The Book Club: Monster Mash   

Often when our brain conjures up thoughts of Halloween and the horror genre, the most infamous monsters and ghouls come to mind. From vampires to werewolves to zombies, horror wouldn’t be the infamous genre it is today without its memorable creatures. With that in mind, I’ve decided that this week’s edition will focus on some horrific “Creature Features” within the horror genre. 

To start us off, we have Stephen King’s classic novella, “The Mist,” which centers around a group of people trapped in a grocery store as a dangerous storm sets in. They have a plethora of questions, like where the mist originated from, or what lies within it, but not enough answers – and, as they’ll soon find out, not enough supplies. This is King at his peak; he manages to create a creepy, apocalyptic atmosphere as well as achieve a truly horrific analysis of human behavior at its worst in a mere 230 pages. What makes this such a creature feature is the intense focus what may or may not be within the mist – reasonably there must be something in it, right? Unfortunately, the mist obscures everything from sight, so our stranded survivors can’t be sure that there’s anything out there. However, as the plot develops, it’s hard to tell what’s more terrifying (spoilers ahead) – the variety of bug-like alien monstrosities within the mist, or the humans trapped inside the store. If you want to dip your toes in the horrific waters of creature features, this is a good, quick read to start off with.  

A newer creature feature that’s been gaining popularity over the past year on Horrortok, the horror-focused subsection of Booktok, is “The Troop” by Nick Cutter. The story focuses on a group of boy scouts that take their annual camping trip in the Canadian wilderness who have their fun interrupted by an intruder who is painfully thin, extremely pale and absolutely ravenous (spoilers ahead). While the monster sounds awful like some sort of vampire, or maybe even a zombie, it’s somehow worse. The monster is basically a genetically modified tapeworm that is weaponized and infecting people. Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t like the Flukeman from “The X-Files” which is basically a human/worm hybrid, but rather just tapeworms that are severely mutated and killing people as the disease spreads. This book is scary in a gross way, if that makes sense. If you hate body horror, this creature feature is not for you. 

Another book that’s been mentioned a significant amount on Horrortok is “The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones. The book follows various Native American men who are haunted by a mistake they made in their youth (spoilers ahead). The men in the story are killed off one by one by the elk spirit, who is taking revenge for the herd of elk that they horrifically killed when they were kids. The “creature” in this book is the elk spirit, which takes the form of an elk-headed woman who stalks the men and those around them. Jones builds up the suspense by having the men slowly suspect those around them of being the killer, but at its core this story is a tale of revenge and how guilt can haunt us.  

Whether you want a classic monster, a new and rather gross take on a monster, or a monster infused with hidden meanings and morals, the horror genre has a plethora of creature features for you to get creeped out by if you know where to look.