The spring season in the Pacific Northwest, where I live, is especially welcoming and beautiful. We endure long months of dark, overcast, and rainy days, so when the temperatures begin to rise and the sun comes out, we are more than ready for everything spring has to offer.
All of this glorious warmth and light means one thing for our perfectly hydrated, hibernating plant life: GO FORTH AND BLOOM! It’s almost overwhelming; abundant, healthy foliage everywhere you look. You can almost hear things growing when you go outside.
I have gathered for you today a seasonal list of recommendations that have to do with nature’s pre-summer gift of life. I’m calling it springing up horror: nature is breathtaking, beautiful, and life-giving. But nature can giveth, and taketh away. Be warned.
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
The Southern Reach Trilogy is a deadly cocktail. Equal parts eco-thriller, nature horror, and sci-fi, this first book in the trilogy is the scariest. Scientists travel in small groups into “Area X,” a space on our planet where some kind of life has taken up permanent residence. They don’t ever return.
What I love: the vivid, colorful descriptions of alien flora and fauna that sounds pretty but also terrifying and unknown.
The Ruins, Scott Smith
What’s more entertaining than a group of twenty-somethings who go on a vacation and get lost on a hill covered with blood-thirsty vines in a remote, undiscovered jungle in the middle of nowhere? Absolutely nothing.
What I love: this is your quintessential nature horror book about killer plants and it is unputdownable.
“Still Life With Natalie,” Sarah Read
From the collection Out of Water. Colin enjoys painting the flowers that grow in cemeteries. He calls the art pieces, “Still Alives”. But sometimes finding the time to go out to the graveyard is challenging, Colin decides he wants to be able to bring his work home with him.
What I love: this story takes the reader by surprise and makes a lasting impression.
“Foliage,” Gemma Amor
From the collection Cruel Works of Nature. Dan Burrows becomes the new groundskeeper at Norfolk Manor. As he gets to know the landscaping, he makes some startling discoveries inside some peculiar seedpods.
What I love: Gemma Amor’s storytelling voice draws the reader right into this compelling, suspenseful tale.
“Growing Things,” Paul Tremblay
From the collection Growing Things. A story within the universe of A Head Full of Ghosts. Sisters Marjorie and Merry are isolated inside a house. Their father left with the instruction to not open the door for anybody. They’re running out of food, but something is growing in the basement. Could it be edible?
What I love: Paul Tremblay is the master at focusing on the minutia of relationships during trials, which makes for serious emotional investment.
In The Tall Grass, Stephen King & Joe Hill
Father and son blend their voices together to conjure up a field of grass that hides a powerful entity. Unsuspecting travelers who end up making a pit stop near the field find themselves making the tragic mistake of investigating what’s inside the tall grass.
What I love: both King and Hill know how to turn up the heat in horror. This one actually scared me pretty good.
The Girl With All The Gifts, M.R. Carey
A post-apocalyptic zombie story quite unlike any other.
What I love: this is character-driven horror. Carey zeroes in on the human relationships so that when the real horrors begin, personal investment is high! This packs an emotional punch with a surprising, nature-horror ending.
Wither and Other Stories, Sonora Taylor
What would happen if nature suddenly soured towards us and nothing was sustainable anymore? Everything we take for granted: the food we grow, the trees that give us clean air to breathe, and the plants we trust to do us good and not harm.
What I love: a strong female protagonist and a growing tension that is compelling and original.
Eden, Tim Lebbon
In an attempt to undo some of the damage humanity has done to our ecology, scientists devise a plan to dedicate huge swaths of land to nature, inaccessible to humans. The first of these Zones is said to be dangerous and of course, thrill-seekers want to visit.
What I love: nature horror is Lebbon’s wheelhouse so it’s just a joy to watch him work. The set up is entertaining but the back half is where all the hell breaks loose. This needs to be a movie!
The Book of Koli, M. R. Carey
The first book in the Rampart Trilogy is described as an “epic post-apocalyptic fable.” A young boy named Koli is struggling to live in a world where nature has turned against humanity.
What I love: I’m anticipating another look at Carey’s skillset as an author who gives special attention to the character development and the creation of strong, memorable protagonists.