With the spread of the new coronavirus, we’re living in a shared work of horror these days. It’s difficult to think of anything unrelated to the pandemic — likely because so many of us are self-isolating in our homes, staring day in and day out at the same walls.
But that’s why we have books. Books can take us places we cannot go. The following works of globe-trotting horror take us to locales we can’t visit right now. (And given how things play out in these stories, we may never want to visit them personally.)
Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin
This surreal nightmare takes us to a rural Argentinian clinic, its story unfolding in dialogue between two patients. Her vacation turned sour, Amanda lies dying; next to her is a young boy named David, peppering her with questions and strange observations about the cause of her illness. The preceding events unravel in their conversation, tilting the novel’s abstract claustrophobia into full-on eco-horror.
An Inquiry Into Love and Death, Simone St. James
Care for a ghostly gothic jaunt to the English countryside? When her eccentric ghost-hunting uncle dies, Jillian, an Oxford student, heads to the small seaside town of Rothewell to finalize his affairs. Soon enough, she experiences unexplained occurrences at her uncle’s estate. When a Scotland Yard inspector arrives, they team up on an investigation with one foot in this world and one in the next.
I Remember You, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, trans. Philip Roughton
Perhaps you’ve spent some portion of your isolation speeding through HBO’s adaptation of The Outsider by Stephen King. If so, you’ll love this Icelandic ghost story, propelled by two supernatural mysteries. When the happenings at a rural haunted house intersect with the investigation of an older woman’s suicide in a nearby town, terrible and dangerous truths will come to light.
Frankenstein in Baghdad, Ahmed Saadawi, trans. Jonathan Wright
In a modern reimagining of Mary Shelley’s classic gothic tale, Hadi, a local scavenger, combs the rubble of U.S.-occupied Baghdad. He collects body parts and stitches them together into a single corpse — as a political message and as an outlet to process a collective grief. But then the corpse goes missing, and the murder reports begin. A novel of its time (and place), yet still timeless.
The Vegetarian, Han Kang, trans. Deborah Smith
Han’s slim, gloriously grotesque novel reads like a modern fable. In it, a South Korean woman’s sudden, subversive decision to stop eating meat sets off a catastrophic chain of events. This book isn’t focused on Yeong-hye’s vegetarianism but her rebellion — against the expectations of her family, her society, and herself. Her odd metamorphosis is narrated coldly by those around her, their observations in turn disdainful, bewildered, and repulsed.
Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant
It’s hard to get much farther from your home — wherever it is — than the Mariana Trench. Seven years before the novel begins, the Atargatis began its voyage to the world’s deepest trench ready to film a mockumentary about legendary mermaids. The ship was never recovered, its crew lost, but bloody footage revealed the mermaids had been found. Now, a new crew has been assembled to discover the rest of the truth.