There is something special about horror and dark fiction that is best seen in the short form and the novella is the key to unlocking those horrors of the mind, that lets them run free and haunt you long after the book is finished, here is my top picks of 2021 which has been a blockbuster year for the novella.
1. Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke
‘Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is a masterpiece of disturbing fiction, utterly beguiling and beautifully horrific. Eric LaRocca is one of the brightest minds writing horror today!’
This is the emergence of a masterful storyteller and a book that is destined for greatness – don’t sleep on this book, you need it in your life, believe the hype! This book will haunt you long after reading… you’ve been warned!
2. Nightfall – Lullaby – Sleepwalking
Dark, menacing, odd, horrific – everything I’m looking for in a book! This is the first book of an ongoing series (I believe the author says a twelve book series) which perfectly sets the tone for the nightmares to come.
With writing that was like the bleakness of Cormac McCarthy, the grandness and ingenuity of Philip K Dick and seasoned with a bit of Stephen King – this is a series that has some hold, and I can’t wait to discover more! This is a bit of a cheat post because it’s three books in one – but all I believe are of the novella length – check out this awesome series now!
3. Of Foster Homes and Flies
To be honest I could have included all of Chad’s novellas I read this year, the man is fabulous… but Of Foster Homes and Flies might just be my favourite coming of age story I’ve ever read, deeply moving, arrestingly pure and utterly unmissable. Lutzke staggered me like a punch to the face and a kick to the stomach with this offering – powerful, powerful stuff, highly recommended.
4. A House at the Bottom of a Lake
At its essence, this book is a love story, a story of adolescence and discovery a story of hope and belonging. A House At The Bottom Of A Lake is a bewitching tale that had me captivated from the outset – an elegant and haunting tale which will for me, live long in the memory!
5. The Dark Side of the Room
There are some fabulous dark scenes in this book and the rat scene, in particular, made me cringe, shocked me and also brought the darkness in bucket loads (and the blood) – it was reminiscent of James Herbert and his Rats trilogy and for that reason alone I was hooked – I loved those books and I think Jones was able to write something in those scenes that Herbert would be pleased to have written himself.
Another great offering from Jones, for me it didn’t reach the heights that Criterium did, but it was an enjoyable quick read into the darkness of the mind and the things that spoil it… Jones has a fan in me and I can’t wait to discover more soon!
6. Road Harvest
Road Harvest is one hell of a book, don’t get attached to anyone, be prepared for the extreme and when it gets really bad, when you can’t take any more bloodshed keep telling yourself it’s only a book, it’s only a book…
7. We Need To Do Something
Max Booth III
This was a re-read and I’m glad I did (now it’s fresh) what with the film that’s now out from Spin a Black Yarn.
We Need To Do Something is brutal and unrelenting, a deep dive into the depths of hell and a family trying to survive but there’s no way out as they’re torn apart by external and internal forces.
An unflinching journey into the depravity of war and the horrors that lurk beneath the surface, dark, horrific and masterfully brutal, I’d go as far to say we are witnessing the awakening of a fierce talent in the independent horror scene, prepare to be scared.
9. The Goners
This was a first for me in a few ways; this is the first slasher book I’ve read and also the first work of L. Stephenson and also a slasher horror set in the UK – bring it on!
I was impressed with the slasher element and it’s clear to see that Stephenson is a fan of the genre and knows it well – the conventions and tropes are all there, plus we also have the added depth of them being on this island – almost trapped to the whims of what is there, waiting!
10. The Possession of Natalie Glasgow
I’ve been meaning to read this for quite some time now, I’m a huge fan of Piper’s work and this I didn’t know was her debut novella – what a fricking debut!
The book reminded me of the best possession book of all time ‘The Exorcist’ – such is the brilliance of Piper’s prose and the haunting imagery she creates. The story is full of dread and menace, full of eeriness, drenched in darkness.
11.When the Cicadas Stop Singing
I’ve enjoyed discovering Zachary Ashford’s work and his latest offering is a dystopian nightmare – horrific, original and most importantly absolutely terrifying! Check him out, I’ve enjoyed all his works to date and more on the way hopefully…
A book I enjoyed this year and wanted to give a special mention to is Rayne King’s debut novella ‘The Creek’ which was a fabulous introduction to a new writer who shows great promise, a strikingly original voice and a story full of wonderful prose, and I for one can’t wait to see what he produces this year (because I know he’s working on something!).
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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