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Six monster stories worth reading

These works by Shelley, Poe, Lovecraft, and Sigler are among Edmond Woychowsky's favorites when he wants to read a good monster story.

Our fear of the unknown is what is really at the heart of a good monster story. I still feel a rush of adrenalin when I'm afraid, and it's that little jolt that makes me read stories about monsters. These are some of my favorite monster tales.

  • No discussion about monster stories is complete without mentioning Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. (Geekend contributor Nicole Bremer Nash considers this required reading for any geek.) Unfortunately, when you mention the book, somebody always brings up the 1931 film version of Frankenstein, in which the creature is an inarticulate beast; in the novel, he is kind and caring, and he reluctantly turns to darkness only when rejected by his creator, who is the real monster.
  • Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" impacts everyone who reads it. While this short story doesn't feature what most people would consider a monster, I think that Montresor more than fits the bill. Anyone who can do what Montresor did to Fortunato cannot be regarded as human.
  • Perhaps no other author created characters (or if you prefer, elder gods) as dark and as monstrous as H. P. Lovecraft. In the universe he crafted, humanity is but an insignificant part. The best known of Lovecraft's creations is Cthulhu, who was introduced in the 1926 short story "The Call of Cthulhu". Since 1928, Lovecraft and others have added to the original story and created the Cthulhu Mythos, which is a rich tapestry of evil and horror.
  • I listen to a lot of audiobooks during my commute from hell (or rather the commute to and from hell and the suburbs of hell), and I stunned to learn that The New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler released his books as free audiobooks. Before encountering Sigler's works I thought that Lovecraft perfected the monster tale, but boy was I was wrong. In Sigler's stories, there's always a monster, and it can be anywhere. In Earthcore, the monsters are usually underground; in Ancestor, you should look in the genes; and in Infected, you should look within yourself. This guy makes a living peddling really good nightmares, and I'm more than a little envious.

The book I no longer recommend

I used to recommend Stephen King's Pet Sematary, but I no longer do that because of an incident with a coworker. This coworker always walked to work when the weather was nice. The walk was pleasant and was less than a quarter mile through a small patch of forest, which was much better than walking more than a mile along the roads or driving. That was the situation until I recommended that he read Pet Sematary.

Several months later it was pointed out to me that my coworker stopped walking through the woods -- in fact, he seemed to avoid any forest or large grouping of trees. Piecing things together from what he told some of our coworkers, I learned that this change was due to his fear of the Wendigo. After reading Pet Sematary, it seems my coworker became convinced that there was a Wendigo in that little patch of forest, and no one could convince him otherwise. So, while I will re-read this book myself, I no longer recommend it to others.

Am I a monster?

I really like that in some of these tales the monster is totally oblivious to the fact that he or she is a monster. I'm not sure why, but this makes me wonder if I am a monster. So, let me ask you, dear Geekend reader: Am I the only one who wakes up naked on the back porch after a full moon with the coppery taste of blood in my mouth?

More reading recommendations

17 comments
noothergods
noothergods

You've got some great picks here and I have to admit that I absolutely love Lovecraft. Some of the other who wrote after him were only ok but Lovecraft was a genius. I have, however, never read Sigler, I'm going to have to now that you've compared him to Lovecraft, hopefully I'll be impressed. lanternhollow.wordpress.com

1
1

the blood I drink usually tastes like iron..

scottsigler
scottsigler

Edmond, I'm thrilled you liked ANCESTOR and INFECTED, and thanks for the props!! ANCESTOR just came out in hardcover, check it out. And if you missed it, CONTAGIOUS is the sequel to INFECTED. -Scott-

father.nature
father.nature

If you ever get to Baltimore, go check out Edgar Poe's old house and ask the guide if you can take a quick look at the basement. There you will find the niches in the walls described in "The Cask of Amontillado," (although not quite so deep), and considering that in Poe's day the streets were full of horse manure that when rained upon contaminated the groundwater, probably were originally "nitre-encrusted."

Jaytmoon
Jaytmoon

I think my dog is that Wendigo.

Tink!
Tink!

I am not horrified by his stories, I simply enjoy them. Perhaps because I started reading them at such a young age. [i]IT the TV mini-series came out in 1990 when I was 15. I had read IT waaay before then!)[/i] Tales to Read in the Dark (1 and 2) are fun to read. Filled with passed down ghost stories and urban legends. I'm trying to think of a really good, scary book, but since I don't read much anymore, everything scary comes up as a movie. :D

smatteson
smatteson

It sounds to me like the person in question would have likely been freaked out by any King novel. Recommend the Stand, and they're obsessed with plague. Recommend Christine, and they'll refuse to enter an automobile again. Recommend Firestarter and they'll be terrified of young kids. Recommend The Shining and they'll avoid hotels forever. Recommend IT and they'll have a permanent clown phobia (actually, most people already seem to have that!) Recommend The Mist and they'll hide at home on foggy mornings. Recommend Salem's Lot, and they'll never go out after dark. And so on and so forth...

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

You should like his work, it's extremely well written and DARK.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Scott, what else can I say? I download your audio books and fully intend to purchase the hardcovers when they're available. You have taken horror to a whole new level.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Baltimore is only four hours away from me, it's on my list of things to do. Along with Balticon, I'd like to get my copy of Playing for Keeps autographed.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I think Stephen King just seems to pump out horror for the masses. Easy reading, just a constant page turn until its over, not too impressed. Clive Barker - Now THERE'S some good horror that really works the brain! Not just the typical stuff that made movies, but his past works like Weaveworld (fascinating, not really horror but amazing writing), Imajica (incredible if you like think books). Also I am a HUUUUUUUUGE fan of anything by local author Michael Slade. If you are into really deep, horror/crime fiction, this stuff is full of meat and potatoes. Very insightful due to his involvement with forensic police teams and horrific stories that make you leave the lights on. He describes places around Vancouver (now includes HongKong and other countries too)in such detail that it is real, for me as a resident. I've been sitting in the car reading at a park where he describes a grisly finding and I actually had to put it down for a bit, jut too real and really freaky. Michael Slade, my number 1 choice!

maecuff
maecuff

I LOVE to read Stephen King, but his work doesn't really scare me. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood scared the bejesus out of me. And Whitley Streiber's Communion scared me as well..

wendygoerl
wendygoerl

I think the scariest story I ever read was "The Reaper's Image" (I think it's in Skeleton Crew"). One of those cases where the scariness is in what ISN'T there. Never look in a mirror again.

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

Duma Key was excellent - Phobia of trinkets and knickknacks From a Buick 8, another automobile phobia Needful Things - They will never enter a junk (antique) shop again The Dome was long, complicated, and the ending IMHO was too easy. Oh, and can anyone say claustrophobia...

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I like Clive Barker's stuff but I can't say it truly scared me, I just found it extremely creative and interesting to read. I've been actually SCARED twice - once, when reading the bathtub woman scene in The Shining, and the other when I read a short story by Roald Dahl (aka Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach author - who knew?) I've been trying to find that Dahl story again for years. It was a short that was published in a compilation magazine (Asimov's?) and the gist of it was a couple was driving down a deserted road, and they happened upon a severed limb in the road. They thought if they drove off, they would be accused of the crime somehow, so they took it with them to bring to authorities. They drove further and were stopped by a man standing in the road holding up a limbless torso. They started to freak out thinking he would attack them but as they looked more closely, it was a mannequin and they concluded he was just trying to find the parts for his mannequins that were in the back of his truck. So they reach into the back seat to grab the leg, which they had wrapped up, to give to him and felt blood coming from the end...The End. That one chilled me because I've always had a little fear of finding severed body parts while I was out somewhere, which sounds silly until you realize many have been found by people here and there, and in my own hometown there was a case in which a woman had been killed by her crazy family and her parts were found scattered in trash cans and on the road around town. Some kids found her head when a dog ran by with it in his mouth. It didn't help that I had to drive my mom to her night shift job in the same neighborhood where these parts were being found. Ugh!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Clive Barker, maybe one of the most creative writers around. He plants seeds that let your own mind paint the most vivid pictures and characters, a true genius. I LOVE Weaveworld, a MUST read for any Barker fan.