Summer is fast approaching, where we dream of far-off adventures in remote locations. Maybe we’ll bring a book or ten along with us on our travels. And what could be better than combining our favorite genre (horror, duh) with these exotic places and vacations? Well, I have just the thing for you. Exploring everything from big islands like Australia to more specific locales like Manhattan and all the deserted isles in between, I present to you: island horror. Here are my selections to help you plan – or maybe escape from – your next vacation.
The Forgotten Island, David Sodergren
Sisters Ana and Rachel take a trip to Thailand to repair their damaged relationship and end up in a fight for their lives. Sodergren is a genius with dialogue, as both the sisters come off as realistic and often quite funny. I found myself laughing out loud at times while being wholly terrified at others. The vacation love interests for the sisters fit wonderfully into the story, the creature feature aspect gave me major Lovecraftian vibes, and the scenery, the well-developed characters, and the gore are all outstanding. The final chapters made me simultaneously gasp and hold my breath. Sodergren blew me away with this debut, so of course, I had to read his sophomore effort immediately.
Zone One, Colson Whitehead
Who knew Colson Whitehead wrote a post-apocalyptic zombie story? I certainly didn’t until a friend recommended Zone One to me, and boy am I glad I read it. Whitehead writes intelligent and thoughtful prose, with his usual mesmerizing and masterful use of language. It’s the end of days in Manhattan, where Mark Spitz inspects empty office buildings for any remaining stray zombies. Following nonlinear timelines with flashbacks to Mark’s past, we learn about the beginning, just before the zombie mayhem. This story is what I consider a “think piece” as it touches on themes of survival, humanity, and whether or not civilization can be restored. Not an action-packed story, but the ending will knock your socks off.
Savages, Greg F. Gifune
This fast-paced story satisfies the hunger for that “one more page” reading experience we all crave. I am a big fan of survival-of-the-fittest stories, and this one is set on a faraway island where a predator is on the loose. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the show Lost, but with bloody, slasher-style horror. Gifune sets up the plot flawlessly with fun characters and all the familiar stereotypes: the married couple, the nerds, and the bimbo. It’s perfect for horror fans who love a murderous island experience. Plus, that cover! Oh, I love it so.
The Troop, Nick Cutter
A Boy Scout troop goes on their annual camping trip to an island off the coast of Canada. But when a mysterious, very ill stranger wanders into their cabin, it sets off a grotesque and disturbing ride, one I couldn’t turn away from. Cutter is an incredible writer as you imagine every vivid detail, and his character development is off the charts, guaranteeing your investment in the story. His writing always captivates, and I have no problem recommending any of his books – my only advice: don’t read this one while eating.
Castaways, Brian Keene
Nothing tickles my fancy more than horror combined with a reality television premise. On a deserted island (or so it appears), contestants compete with one another for a million dollars. In the style of Survivor, they all are vying to be the last one on the island; however, the island’s inhabitants have a mind of their own. Now, doesn’t that sound fantastic? YES, there are hybrid ape humanoid creatures, but I loved it. Keene brilliantly writes his characters and builds the story perfectly until the conclusion, and before you know it, you’ve read the entire book in one sitting.
Duma Key, Stephen King
Set off the Florida coast, this is one extraordinary and, at times, scary story. After suffering a terrible accident, Edgar Fremantle decides to leave his life behind and head to Duma Key. Soon after he arrives, he develops an otherworldly talent for painting exceptional, haunting pictures. King is a true master at character development, and in this book, you can almost reach out and touch them. The descriptions of the scenery are breathtakingly gorgeous, the perfect contrast to the unsettling storyline. True to King form, this is a brick of a novel, but worth every moment of your time.
Island of the Forbidden, Hunter Shea
A heinous massacre that occurred twenty years prior still haunts an island in South Carolina’s Charleston harbor. The Harper family, the new owners of a run-down house on the island, hires investigators Jessica and Eddie to uncover the secrets, mysteries, and ghosts that still inhabit the estate. Shea does a primo job at writing characters, atmosphere, and the paranormal. Even though the novel is part of a series, it can be read without issue as a standalone.
The Roo, Alan Baxter
Australia is the largest island, so of course, I had to include a book from one of my favorite Australian authors. It’s a rollicking good time of a creature feature, packed full of gore and fiendish kangaroo chaos. The underlying message is one of anti-domestic violence and a call for men to drop the toxic masculinity. I breezed right through it and loved the cover art by the talented Kealan Patrick Burke.
Wilder Girls, Rory Power
The gorgeous cover art perfectly matches the story within, a captivating coming-of-age tale about an all-girls academy left quarantined on an island due to a strange disease. Although the girls have managed to create an orderly environment, they are wild and unruly as there are no adults to enforce the rules. The girls know they should not wander past the school’s fence, and for good reason, but you know how that story goes. Power writes these characters and their relationships beautifully. And body horror plays a standout role, providing the reader with unique imagery.