Well overall I think I did a great job on the New Year’s Eve resolutions I made for 2011. The main one was to read and review more horror novels during the year. I started off the year with a bang and maintained a great pace of reading and reviewing horror novels. But in the last quarter of the year work reared up it’s ugly face and I found myself having less and less time for personal reading. In all I read 54 horror novels. By no means a fantastic number, but I’m proud of the number. But now I have the very difficult task of choosing my 10 favorite novels out of the 54 that I read!!
You’ll notice that unlike my upcoming “Best and Worst Horror Films” lists, this book list isn’t limited to just horror novels released in 2011. But the majority of the horror novels I read this past year were from 2010 and 2011. You’ll also notice that for me, 2011 is the “Year of Joe McKinney”!! McKinney’s DEAD CITY was one of the first novels I read in 2011 and it blew me away and made me an instant McKinney fan. Enough introduction … here’s my list of My 10 Favorite Horror Books Read in 2011.
10. BURDEN KANSAS (2011; Alan Ryker; novella; my review).
Yeah I know it’s kinda weird to begin the list with a novella, but a solid book is a solid book. Ryker does something in this novella that I thought no writer cared about anymore … he made vampires scary, ferocious, and fucking terrifying again. Set against cattle-country in a very rural area of Kansas, Ryker rekindles my love of vampires. I forgot just how badass vampires can be. Better yet is that I have a reviewer’s copy of BLOOD TELLS TRUE, the second book in his “Vampires of the Plains” series. I’ll be reading this one in late January and can’t wait!!
9. DEAD CITY (2006; Joe McKinney; my review)
McKinney’s first appearance on this list. What can I say; McKinney goes back to the basics of what makes a really fantastic zombie story: A great protagonist with a wife and young kid in danger; a claustrophobic setting (I never thought a city could feel so claustrophobic); and some good old-fashioned, chew-your-ass-off zombies. Add to this McKinney’s fantastic writing style and this is one fast and hugely entertaining read.
8. THE DRAGON FACTORY (2010; Jonathan Maberry; my review)
Taking us back into the world of Joe Ledger and the uber-secretive Department of Medical Science, Maberry just blows your socks off with his intense and fast-paced writing style. There might not be any zombies in this novel, but Ledger’s battling something way worse than zombies here. Mainly two extremely intelligent old-school ideological Nazis hellbent on eradicating the world of all life that isn’t The Master Race. Yeah; it is chilling, but there’s so much more going on in this novel. Must be read to be believed.
I think we can all agree that a zombie outbreak anywhere at anytime would be a horrifying event. Now just imagine if that zombie outbreak took place confined in the hotel where a Star Trek Convention was taking place!! Plastic phasor guns ain’t gonna do a damn thing!! NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES was a by-chance find. I bought it in an airport bookstore on my way to my step dad’s funeral. A rough time that ended up producing a shining star. TREKKIES might just be the funnest novel I read all year and Anderson manages to avoid all the pitfalls and cliches that flood the typical zombie novel. The explanation will also slap you in the face. This is a great novel!!
6. BLEED (2011; Ed Kurtz; my review)
What do ya get when you take a debut novel by an up and coming writer who loves the horror genre? Ya get BLEED. BLEED grabs you by the balls from the opening chapter and doesn’t let go until the final pages. With elements of Barker’s HELLRAISER and echoes of Cronenberg’s body horror, Kurtz weaves a horrifying story of obsession that you know isn’t gonna end well. Some of the passages were so descriptive and gory that I was giggling like a school-girl ‘cause I was so happy I picked up this book!!
5. MIDNIGHT MOVIE (2011; Tobe Hooper; my review)
I was really nervous when I picked this one up. Written by one of the Masters of the horror genre, Tobe Hooper, I was worried that MIDNIGHT MOVIE might suck. I wouldn’t wanna have to bash one of my idol’s (which you know I would). Luckily I found that MIDNIGHT MOVIE wasn’t just good … it was fucking fantastic. This is the most original take on the zombie genre I’ve read in a long time. In it, Hooper’s thought to be long-lost student film, “Destiny Express,” is found and screened at the South By Southwest Film Festival. Soon after an odd plague sweeps across the country and it’s up to a reluctant Hooper, an Austin film critic, and Dude McGee (one of the best characters I’ve come across in a long time) to find the cause and stop it. Trying to describe any more of this film is pointless. Get this one and read it!!
4. BEDBUGS (2011; Ben H. Winters; my review)
I finally stopped itching from the original time I read this novel and now this is bringing up all that compulsive itching all over again!! Winters crafts a really satisfying novel that for the first 80% of the novel has you thinking you know exactly where this is going. The in the final act Winters smacks you over the head and in the crotch and screams, “Gotchya!!” Has the stress of the modern world finally gotten to Susan Wendt? Is she cracking and imagining the bedbugs in her bed and house that only seem to be attacking her? Or is there something way more sinister going on? Just read this one and find out … you won’t be disappointed.
3. FLESH EATERS (2011; Joe McKinney; my review)
McKinney continues to blow me away. This is the third book in his “Dead World” series and takes place in Houston. We get to see the beginning of the rise of the zombies and just how fast the world goes to s**t. And like in all of his novels, McKinney gives us characters we really feel for, really hate, really despise, and some that we cry over. McKinney gets better with every book and is my favorite writer not just in the zombie genre … not just in the horror field … but is my favorite writer. Period!!
2. BIGFOOT WAR 2: DEAD IN THE WOODS (2011; Eric S. Brown; my review)
Eric Brown is a writer I discovered about half way through 2011 and after reading some of his books I wondered how I got along before I read him!! Yes, I read the first BIGFOOT WAR and just like part 2 it’s a super fast-paced read, super-crazy-insanely gory, and has a full list of characters who pretty much all die in horrible ways. Oh who am I kidding … they definitely die in horrible ways!! So why did BIGFOOT WARS 2 make the list and the first one didn’t? One word … ZOMBIES!! That’s all I’m gonna say about this one. Read it; soak it in; sleep with the lights on.
1. APOCALYPSE OF THE DEAD (2010; Joe McKinney; my review)
Yeah I know; another Joe McKinney novel, and this one taking the number one position on my list. I really love this book. Chronologically this is the second in his “Dead World” series, but in the timeline I’d say it takes part after DEAD CITY and FLESH EATERS. What I love about APOCALYPSE OF THE DEAD is McKinney opens up its scope. Instead of having only a small handful of main characters that we follow throughout the novel we get a ton of characters, each one as important as the next one. We also get a great sub-plot about “the-real-monster-being-man” without McKinney ever letting us forget that this is a zombie novel. Instead of the action being confined to one city in Texas, McKinney has his characters hitting the road trying to make it to a sanctuary up in North Dakota (supposedly free of zombies). And the choice of making one of his protagonists a 70-something year old retired U.S Marshall was pretty ballsy but goddamn he pulled it off.
Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to McKinney’s “Dead World” series in 2012. If the end of the world really is gonna happen this year then you’ll really be pissed at yourself for not reading McKinney’s novels!!
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DEAD DWARFS: A ZOMBIE FAIRY TALE (2011; Bob McLain; novella; my review)
This one just missed making my list. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DEAD DWARFS is written in the vein of the literary mash-up, this time taking a beloved Disney story and infecting it with zombies. But unlike say PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES that only has a few zombie passages in it, this SNOW WHITE has more zombie scenes in it that most zombie films. It’s fast-paced and a really fun read. It’s highly recommended, but don’t try to use this book as the bedtime story for your 3 year old daughter. Yikes!!