While the magic of other realms may fade, true horrors exist every day. Just take any scientific invention ever and consider how terribly it could go wrong. You’ll never run out of things to hide beneath the covers from. So, when I heard about Caitlin Starling’s latest book, Last to Leave the Room, I knew I had to have it.
Here's the premise: San Siroco is sinking. That much Dr. Tamsin Rivers, head of the research team knows. But for some reason, her basement is sinking faster. It’s a problem she can’t solve. And one she quickly becomes obsessed with. But when the dimension of the room change and a door appears, everything changes. Behind the door is an exact replica of Tamin. Only, where Tamsin is calculating, arrogant, and cruel, this other is kind, sweet, and compliant. It looks human. Acts human. And passes every test Tamsin can think of. But the longer it exists, the more of Tamsin’s life starts fading away. As her world falls apart, Tamsin has to figure out what her double wants and where the door actually leads.
Last to Leave the Room is a fascinating combination of horror wrapped in plausible science. Can a basement sink faster than a city? Maybe, maybe not. Or is the science in who we are and who we might be if faced with our alternate selves. Is the double a clone? An alternate self from another universe? Or perhaps simply a creation of a fractured mind. It’s a journey into the terrifying side of science and one I cannot resist. If you are looking for more terrifying science fiction, here are nine spooky STEM reads that promise to keep you up all night.
More Spooky STEM Books
In Arthur C. Clarke's classic 2001, the ill-fated mission to Jupiter failed and HAL, the mutinous supercomputer, sent the surviving crew members David Bowman and Frank Poole into the void of space. One thousand years after his death, Frank is brought back to life in a world far more technologically advanced the one he died in. Human minds can interface directly with computers, genetically engineered dinosaurs serve humanity, and elevators around the equator can take anyone to space. It’s a nightmare he wants to stop. But to do so, he has to work with HAL, the only being powerful enough to stop the monolith from taking over.
When Jason Thistledown’s mother dies in the middle of winter, he’s left stranded and alone in their isolated cabin on the edge of Montana. He barely survives, but the spring thaw brings more than a glimmer of hope. In the tiny town of Eliada, Idaho, Doctor Andrew Waggoner finds himself on the run from the Klan. Both Jason and Andrew come together as they get to know their new town. But Eliada has secrets. To survive, they have to uncover the terrible price of one man’s idea of perfection, whittled into the sharply honed weapon of faith.
Area X has been isolated from the world for decades. The vestiges of civilization are gone and nature has reclaimed the entire space. After the first expedition reported an environment akin to Eden, it was hailed a success. Until the second expedition ended in mass suicide. And the third in a bloody hail of gunfire. Each expedition led to failure and death. Now, it’s time to try again. The twelfth expedition is made up of four women: an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a biologist. They have to map the terrain without being contaminated with whatever led to the last ten failures. But each woman carries a secret, and those might be deadlier than whatever is inside Area X.
Claire Kovalik runs an intergalactic salvage crew … at least, she does for a few more days. On the brink of unemployment, her crew comes across a distress signal in the middle of nowhere. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Claire and her crew decide to investigate. And what they find is astonishing. The Aurora, an infamous luxury space-liner that vanished more than 20 years ago on its maiden voyage. It’s the biggest payday of their careers. It’s also the strangest. One step on board, and they realize something isn’t right. Fighting whispers that aren’t there, movements in the shadows, and words written in blood, Claire has to figure out what happened all those years ago before she and her crew suffer the same fate.
Two months after 65,000 alien objects were burned to ash in our atmosphere, a half-derelict space probe gets a signal. Just past Neptune, it’s a whisper at the edge of the solar system. It’s impossible to tell who the signal is meant for, but we know it isn’t us. But if we want to survive, we have to find out. The team assembled is stranger and possibly more alien than whatever they’re sent to meet. At least, that’s the hope. The truth, unfortunately, may be worse than anything anyone on earth imagined.
Jason Dessen has a happy life, a wife he loves, and a son he adores. But when a masked stranger hits him over the head, his reality shatters. He wakes up strapped to a gurney and greeted by a man he doesn’t recognize. And his world is completely different. In this life, he’s not married to the woman he loves, his son was never born, and his quiet life is replaced by one of acclaim.
In this new world, Jason achieved the impossible. Only none of that matters. Desperate to get back to his life, he has to face the darkest parts of himself as he struggles to survive a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he’s ever faced.
Turner Falls is a small tourist town tucked in the hills of western Oregon. Nothing really happens there. That’s why tourists like to visit. It’s perfect for a quiet vacation. But when a local biotech firm causes an inexplicable outbreak, all hell breaks loose. The teenage children of the executives suddenly become horrifically violent, murdering anyone they come across. Lucy somehow manages to survive their initial onslaught. It looks like it pays to be an outcast. Now, she and her small group of friends have to figure out how to make it through the night.
Hiro Protagonist lives two lives. In the real world, he delivers pizza for his Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza company. In the metaverse, he’s a warrior prince. When a new computer virus starts striking down hackers everywhere, Hiro plunges into a search-and-destroy mission to try and stop them. His hunt takes him down streets lit with neon and swallowed in shadows as he travels through an oddly recognizable America to stop the infocalypse.
As far north as the world goes, in an isolated chateau, the baron’s doctor is dead. But how he died is a mystery for his replacement to solve. Because the Institute doesn’t lose bodies. And it has no idea how the doctor died. For hundreds of years, the Interprovincial Medical Institute has rooted itself into young minds and shaped them into doctors. Over the years, they’ve overcome the damage human ancestors have inflicted. But now, in the icy north, a parasite spreads. And the war between it and the Institute rages in one mind. Whichever wins could doom humanity all over again.