Scare me with pulp.
October 16, 2011 8:52 PM   Subscribe

There are "novels" and then there are "books". I want some "books" to read that are creepy and fast-paced and, preferably, modern. These "books" I speak of are generally the "pocket"-sized ones, about 8 by 4 inches and thick and cheap and pulpy and gripping. I'm thinking of stuff by authors like Jeff Long (Year Zero, The Descent), Scott Smith (The Ruins), Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, even Matthew Reilly to an extent.

Michael Crichton is another good example (especially Prey). I'm thinking of fast-paced, clever thrillers/shockers with enough science in them to make them plausible, and they have to be SCARY. I don't want intelligent horror like Let The Right One In. I want creepy mysteries of lost cities and bodies found in caves and tunnels that go all the way down, about plagues that ravage the planet and it's up to our plucky heroine, about scientifically plausible threats to our existence, about dark forces at work beneath the suface of things, about conspiracies that go all the way to above-the-top. Supernatural/science-gone-wrong stuff. It's hard to explain exactly what I mean but I think if you're familiar with any of the authors I mention above you'll have a rough idea what I'm talking about.

I DON'T want something that makes me go "Hmm, that's interesting, let me close the book and reflect on that for a while." I want stuff that makes me go "Oh god if I don't read the next page I think I will actually literally die and also was that a noise, did I just hear a noise from downstairs?" you'll have a rough idea what I'm talking about.

It would also be PREFERABLE that the protagonist was NOT "an ex-Marine, the best of the best" or "better than all the SAS put together, and a scientist too" or something equally dire and unengaging, though I understand the difficulty of finding "heroes" that slip out of that mould in this particular genre. Still, a guy can hope. you'll have a rough idea what I'm talking about.

For what it's worth I am re-reading Tim Powers' Declare at the moment, and while it's almost exactly what I'm talking about it's not quite fast-paced enough, but will do in a pinch. Hit me with your terrifying thrill-rides!
posted by tumid dahlia to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Have you read Crichton's Eaters of the Dead?
posted by humboldt32 at 8:55 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've heard that James Herbert is really trashy and scary. There are the Dresden Files and Nightside books, which are also bad but fast-paced. More urban fantasy than horror

didn't CStross write some books (Laundry, I think) with the same premise as Declare?

there has to be some Stephen King you haven't read

there's some guy named Lumley who writes bad Lovecraftian adventure horror

my bro swears by Warhammer novels like the Ciaphaias Caine stuff
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:58 PM on October 16, 2011

ohhh if graphic novels are okay Hellboy is perfect, and The Goon is like Hellboy crossed with Tom Waits
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:00 PM on October 16, 2011

Charles Stross' Laundry Series might have what you're looking for, although the first two books are sort of comic/horror. The third book was pretty dang scary, however. Maybe not realistic enough, although if you like Tim Powers......
posted by Malla at 9:01 PM on October 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks mods! :)
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:10 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you mean mass paperbook published books, right?

Richard Matheson is one of the best in my opinion... yes, some of his stories and novels have been turned into movies but they're all worth a read! Sci-fi/horror/thriller type stuff.
posted by camylanded at 9:35 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you read Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series? A hardened, bitter quadriplegic former detective solves grisly crimes using his wits, his superior knowledge, and his love-interest/colleague lady cop. The Bone Collector was the first of the series I read; I also especially enjoyed Stone Monkey and The Vanished Man.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:55 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think you mean mass paperbook published books, right?

Essentially, yes, and thank you all for the recommendations so far.

LiB: James Herbert is basically Garth Marenghi, which is a little too schlocky, but you're certainly in the ballpark!
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:05 PM on October 16, 2011

Ramsy Campbell, then? But he's British and a bit cerebral.

I want to say Clive Barker, but he address things like gender issues and feminism and all that good stuff. still, Cabel and Imajica are page-turners

my go to horror fiction blog is Too Much Horror Fiction

apparently August Derleth was a lesser imitator of my namesake
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:08 PM on October 16, 2011

Richard Laymon wrote short, tight, gory, disturbing horror fiction. His prose is a model for aspiring pulp authors -- clear and simple without being choppy, and always propelling the plot along at a breakneck pace. Start with Flesh, then maybe Funland. He wrote dozens of books, some under the pseudonym "Richard Kelly". Beware and Into The Woods are good, too. Many of his books are simply "guy or gal gets pursued by [insert slavering horror here] for 250 pages", but the man knew how to rachet up the tension and wring every iota of suspense from his set-up.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:26 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ubik, by Philp K. Dick
posted by Ironmouth at 10:48 PM on October 16, 2011

Ubik, by Philp K. Dick

I DON'T want something that makes me go "Hmm, that's interesting, let me close the book and reflect on that for a while."

posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:52 PM on October 16, 2011

oh god, I eat books like these for breakfast. I would suggest early James Rollins (Subterranean and Amazonia were quite enjoyable)
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:02 PM on October 16, 2011

Pulp sci-fi / supernatural / horror / creep:

Shaun Hutson
Richard Laymon
Dean R Koontz
James Herbert
Brian Lumley
Chuck Palahnuik, maybe
Stephen King, early stuff
posted by gonzo_ID at 11:20 PM on October 16, 2011

Okay so these tie in to the super nerdy Warhammer 40000 universe but I promise they transcend the source material: Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:22 PM on October 16, 2011

The Cain books that LiB mentions are terrible, just super formulaic retreads of the Flashman novels with a thin Warhammer skin pulled over them.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:23 PM on October 16, 2011

Honestly I might have been confused... people keep recommending me 40K fiction and I'm always like "I'm not that dumb".

you might like early or mid period Micheal Moorcock. Jerry Cornelius is a bit cerebral but anything with a barbarian or a wizard or a monster on the cover is just 100 pages of bizarre names and weird monsters
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:26 PM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: In regards to Dean Koontz - I read maybe 7 or 8 of his books and found they ranged from mediocre to terrible (don't ask me why I kept going, I was 16 and ran out of Stephen King books) but the one exception was Intensity. I quite literally could not stop reading that book, and re-read it a few years ago. Surprisingly it held up.
posted by mannequito at 12:09 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Chuck Hogan's got some stuff that would appeal to you.

I've heard good things about The Passage by Justin Cronin
posted by backwards guitar at 2:16 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons. Big fat fucker, bloody and gripping and profane and pulpy as all hell. First chapter is an clockwork bloodbath, and there are at least two more set pieces to equal it.
posted by longtime_lurker at 3:17 AM on October 17, 2011

Best answer: Just my 2 cents: I am reading Carrion Comfort as we speak, I don't know if it's all that pulpy. I am normally a very fast reader, and it's taking me forever to get through it. It's great, but kind of dense and depressing for pulp in my opinion. I found the Hyperion novels more pulp-ish, personally, but YMMV.

It's not horror per se, and it might be a bit "thinky", but "The Sparrow" was amazingly immersive, creepy in places, and I couldn't put it down. It sort of a sci fi anti-colonialism tale, and the sense of isolation really freaked me out. Just trying to think of the last book I read on vacation, but since you already mentioned The Ruins and The Descent, that's the best I can do.
posted by evilcupcakes at 3:51 AM on October 17, 2011

Robin Cook wrote cheesy medical thrillers, I think, that were popular in the seventies and seem like they were part of the family of books you are seeking.
posted by jayder at 5:08 AM on October 17, 2011

You might check out Scott Smith's other book A Simple Plan. I really wish Smith would write more. I thoroughly enjoyed both of his books.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 5:19 AM on October 17, 2011

I love this kind of book. My suggestions:

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (takes place in Southern France over the 1200s and present day, archaeology and supernatural haunted labyrinths - lady protagonist, non-military)

The Sign by Raymond Khoury (some military, conspiracy, global warming, and technological craziness)

Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber. Perhaps the scariest book I've ever read, but that might just be the mistake of reading a book about a serial killer targeting 9mo pregnant women immediately after having given birth. Smooth, self. Just smooth. Not too much "science" in this one, but it's an immensely good thriller involving supernatural forces.

The Third Secret by Steve Berry. Supernatural secret going all the way to "the top" as in The Pope. Stupidly implausible ending, but well crafted story surrounding the visitation of the Virgin Mary at Fatima and a plot to stop it from getting out.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Conspiracies, ancient documents, archaeology, and VLAD THE IMPALER.
posted by sonika at 5:27 AM on October 17, 2011

Socinding LiB's brother's Warhammer novelization recommendations with the qualifier that Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts books be the primary target. They tend to be fast, gripping reads, and Abnett's Only In Death being particularly creepy. A good used bookshop should be able to get you the individual books for a song to match your size requirements. Otherwise, they are also in doorstop omnibus form.

The first handful of F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack series are pretty good. Quality drops off sharply in after around Crisscross or Infernal. You can find similar types of 'supernatural avenger' type stories in Butcher's Dresden Files, Carrey's Felix Castor, Kadrey's Sandman Slim, and Geen's Nightside/Secret History serieseseses.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:33 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's some stuff I've read recently...

Domain (2001) by Steve Alten
Mother of Storms (1994) by John Barnes
Beat the Reaper (2009) by Josh Bazell
Bigfoot War (2010) by Eric S. Brown
Twistor (1989) by John Cramer
Draculas (2010) by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand and F. Paul Wilson
A Matter For Men (1984) by David Gerrold
Backbite (2011) by Adrienne Jones
The Breach (2009) by Patrick Lee
Fools' Experiments (2008) by Edward M. Lerner
Creepers (2005) by David Morrell
Subterranean (1999) by James Rollins
Bad Monkeys (2007) by Matt Ruff
The Terminal Experiment (1995) by Robert J. Sawyer
Carrion Comfort (1989) by Dan Simmons
Darwin's Blade (2000) by Dan Simmons
The Atrocity Archive (2001) by Charles Stross
I Am Not A Serial Killer (2009) by Dan Wells
posted by dgeiser13 at 6:45 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a fan of the Travis Mcgee novels of John D. MacDonald. They're Old School, and politically incorrect, but quite good fun, though not scary. I also recommend Carl Hiaasen, also set in Florida, who is very funny and cynical. I know you said scary, but you might enjoy these.

And Steven King can be quite scary, and is compulsively readable.
posted by theora55 at 7:37 AM on October 17, 2011

Cheap and pulpy and gripping: Hard Case Crime. I believe you can even subscribe to them.
posted by jbickers at 7:55 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

also: Deception Point and Digital Fortress by Dan Brown. Written before he was famous (he actually makes a meta-joke about how horrible Digital Fortress was in one of his post-Da Vinci Code books), but pulpy and thriller and awesome. Deception Point wins my personal "ridiculously horrible/wonderful" award of all time in pulpy thrillers.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:40 AM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: Some really excellent stuff here, thanks, guys! I'm compiling a nice little list as we speak.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:03 PM on October 17, 2011

Richard Preston wrote The Hot Zone, which is non-fiction but was fast-paced, horrifying and about the Ebola Virus. He followed it up with a fiction novel called The Cobra Event about a terrifying outbreak. These are more along the lines of Crichton, except they are frighteningly more plausible and possibly more horrific.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:19 PM on October 17, 2011

Definitely Cronin's The Passage! Well written, but not thinky and very scary. You'll love it.

But The Sparrow? That is like the antithesis of what the OP wants. I liked it a lot, but it's not scary/pulpy.
posted by purenitrous at 9:54 PM on October 17, 2011

2nding The Breach by Patrick Lee and adding its sequel Ghost Country.
posted by muta at 10:09 PM on October 17, 2011

I share your taste, and it's hard to find stuff that satisfies it. Worked in a bookstore for 10 years, and you and the other commenters already found most of what I did in this vein.

I think Michael Marshall's The Straw Men may be what you're looking for. It had a couple of sequels.

Iain Banks's The Business has a nice global-conspiracy concept. It has a faint whiff of the literary, but it's very readable and gripping.

Three of Neal Stephenson's earlier novels - Zodiac, The Cobweb, and Interface - are pretty much straight-ahead sciencey thrillers in the Crichton vein. The latter two were co-written and are pretty empty of Stephenson's usual techno-philosophizing. The first one has a smartass geek protagonist who's always inner-monologuing while he runs around saving the environment (yup), but is still pretty gripping and well-plotted.

Nthing David Morrell, early F Paul Wilson, Beat the Reaper, Bad Monkeys, and early Dan Brown (can't believe I just said that).
posted by snoe at 11:04 AM on October 18, 2011

Response by poster: Picked up Coma (Cook), The Cobra Event (Preston), A Matter For Men (Gerrold) and Intensity (Koontz) from a great secondhand bookstore in Logan today, so that should keep me going for a bit! Thanks everyone!
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:12 PM on October 18, 2011

Before you start A Matter for Men keep in mind it's the first in an unfinished series. We've been waiting for the 5th book (out of 7 book series) for 18 years. There's no ETA either.
posted by jefftang at 6:21 AM on October 21, 2011

Response by poster: That's interesting. I haven't started it yet but checking around the Amazon reviews it seems like it's probably the best of the series, and that it goes kinda weird around book 3.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:20 AM on October 23, 2011

Re: A Matter for Men

The whole series is great but each book has its own tone. I think the first book is scary, thrilling and a good stand alone novel.

And the 5th will probably be out in the next year or so. I know that David Gerrold is really challenging himself for the 5th book.
posted by dgeiser13 at 1:40 PM on October 24, 2011

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