IT, by Stephen King
Stephen King’s IT is one of his most successful novels, and with good reason: it’s absolutely terrifying. A tale of two time periods, childhood and adulthood, it follows the lives of the ‘Losers’ Club’: a group of friends in Derry, as they face a resurgent evil buried deep within their town.
A lengthy text at over 1100 pages, IT bears many trademarks of King; alcoholism, dejection, and broken families (to name a few). King has a marvellous way of intertwining the lives of characters in a manner that gives life and depth to these individuals, and makes their interpersonal struggles have a real impact (exemplified by the incredibly poignant closing sentence).
This novel is scary not least because of the monster, but because of the realistic and equally horrifying characterisation of many facets of human evil. As Halloween draws closer, this book should be on the top of your ‘to read’ list!
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
This is a fast paced and utterly engrossing psychological thriller: a must-read for any ‘Gone Girl’ enthusiast. Narrators Rachel, Anna and Megan – an obsessive blackout alcoholic, a liar and a cheat – become intertwined in a messy explosion of lost truths. Unemployed and divorced, Rachel tries to hide her failures by taking the same commute, spending the day drowning her lonely, messy life in alcohol and fantasising about what her life could have been by speculating over the young couple she sees out of the window daily. Skillfully juggling defective perspectives, Hawkins explores shifting identities, the effect of excessive alcohol and the impact of destructive relationships. Each character is both repelling and drawing, and when Megan goes missing, everyone becomes a suspect. The nerve-wracking and twisted ending left me spooked to the core and I would definitely recommend it.
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
Under the citrus skin of this twee-sounding title do not lie literary mechanics powered by blood, gore or the paranormal, but instead the visceral and obsessive propulsion to brutality of our adolescent ‘droog’ Alex, who guides us through his personal dreamland (our dystopia) of ‘moloko’, Beethoven and ‘ultraviolence’.
With each stomach-turningly abhorrent scene translated through our protagonist’s native ‘Nadsat’, a kind of Anglo-Russian sociopathic street talk, the reader is left alarmingly and uncomfortably close to the action. The only salvation? Being able to close the book when it all gets too much.
Yet here lies the problem. This grotesque exploration of a young lad’s habitual evildoings is too gripping and too well-written to put down – it grips, and it drags you through its terrifying landscape of orgiastic beatings and State-inflicted punishment, all soundtracked by “Lovely Ludwig Van”. You’ll never be able to listen to the Ninth Symphony again.
Fiona Potigny, News Editor
Skin, by Roald Dahl
It may seem odd that I’ve chosen a Roald Dahl story as the scariest tale that I have read – he is best known for his light-hearted children’s stories. However, ‘Skin’ is a psychologically disturbing commentary on the greed of society that showcases Dahl’s immense ability to shock and appall.
It tells the tale of an old, poor man who has a woman’s portrait tattooed on his back by a very famous artist, Soutine. He receives an offer of employment at the Hotel Bristol where all he is obliged to do is show off his tattoo to the guests. He accepts this offer, dreaming of how much better his life will be. However, a few weeks later, a heavily varnished portrait of a woman by Soutine turns up at auction and we find out that there is no hotel called the Bristol.
The last line leaves us wondering how an art collector could have possibly obtained a brand new painting by Soutine, and the fate of that poor old man…
The Dark Tower, by Stephen King
Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is surprisingly light on horror for the most part; it’s dark, but only occasionally does it transgress over to full-blown Western-flavoured horror. But when it does – it really does. There I was, sitting perfectly comfortably, reading something that I’d safely categorised as a Lord of the Rings knockoff with cowboys, when suddenly Stephen King did what he does best – make me shit myself in fear. The scene where, in order to travel between dimensions, one character must escape a house that is trying to eat him while another is simultaneously raped by a demon is one of the few times when I’ve actually started to read faster just to get away from it as fast as I can. If you’re into horror out of left-field, then The Dark Tower is definitely the place to start.