Just because it’s spooky season, doesn’t mean you have to set aside your sci-fi book in favor of a horror novel. Some of the best science fiction is downright terrifying. From books about the future to those with horrifying monsters, there’s never a shortage of scary-good fiction.
The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World
Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning short stories and novellas populate this volume of work by Harlan Ellison, a master of short science fiction. First published in 1969, this collection features Ellison at the height of his career and represents a memorable moment in a storied (sorry) and ongoing writing career that dates back to the late 1950s.
Fans of Jaws or Steve Alten's Meg will eagerly dive into this story of a mysterious sea monster terrorizing the California coast. Divers are missing. Fishing boats have been capsized. The culprit, according to the lone survivor of one attack, is "los diablos rojos."
Oceanographer Valerie Martell and pro diver Will Sturman realize that the terror lurking in the Pacific is an evolutionarily perfect predator with speed and strength that makes it the ideal killing machine. And now, these mysterious creatures are heading for the easy hunting grounds provided by shallow water...
If you liked Bram Stoker’s Dracula but felt that it could’ve benefitted from a bit more time-travel, then Dracula Unbound is for you. In this novel, the inventive and talented Aldiss spins a tale of a man who discovers a way to move through time: backwards, to when the dinosaurs shared the planet with an ageless threat; and forwards, to a grim future populated by an enslaved human race. In between, he finds author Bram Stoker, who he teams up with to battle Dracula and save mankind. Yeah, it’s as wild as it sounds.
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Bram himself didn’t make our list (sorry, Mr. Stoker, not enough sci-fi), but we’d be remiss if we didn’t cover any of the literary classics. You may have heard of this little book called Frankenstein, which Shelley developed after a night of telling scary stories with her future husband Percy and other literary luminaries. Mary’s work is a classic, of course, and has spawned all manner of adaptations – some more faithful to the source material than others.
Good Night, Mr. James
Clifford D. Simak was a giant of science fiction. Just ask Isaac Asimov or Robert A. Heinlein, both of whom respected and emulated Simak. The author was as prolific as he was talented, which is why you can now find volumes upon volumes of his short stories. This, the eighth volume of a superb collection, is as good a place as any to start.
The Lost Cavern
H.F. Heard is the pen name of Gerald Heard, who also worked as a historian, philosopher, and was an all-around interesting guy. With a passion for science and knowledge of the occult, Heard was uniquely qualified to write creepy sci-fi horror stories of the sort that this collection brings together.
The Unicorn Trade
This multi-disciplinary collection features a little bit of everything. It runs the gamut from poetry to short stories and from fantasy to (appropriately enough, for our purposes) science fiction and horror. It’s the Plastic Ono Band of literary collections, a creative collaboration that has a little something for everyone. Fans of Poul Anderson’s famous science fiction will not be disappointed.
Aliens Omnibus, Vol 1.
You can’t talk about sci-fi horror without talking about Aliens - not even when the subject is books. Verheiden was the man behind the first comics in Dark Horse’s Aliens series, which picks up after James Cameron’s blockbuster Alien sequel (the graphic novel adaptation of the first film – which came earlier and was not a Dark Horse project – is also worth reading, by the way). You can pick up the earliest Aliens comics stories - Outbreak, Nightmare Asylum and Female War – in various collections, including the first volume of Dark Horse’s Aliens Omnibus.
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Though Annihilation is getting the big screen treatment, VanderMeer’s Nebula Award-winning sci-fi horror novel works so well in the written form that it’s hard to imagine it any other way. Annihilation follows the twelfth expedition into Area X, a mysterious place abandoned by civilization and overrun by nature. Past expeditions have resulted in little data and lots of mental and physical illness, and it’s frighteningly unclear what’s going on in Area X, or how it even came to be in the first place.
World War Z
Max Brooks’ World War Z is written in a unique style. A fictional oral history, the book tracks the horrors, drama, and surprises of the war between humans and zombie-kind. Brooks’ vision is fiercely imaginative and full of fresh ideas that made this novel stand out even in the heady days of the 2000s zombie media craze.
Plucked from relative obscurity in the U.K. comics scene, Alan Moore debuted on a larger stage as the re-inventor of Swamp Thing. Under Moore’s stewardship, Swamp Thing became a deep and dark series that was willing to tangle with weird moral questions and confront the pathologies of its Louisiana setting. DC has republished Moore’s entire Swamp Thing run, and it’s all worth reading.
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