Monsters are far more than the shadows that lurked underneath our beds when we were children. The sheer amount of media written about them over the centuries shows that humans are drawn to them. Perhaps we see ourselves reflected in their monstrosity, a dark mirror to our own tendencies. Or hey, maybe reading about scary things with claws and fangs is just wholesome, pure fun. Either way, get ready to sink your fangs into these novels with a smile.
Starting off our list is the eccentric and clever Hollow Kingdom, which features a crow as its protagonist. He isn't the monster, though. In fact, S.T. is the narrator, allowing us inside his head as he navigates a post-apocalyptic world taken over by the walking dead. It seems the humans are facing an extinction-level event, and S.T. is determined to save them. As far as science fiction novels go, Hollow Kingdom is inventive and fresh in the face of a familiar monster we know and love: the zombie.
Every so often, I think deeply about the beauty of the prose in Cassandra Khaw's work. You'd think it was a literary epic from the eloquent way she describes John Persons, a private investigator with a knack for the supernatural. For now, he's been hired to kill a ten-year-old's abusive stepfather. It's something he normally wouldn't do... except the stepdad is a monster, and that's exactly what John Persons hunts.
We already know Lincoln had a hand in smashing the monstrosity of slavery... but did you know he also took down swaths of the undead? Well, not historically. But certainly in Seth Grahame-Smith's novel, where Abraham's secret vampire-hunter life becomes known. After his mother's death at the hands of a vampire, young Abe makes a promise to himself that he will never stop in his mission to eradicate those who hurt him most.
Another vampire story on the list, this novel was born of the same story contest that birthed Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (an iconic monster if there ever was one). While Shelley wrote that, Polidori penned The Vampyre, a fantastical romp way before Bram Stoker's Dracula was even dreamed of. Polidori creates a stirring tale where a young man's admiration for his companion quickly turns to horror when he learns the truth about who he really is.
Three people who couldn't be more different—a rapper, a marine biologist, and a soldier—end up on a life-altering mission when aliens choose them as ambassadors for the future. Set in the lively, electric city of Nigeria's capital (Lagos), the main characters struggle to get their alien companion to the president. Okorafor undoes the stereotypical alien invasion plot and skillfully asks the reader: who truly are the monsters here after all?
Ann Dávila Cardinal
In many Spanish-speaking countries, the myth of El Cuco has stood the test of time, haunting those who believe in it for centuries. Cardinal brings that monster to life in this action-adventure novel. Lupe is a young girl who hasn't been to Puerto Rico in some time and seeks to reconnect with her childhood friends. The only problem is: a set of grisly murders has swept through her neighborhood, and it's up to her and her newfound ally to solve them before anyone else falls into El Cuco's clutches.
Alex and Leslie are at their wits' end, desperate to have children. So, they pay a terrible price in exchange for their greatest wish. Years later, their twins are healthy and growing. But their parents lock them in their rooms every night. And they swear they can hear voices and noises from outside. Voices that aren't necessarily human, that seem to get all the more menacing with every passing night.
This fresh take on paranormal fantasy books (think: Interview with the Vampire with a new type of immortal being) will have you second-guessing everyone in your life. Jessica and David are the perfect couple. David would be happy living with her until they grew old together. At least, until she grew old. You see, David is actually hundreds of years old, cursed to live forever, and sworn to keep his existence a secret. But he might just love Jessica more than the blood pact he made all those years ago.
Being ghosted by a stranger sucks. Being ghosted by your new boyfriend who you're supposed to be moving in with... that's a whole new level of messed up. For Kate, this is her reality after showing up to her new place where every trace of Scott has vanished. Except for his phone, that is. By searching through his social media, Kate begins to see the fuller picture of what has occurred, and just how little she knew about him after all.
You might not think monsters and science fiction novels go hand in hand, but Greg Bear's Hull Zero Three will convince you otherwise. Awoken abruptly before he should be, the narrator of this tale is thrown into chaos from the moment he opens his eyes. He's on a spaceship running rampant with creatures and killers and fellow passengers and he can't even remember his own name. Never letting the reader rest, this is a riveting addition to the survival horror genre.
What to Read Next
Mya Alexice is a reader, poet, and writer with a neverending TBR pile and a cat named Ramen. You can find them and their work on Twitter @literallymya.