In honor of Halloween, this week’s Top Five Tuesday topic from Bionic Book Worm is all about the best creepy, spooky atmospheres. I don’t read of horror books, so I’ve given a somewhat broad interpretation to this topic. Anything atmospheric or unsettling is fair game! So what books give me the chills?
MEDUSA UPLOADED by Emily Devenport
I had mixed feelings about this sci-fi tale about a woman on a generation ship who finds herself working in league with an AI to dismantle the elite class oligarchy that rules with casual cruelty. But one of the best – and creepiest – parts of the book was the physical form the AI used. The AI used a Medusa unit, a suit that a human can wear, with a mask over the face, and robotic tendrils to carry the human and interact with the world. This meant many a moment of human and AI slithering through service corridors, scuttling across ceilings or hanging in remote corners of docking bays, waiting to pounce from the shadows on unsuspecting victims.
GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir
If there’s one thing GIDEON THE NINTH has plenty of, it’s atmosphere! When this book takes off, it’s a gothic murder mystery/puzzle competition. All of this takes place in a decaying mansion, with hidden doors and deadly traps. Oh, and the competitors in this competition are necromancers, which means there’s skeletons and various degrees of undead persons. This is as Halloween-appropriate a fantasy read as you could choose!
WILD COUNTRY by Anne Bishop
I absolutely love THE OTHERS series, which imagines an alt US where supernatural creatures rule most of the world, allowing only a handful of human communities to exist as long as they follow the rules and honor the treaties made. These books are a mixture of found family and deadly danger, but after a while, the community of Lakeside became strangely comforting, especially as the supernatural residents came to work more closely with humans. Which is why I found the standalone entry, WILD COUNTRY, to be so refreshingly thrilling. Changing venues to a remote town on the edges of human civilization, it reminds readers just how deadly most of these supernatural creatures are, and what happens when they are crossed. Let’s just say that it never ends well for the humans involved.
VIGILANCE by Robert Jackson Bennett
Now to switch to creepiness that comes from tales that are all too real. VIGILANCE is about a near future where mass shootings are televised games, supposedly organized in an effort to promote “vigilance” among the citizens of the US. A shooter is released into a public area. If he kills everyone, he wins a cash prize; if a citizen kills him, that citizen wins the money. It’s a reality that blurs too closely to our own, and that’s what makes it truly horrifying.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood
Another eerie tale because of fiction that is too close to reality. I’ve read THE HANDMAID’S TALE twice in my life, most recently just a few years ago, and I was struck once again by the fact that Atwood presents a slippery slope of justifications that could be so easy to slide down to create the hellscape of Gilead. Atwood’s depiction of the days leading up to the establishment of Gilead are chilling in their simplicity. One switch flipped, and women no longer have access to their bank accounts. Make it illegal for them to have jobs, force them to no means of supporting themselves, and suddenly a world where woman must submit to man is upon you. This isn’t traditional Halloween fare, but is nonetheless terrifying.