October
Bluebeard’s Castle is the latest in a long line of interpretations in the popular culture of the 17th-century French folktale about a noble who killed his wives. But there is a specific reason why it offers a subversive take on romance and Gothic erotica: its author, Anna Biller, is a well-known actor and filmmaker with a feminist worldview. This is reflected in her films such as the erotic comedy Viva (2007) and horror comedy The Love Witch (2016).
Bluebeard’s Castle is Biller’s first book. Commenting about the book in her blog, she writes, “It takes inspiration from Gothic novels such as Rebecca, Dracula, and Jane Eyre, classic Hollywood women’s pictures about dangerous, gaslighting men such as Gaslight and Rosemary’s Baby, and the covers of vintage Gothic romances which feature glamorous women running from houses.”
The story is about Judith Moore, a successful mystery writer living in present-day London who has a particular fascination for fairy tales, classic novels and vintage movies. She meets a handsome baron named Gavin Garnet, falls in love and gets married to him quickly. Gavin takes Judith to his Gothic revival castle, Manderfield, where Judith discovers that there is a very dark side to Gavin’s personality, which is repulsive and abusive. Yet, Judith is strangely captivated by what she thinks is love.
Wrath Becomes Her by Aden Polydoros
Release date: 10 October
The Jewish historical horror fantasy has been described by initial reviewers as “Frankenstein meets Inglourious Basterds,” underlining Polydoros’ ability to merge Mary Shelley’s acclaimed 19th-century horror masterpiece with the 2009 vengeance film by Quentin Tarantino.
Set in Lithuania in 1943, the story of Wrath Becomes Her revolves around a golem named Vera. She has been created by a Jewish WWI veteran named Ezra, using forbidden magic and the body of his daughter, Chaya, who has been killed by the Nazis. Ezra wants golem Vera to exact vengeance upon the Nazis. Although the powerful Vera is capable of that, bits of memory of Chaya within her create complications, especially when she meets Akiva, the Jewish boy Chaya loved.
Nestlings by Nat Cassidy
Release date: 31 October
Listed in the most anticipated horror books and crime fiction of 2023 by the reputed Paste magazine and CrimeReads, respectively, Nestlings has secured a coveted place in the must-haves catalogue of lovers of both genres.
The lens is on Ana and Reid, a couple who are struggling following the complicated birth of their first child. Ana has been left paralyzed and developed a feeling of resentment for her own child. Reid is also struggling with the complexities that have developed in the relationship. Looking to break free, the couple find a golden opportunity when they win an apartment in one of Manhattan’s most famous buildings — the Deptford.
Ana is somewhat apprehensive about their new residence and after a while, the couple spot needle-like bite marks on their baby.
What makes the book quite noteworthy in the eyes of early reviewers is that the creepiness of the story is perfectly balanced with its rather magnificent setting: a luxury building in Manhattan that overlooks Central Park and offers some of the best views of the city. Cassidy, an accomplished actor and playwright, also presents antisemitism as a horror theme in the book.
The Reformatory by Tananarive Due
Release date: 31 October
Tananarive Due is one of the brightest stars in the galaxy of horror fiction writers of the modern age. She is recognised as one of the foremost champions in Black speculative fiction. She has been honoured with the American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award and a British Fantasy Award. Her works are also preserved in the US Library of Congress.
Due teaches Black horror and Afrofuturism at the University of California in Los Angeles. The subjects are also the focus of her literary masterpieces, the latest addition to which is The Reformatory.
But what makes her latest work more personal is that its story is inspired by her own great-uncle’s horrific experience at Dozier School, a State-run reform school infamous for the deaths of several young inmates because of brutality who were then buried on its premises. One of those buried was Due’s great-uncle.
“For Robert Stephens, my great-uncle who died at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, in 1937. He was fifteen years old,” the book’s dedication reads.
The Reformatory is as much a ghost story as it is about racism. It follows a 12-year-old African American Robbie Stephens, Jr. who has been sentenced for kicking a white boy, the son of a landowner, while defending his older sister, Gloria. He is sent to a reformatory known as Gracetown School for Boys, where Robbie is badly treated by its corrupt warden, Haddock.
But Robbie has a gift: he can see ghosts of the boys who died at the reformatory. Haddock wants to get rid of them, but the ghosts want revenge and freedom. While Robbie is struggling in the reformatory, his sister is trying to set him free by legal means.
Gorgeous Gruesome Faces by Linda Cheng
Release date: 7 November
Gorgeous Gruesome Faces is a psychological horror set within the world of glitz and glamour of K-pop. Sunny Lee, Mina Park and Candie Tsai are the three members of the Asian American girl group Sweet Cadence. They were destined for success until Mina met a tragic death following a scandal.
The strain pulls Candie and Sunny apart. A couple of years later, Sunny discovers that Candie is preparing for a new K-pop launch. Wanting to know the answers to why Mina died, Sunny joins the workshop for the group to get close to Candie. But suddenly, the bodies of competitors turn up mutilated and maimed. Sunny suspects that a dark, otherworldly secret that she shares with Candie might have got to do with all the happenings and the death of Mina.
(Hero image: Courtesy of Joanna Kosinska/@joannakosinska/Unsplash; Featured image: Bruno Guerrero/@prey4bokeh/Unsplash)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– What is the world’s shortest horror story?
The world’s shortest horror story, Knock, was written and published by Fredric Brown in December 1948. It has only two sentences: “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”
– Where to read horror stories?
Horror stories can be read on Amazon Kindle or, conversely, by purchasing paperback/hardback editions of books.