We decided to do something a bit different this month—instead of just one Mind Meld at the end of the month, we’re doing four, covering four times as many of our favorite scary reads. We’ve asked our bookish friends near and far about their current favorite horror favorites, and are breaking them out by the type of monster or supernatural foe featured, from werewolves, to witches, to ghosts, zombies, vampires, and more.
First up: What are your favorite books or stories featuring werewolves or giant monsters?
The Wolf’s Hour, by Robert McCammon
In this, the werewolf is a protagonist, and what’s scary isn’t the werewolf, who is an Allied spy in WWII. No, what’s scary are the Nazis: the worst of the worst, monsters to the last, and if you wanna see a werewolf tear through them, this is the book. Then when you’re done, read everything else McCammon has written.
Attack on Titan, by Hajime Isayama
A dystopia in which humanity cowers behind walls while giant, man-eating monsters rule the world. I realized at some point that Attack on Titan is a retread of the tired zombie genre, made scary again! You’ve got the same “desperate band of survivors versus mindless hordes” dynamic, and the Titans have the same uncanny-valley scariness that good zombies have, almost human but warped and twisted. But instead of slow, shambling walkers they’re sprinting, fifty-foot behemoths who swallow humans whole.
A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny
I don’t even know where you would fit this in because it has a bit of everything (at least, if I’m remembering right, werewolves, vampires, witches, and…zombies? well, Frankenstein’s monster, anyway) but one of my favorites is Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October. It’s suspenseful, funny, scary, and satisfying. Told from a dog’s eye view with an excellently strong voice, it teases you into the mystery of what’s going on as the action builds. Is this book the reason for my fascination with Victorian-set mysteries? QUITE POSSIBLY.
The Devourers, by Indra Das
Why’s it scary? First off, as a writer who continually puts down his own work, it’s TERRIFYING to me how well Das writes. Second, I’ve never read creatures more alien to human emotion than the “werewolves” (it’s complicated) in The Devourers. It’s like reading about a whole race of psychopaths.
Zachary Jernigan is the author of No Return and the Nebula Award-nominated Shower of Stones; both books are compiled in Jeroun: The Collected Omnibus. He has no website and little social media presence, which is lucky for you because he’s kind of a butthead.
The Bas-Lag novels, by China Miéville
Of all the monsters in literature, some of my favorites are the grotesqueries invented by China Miéville, particularly in his early New Crobuzon novels, Perdito Street Station and The Scar. New Crobuzon is a squalid, industrial age nightmare of a city were criminals are punished by being “remade”, through a combination of surgery and magic, into horrific parodies that often fit their crimes. For example, a man who murdered a child is forced to have body parts from the child grafted onto his chest so he never forgets his crime. In such a world, where humans are already misshapen and cruel, only creatures that are truly Other can be considered proper monsters.
While Perdito Street Station is an excellent introduction to New Crobuzon, and has some genuinely stunning monsters, such as the slakemoths, and the Weaver, my heart belongs to the second New Crobuzon novel, The Scar. In particular I love the giant kraken-like sea monster known as the avanc. To my mind, a true monster should be more than just a hideous beast or threatening apparition. It should inspire a certain amount of awe. A sublime sense of wonder that intertwines with the skin-crawling horror and reminds us there will always be things in this world that are beyond our comprehension. Ideally, a monster should also inspire within us an unsettling sense of recognition. A monster has really done its job when we see a tiny bit of ourselves in it, even while it repulses us. The avanc is a sea monster several miles long who is summoned from the depths of the ocean only to be subdued and forced into servitude as the propulsion system for a floating city bent on harnessing a vast power located in a rift in reality. With the subjugation of this hideous yet majestic creature, the reader is given the conflicting emotions of relief for the protagonists who survive, but pity for the avanc who may have to live out the remainder of its days dragging a city across the ocean. So we’re left with the same lingering question these sorts of stories always provoke: who is more horrifying, monster or man?
Jon Skovron is the author of seven novels. His epic fantasy trilogy, The Empire of Storms, concludes next month with Blood and Tempest. The trilogy includes such monsters as zombies, were-owls, giant naked mole rats, and a kraken.
The Howling, by Gary Brandner
My absolute favorite werewolf novel has to be The Wolf’s Hour by Robert R. McCammon. The main character is an Allied spy working behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany during World War 2…oh, and he also just happens to be a werewolf! How can you go wrong? I do feel like most of my favorite werewolf novels were published in the 1980s, though, including The Wolf’s Hour, Moondeath by Rick Hautala, and The Howling by Gary Brandner.
Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of such novels as Snowblind, Ararat, Of Saints and Shadows, and Tin Men. With Mike Mignola, he is the co-creator of two cult favorite comic book series, Baltimore and Joe Golem: Occult Detective. As an editor, his anthologies include Seize the Night, Dark Cities, and The New Dead, among others.
Daikaiju: Revenge of the Giant Monsters, edited by Robert Hood
I’ve loved daikaiju for as long as I’ve known them, and Robert Hood’s anthologies contain so many different varieties that those volumes are my go-to place for them.
Dr Gillian Polack is a writer, editor, scholar, fan and teacher. Gillian is a member of Book View Café and blogs for The History Girls. She was the 2014 GUFF delegate. Two novels and her 2016 research monograph were shortlisted for awards. Gillian edited two anthologies (one award-shortlisted) and has seventeen short stories published. You can find her on Twitter: @gillianpolack.
The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter
In this beautiful collection of revisionist fairy tales, Carter reinvigorates the legend of the werewolf– in ‘The Company of Wolves’ the werewolf is infinitely seductive, dangerously so, while in ‘Wolf Alice’ there’s an unexpected gender reversal, where the werewolf, traditionally male, is revealed as a feral girl. And all recounted in Carter’s compelling, velvety prose, dripping with rich descriptive passages.
Tracy Fahey is a Gothic fiction writer. Her short fiction is published in fifteen US and UK anthologies. In 2017 her first collection, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was nominated for a British Fantasy Award. Her new novel, The Girl In The Fort is released in October 2017 by Fennec, an imprint of Fox Spirit Press.
Clive Barker’s “In the Hills, the Cities“
This story tells of two cities whose populations bind themselves together to create Podujevo and Popolac, giants operated by 40,000 people each. One collapses, crushing its makers. The other goes mad with shock. A gut wrenching, terrifying metaphor about mass panic and savage instinct.
What are some of your favorite werewolf and giant monster reads?