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Blood-curdling Halloween horror
What could be more appropriate on Halloween than reading books guaranteed to make you check under the bed and inside the closet before you go to sleep at night? If you're tired of reading the same old horror classics, don't worry; this fall there is a cornucopia of new novels guaranteed to give you the creeps.
Start your scary sojourn by sampling the work of Tananarive Due, the acclaimed author of such novels as The Between, My Soul to Keep and The Living Blooduniquely disturbing stories that effortlessly mix the horror, mystery and supernatural genres.
In her latest book, The Good House (Atria, $25, 496 pages, ISBN 0743449002), Due has written her best (and scariest) work to date. Like her other books, The Good House takes strong African-American themes as the foundation for a twisted tale. Every summer, Angela Toussaint, a lawyer living in California, visits her deceased grandmother's house with her estranged husband and teenage son Corey. The old house, which is located in a rural town in Washington state, is known as the Good House by locals, in part because Angela's grandmother Marie, a secret practitioner of voodoo, grew powerful medicinal herbs that helped area residents with a variety of ailments.
But Angela's summer getaway quickly turns into a nightmare when her son commits suicide in the cellar. Years later, after Angela gets out of a mental hospital, she goes back to the Good House to figure out why Corey killed himself. What she uncoversa family curse that goes back generationswill not only put her own life in jeopardy, but everyone close to her as well.
With her new book, Due ascends into the realm of titans like Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub. The Good House is intelligent, hypnotic, unnerving: a singular work of horror.
Next up on our horrific tour is John Shirley, whose new novel, Crawlers (Del Rey, $14.95, 400 pages, ISBN 0345446526), is perhaps his most commercially palatable work to date. With Crawlers, he not only seamlessly merges horror and cyberpunk in a gruesomely explicit storyline guaranteed to frighten, he also manages to satirize modern-day society as only he knows how.
When a secret military project involving nanotechnology goes terribly wrong and rogue nano-entities begin contaminating a quiet California suburb, Major Henri Stanner is called in to assess the extent of the damage. What he finds is the stuff of nightmares. The breakouts have infected a growing number of humans and animals and have begun ripping them apart and putting them back together in new, semi-mechanical forms. The cluster mind calls itself The All of Us and its mission is simple: to spawn. When Stanner realizes the government is covering up the whole disaster, he is forced to take matters into his own hands.
Crawlers has Shirley's trademark intensity, moral outrage and critical wit but also includes deep social and political allegories as well. What happens when humanity becomes too dependent upon technology? Are we sacrificing consciousness for mindless pleasures and superfluous comforts? What if sentient technology turns the tables and begins using us as its tool? Shirley's latest is as terrifying as it is thought-provoking.
Peter Straub's novel, lost boy lost girl (Random House, $24.95, 281 pages, ISBN 1400060923) is a truly groundbreaking work from the renowned master of literary horror. In it, he revisits characters from previous works: popular writer Timothy Underhill (Koko and The Throat) and visionary crime solver Tom Pasmore (Mystery).
Upon hearing of the death of his sister-in-law, Underhill returns to his hometown of Millhaven (Straub's much-visited Illinois suburb, his answer to Stephen King's Castle Rock) to console his brother Philip and his teenage nephew Mark. Philip's wife, Nancy, has, for no apparent reason, committed suicide. Not surprisingly, Philip is beside himself, but Tim is more concerned with 15-year old Mark, who seems to be harboring dark secrets.
After the funeral, Tim returns to New York City and a few days later receives a frantic call from his brother looking for Mark. Tim returns to Millhaven in search of his nephew only to find a serial killer on the loose, an abandoned house in the neighborhood emanating evil and a horrible family secret.
With lost boy lost girl, Straub has produced much more than a psychological thriller. It's a ghost story, a murder mystery, a beautiful love story, a gruesome account of a serial killer and, ultimately, a heartfelt study of the tenuous bonds that hold family togetherthrough good times and bad. Incredibly complex, mesmerizing and chilling, lost boy lost girl is classic Straub.
If you're still searching for something to curdle your blood when Halloween arrives, Anne Rice's latest literary treatwhich is aptly available October 31stwill surely do the trick. Rice's newest offering, Blood Canticle, continues her wildly popular Vampire Chronicles (Interview with the Vampire, The Queen of the Damned). It seems that the legendary vampire Lestat is having something of an identity crisis. Formerly known for his evil ways, he's now more concerned with love and loyalty. Rice has said that Blood Canticle will mark Lestat's final appearance, but as we all know, a good vampire is hard to keep down.