Help me find suspense/horror books whose characters don't suck!
October 19, 2007 10:53 AM   Subscribe

I just finished reading Scott Smith's "The Ruins" and loved it. I want to read more books like this (and his original "The Simple Plan"). Basically, I want all the suspense and horror, but the people have to seem real to me. I don't have to like them, I just want to know what they are thinking/feeling/fearing so that they aren't just numbers on some gorefest scoreboard. Bonus points if the author is semi-prolific, so I have choices for further reading. Help me, hive mind!
posted by misha to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Try Stephen King's earlier works, especially novellas like The Mist, the four Different Seasons books, the early short story collections, etc.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2007

Speaking of Stephen King, "The Ruins" reminded me very much of SK's "The Raft", which is a short story in Skeleton Crew .
posted by Lucinda at 11:24 AM on October 19, 2007

My blanket recommendation whenever this subject comes up: Joe R. Lansdale. Not all of his work is horror/suspense (he notably veers into mystery and western, though his typical novel is at least four genres all at the same time), but you'll probably like most of it.

(I liked The Ruins a lot, too. After a slow start, it gets damn hard to put down. Even if...WOW that's a bleak book.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:32 AM on October 19, 2007

Best answer: I highly recommend Dan Simmons. He's well known for his sci-fi stuff (which I've never read), but I've really enjoyed his suspense/supernatural writing. Two that I really liked were The Terror and The Hollow Man. He's written some more straight up horror books as well, including Summer of Night, which I intend to check out soon.
posted by otolith at 11:39 AM on October 19, 2007

John Connolly

Maybe more dectective-y than straight horror but good characters and good atmosphere. Kinda like James Lee Burke meets Joe R. Lansdale. I just finished Every Dead Thing and I really liked it.
posted by qldaddy at 11:53 AM on October 19, 2007

James Herbert definitely fits the bill - I'd start with The Magic Cottage - it frightened the bejezus out of me first time round and you're right, caring about the characters helped to achieve that.
posted by ceri richard at 12:28 PM on October 19, 2007

Best answer: I just finished Cormack McCarthy's No Country For Old Men. It reminded me somewhat of A Simple Plan, and it's quite bleak like "The Ruins." I enjoyed it immensely. Check out "The Road" for more bleak McCarthy.

Seconding Early Stephen King (It's cool to see I'm not the only one who thought of "The Raft" right away when reading "The Ruins.")
posted by ekstasis23 at 12:33 PM on October 19, 2007

Best answer: Neither author fit the prolific tag (yet) but Guy Burt's The Hole was a cracking good read as was Donna Tartt's The Secret History.
posted by ceri richard at 12:38 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Terror by Dan Simmons.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:03 PM on October 19, 2007

Thirding The Terror.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:35 PM on October 19, 2007

I'll go ahead and recommend William Hope Hodgson, too. His classic book is The House On The Borderland. He was a writer from the turn of the 20th century, so the prose style is a little old fashioned, but he generally writes from the point of view of the main character, so you get a sense of psychological involvement in the story. His stories have a way of really working into my brain and giving me chills weeks later.
posted by otolith at 5:07 PM on October 19, 2007

I was going to suggest Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" (my fave book), but see ceri richard already did. Note: It's NOT a horror book by any means, but is an incredibly well-written murder story set at a university, and you couldn't ask for more in terms of characters who will stick with you, in my opinion.
posted by GaelFC at 6:33 PM on October 19, 2007

More specific recommendations on King: Of course Different Seasons as mentioned above but if you're looking for the suspenseful horror with lots of emotion/drama also built in, please add Dolores Claiborne to your list (good in either book or movie form) as well as the recent Lisey's Story (a lot of recent books have been... sub-par... this was like reliving another era).
posted by whatzit at 7:09 PM on October 19, 2007

Tim Willocks, although British has written a couple of Southern Gothic novels which kind of mix horror with crime/suspense... Bad City Blues and Bloodstained Kings. His Green River Rising about a US prison riot I read in one sitting. And he has very vivid characters which I can still picture now.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:03 PM on October 20, 2007

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