Hello, Dear Readers! New year, new start! But let’s not forget all of the good that came before, and 2015 was indeed a banner year for horror fiction.
I’m doing this post in lieu of my usual year-in-review. While 2015 was full of many awesome things, it was also a difficult year in other ways that I think are best left to lie. So instead of reviewing my accomplishments and whatnot, I’ve decided to review some of my favorite reads of 2015.
And yes, I know that this is a bit late, especially compared to everyone else’s lists… but since you’ve already read theirs, now you have time for mine! And just in case there are any publishers reading this, I promise I’m great with deadlines! Really!
I’d also like to note that James A. Moore‘s City of Wonders was a STRONG contender for this list. I absolutely adored the book and the ONLY reason it’s here as an honorable mention is because it’s the third part in his Seven Forges series and I worry that asking for a 3 book commitment on my recommendations might be a bit much for some of my readers… Although, if you haven’t read Seven Forges and The Blasted Lands yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!
And now, on to the fun!
Kelli Owen, host of the Buttercup of Doom podcast, knocked it out of the park with Wilted Lilies. It’s the tale of Lily May Holloway, a troubled teenager with a gift/curse that allows her to speak with the dead. It’s been done before in the horror genre, but Kelli’s take is refreshingly new and different and Lily herself is the kind of character that sticks with you for a while after the last page. She’s tragic and haunted, that’s for sure, but she’s also sweet and vulnerable, despite her best friend’s death and her own kidnapping. The other characters that round out the story are equally as complex and just as fascinating. All in all, this is a terrific tale with a few twists, great characters, and an ending that won’t let you go.
Number four on my list, Adam Cesare’s Zero Lives Remaining is cheesy, gory, camp filled fun. It hearkens back to the classic 80s horror romp cinema I grew up with in the very best way. It’s the story of Robby Asaro, a ghost who keeps watch over his old stomping grounds, an arcade populated by the kind of kid I was way back when. But when Robby tries to use his ghostly powers for good to protect one of the arcade’s regulars, things go very, very wrong. It’s a classic tale of the best intentions ending up causing the worst outcomes, filled with horror, thrills, supernatural slayings and even some tongue-in-cheek cheese. Despite the delays (and delays… and delays…) that occurred during production of the collector’s edition (none of which were Adam’s fault, just to be clear) the finished product was well worth the wait. Even without the cool VHS–style case and trading cards, Zero Lives Remaining would keep it’s place on this list. It’s that good.
While not quite horror, Paradise Sky is Joe Lansdale at his very best, telling great stories with passion and drama, full of Texas heart (even though this one is set mostly outside of Texas, Lansdale’s trademark style and Texan charm shine through like a bright dime in a mud puddle) and rich characters, the most significant of which is Willie Jackson (soon to become Nat Love) a young black man who had the gall to ogle a white woman and ended up paying a hefty price as a result. This is a great old western tale, peppered with familiar names (like Wild Bill Hickock himself) and Lansdale’s trademark knack for engrossing dialogue and likable characters. I read this book on a long flight and was actually kind of sad when the plane landed before I could finish the last chapter.
#2 Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden
What if you had an evil twin you didn’t know about? What if that twin was the best possible version of you? Younger? Smarter? More stylish? Thinner? What if they wanted to take over? That’s the premise behind this creepy-as-hell novel by Christopher Golden. There are several main characters (and their doubles) but Tess and Lili are the ones that stood out most to me, as strong, brave, capable women dealing with an utterly horrific situation. This story is full of gut punch moments, but none moreso than the ending, that one will leave you breathlessly cursing the author long after you’ve closed and shelved the book (and maybe taped it shut… just in case…)
#1 The Complex by by Brian Keene
Wow. Yes, that was intentionally bolded, and yes, I meant every damned pixel of it. Wow. That’s my one word review of Brian Keene’s The Complex (previously available as part of the limited edition Maelstrom set from Thunderstorm Books, hopefully to be re-released as a paperback soon). There’s a hint of The Crazies, a breath of 28 Days Later, and a whisper of Keene’s Dark Hollow within those pages, but also a whole lot of something else, something undefined, something horrific and wonderful and heartbreaking and thrilling all at the same time. It’s the tale of the many varied residents of an apartment complex that comes under siege and how they band together to deal with the invasion… and survive. There’s a whole host of characters, but my favorites were a Keene standby named Exit and a widowed crazy cat lady named Mrs. Carlucci. I came to care about the latter far more than I expected and she’s a big part of what really drew me into the book. There were several moments where I was left speechless, shocked, angry, saddened, or even amused. This is a book you do NOT want to miss! If you didn’t get in on the Maelstrom set before it sold out, you’ll have to wait, though. Or borrow it from someone who did.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this (admittedly short) list and the books therein. Have you read them? If so, don’t forget to write a review, share a copy with a friend, and/or tell everyone who will listen how much you enjoyed them or any other books you’ve loved. Feel free to share some of your favorites from last year in the comments!