Updated: Jan 2
This will be the first of two year end posts, this one is for the books, the other will be more personal. Please forgive any errors or typos as I am currently extremely sick. I apologize in advance.
I do not intend this to be a Top Ten list as it would be wildly impossible for me to pick just ten, so instead, I offer you the Uncomfortably Dark year in review. My list will be comprised of books and/or books by authors that have been featured, reviewed or interviewed on my site over the last year. Of course, like any list, these are just my personal opinions on these books and why I enjoyed them so much.
These are the books that epitomized exactly what my site stands for, what the horror I love encapsulates so well, the uncomfortable side of human nature, of darkness, of our very souls. I hope you will find a few new reads on this list to start off 2022.
My first pick has haunted me from the very first chapter. “A Quiet Apocalypse” by Dave Jeffery is a stunning masterpiece of the darkness of humanity when catastrophe strikes. The entire series is deeply unsettling and disturbing, while being tragic and heartbreaking. This one, or rather, this series will stay with you, long after you stop turning the pages. If you’ve not read these yet, please do, immediately.
“Gone To See The River Man” by Kristopher Triana wrecked my soul. This book oozes blood and tear stains, gore and grief, tragedy and misery. Centered around a woman with an unhealthy obsession with serial killer, the story takes you on a journey through her past while she embarks on a quest for the killer. A quest that will set her on the path to see The River Man, a path that can only end in pain. This book left me shaking in sobs, utterly spent of all emotions, before the last chapters fell into place. If you are looking for the darkest places to travel, look no further. The River Man is waiting for you.
Next up, “Talia” by Daniel Volpe. If you want uncomfortable…here you go. Dark? Disturbing? Violent? This one also checks those boxes. Talia is a follow up origin story to a character first found in Volpe’s “Billy Silver”. Talia was found to be such an intriguing character that Volpe decided to create an origin story for her. If you want to be horrified or traumatized, here you go. Talia is just a simple girl that came to NY looking for her big break, what she finds instead is heartbreaking. This book will linger long after that last page.
Moving on, I offer you “The Virus” by Damian Lee. To be honest, I had stopped reading zombie outbreak style books several years ago. I had gotten bored with how predictable and/or convenient everything was. “The Virus” was a refreshing surprise that starts out fast and moves along even faster. Lots of action, incredible tension, dynamic characters and believable situations kept this story on point for me. I loved every solid second of it.
How about a creature feature, “Behemoth” by H. P. Newquist is one of my favorites of the year. Newquist takes a bit of history, a bit of legend and a sleepy little town in upstate NY to create his creepy creature tale. Thoroughly researched, and well-written, Newquist keeps the story moving along at a nice pace all while ramping up the tension so subtly that you don’t even notice at first, not until you realize your knuckles are turning white from gripping the pages so tightly. This little slice of small town America is hiding a massive secret. I strongly recommend “Behemoth” if you have not read it.
Speaking of creatures, Lee Franklin’s “Berserker”, is another one that will not disappoint. Loads of action, bullets, and bravado, Franklin gives us a military experiment gone horribly wrong and tells us what happens when a small group of Aussie soldiers discover the hidden facility in the middle of the jungle.
One more creature feature favorite was “Pope Lick Massacre” by Eric Butler. I went into this one blind, having no idea what I was about to read. I love folklore and local legends. Who doesn’t love a good old monster tale? Combine those two with a Big Bang and you’ll have Pope Lick Massacre. This was a fun read with lots of twists and turns. Don’t misunderstand the term “fun read”, there is more than enough blood, gore, and uncomfortably dark moments in these pages.
For you extremists out there, anything by Aron Beauregard will pucker your nips, but “The Slob” is quite literally the nastiest piece of work I read this year. It reeks of filth, and oozes pus and blood in copious amounts. This is not for those with weak stomachs, or hearts. I barely made it through this one. Aron is a master of the extreme, he is not a shock jock by any means. His extreme has purpose, it carries and adds to his stories. The extreme parts are just a matter of course as he describes the horrific scene unfolding. Do not sleep on his books if you live for graphic, violent, bloody tales of terror.
Speaking of puckered nips, here’s one that will make you do more than pucker, “Sew Sorry” by the sick dream team of Beauregard and Volpe. Take a vile Karen-esque character with a bad vice, add in a troubled youth, and a deeply disturbed homeless man, and “Sew Sorry” is born, screaming and gory, into the cold winter night. I loved every word, every detail.
There is one novella that I need to mention by an emerging writer, “We Are Many” by Alan Aspinall scared the &$@&! out of me. It takes a lot to make me turn the lights on while I read or to have me looking over my shoulder at every sound but this book did the job. Short, intense, and terrifying, “We Are Many” is the follow-up to his book “Lucy”. I recommend both books; they are short but well worth the read. I will be following his series throughout this next year.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one cosmic horror to add to the darkness. “The Immortal Body” by William Holloway is one of the best novels that I read this year. I have read a couple of his books this past year and he does cosmic horror like no one I’ve ever seen. He totally immerses you in the story. It’s like being pulled slowly into a warm bath that steadily increases to a full boil. The pace, the tone, the overall atmosphere of the stories, everything he does adds to the tension and slow building horror between the pages. He is definitely an author to keep on your radar.
Moving on to collections and anthologies, there are several well-worth a mention. For time reasons, I’ll try to keep this short.
“Tainted Twisted Tales” by Janine Pipe. Great collection, set up like a mix tape. Very original and darkly entertaining, this is one to keep on your shelves for repeat performances.
“Matters Most Macabre” by Tylor James. Another excellent collection by an upcoming author. This young man has big things in store for him and his stories are delicious dark delights for those cold nights.
“The Ever-Descending Staircase” by James Carlson is a haunting collection of dark stories that will really stick with you for a while. One story in particular scared me a great deal more than I would like to admit. The overall feel of the story was so vivid, I felt like I was right there watching it happen. Not only that, but the story itself was so original and thought provoking that I’ve not gotten it out of my head since. Each story was so well-done that it was easy to become fully invested in them. This is a great collection worthy of reading multiple times.
“Notches” by Mike Ennenbach is a brilliant collection of short stories that top my must read list of the year. If you’ve not read this collection yet, you need to. Ennenbach has a brilliant mind and a vocabulary that would put many to shame. His poetry is impeccable, and tragic. Each one, raw snippets of his mind on a minute by minute basis. His stories become living, breathing entities in their own right, minutes after you start reading. Very few writers can take you quite literally into their world and keep you there until the bitter end and do it so well that you are left begging to return. I will read anything this man writes. He could make a cereal box poetic.
“Rock & Roll Nightmares” Series edited by Stacey Layne Wilson This is a really fun series that I have deeply enjoyed reading this year. Each one set in a decade of its own and centered around the music of the era. The authors have done wonderful jobs of pulling you right into their era and their story with incredible descriptions, vivid characters and in your face horror. I loved these and can’t wait to see what else Stacey Layne does this coming year.
“Tortured Willows: Bent. Bowed. Unbroken” is a beautiful dark horror poetry collection by a group of Asian women that share what it’s like to be an Asian woman, both past and present. Authors Lee Murray, Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith and Geneva Flynn all share their burdens, their secrets, their shame, their fears, all out on full visceral raging display. If the verses in this book do not make you weep for humanity then not much else will.
In the same vein, “Into the Forest and All The Way Through” by Cynthia Pelayo is a gut wrenching collection of dark poetry wrenched from the details of cold cases of missing women, that have been kidnapped, murdered or never found that are still waiting for their justice, for their peace. Pelayo researched hundreds of cases to render verses around specific cases to bring these women to light, to bring the missing back to life, if only for a moment. This will haunt you and will leave your soul weeping.
“Beneath A Pale Sky” by Phillip Fracassi is another excellent collection to finish off this list. I found these stories to be excellently crafted, the writing is more poetic than you would expect from a horror collection and the horror is deeply profound, once exposed. The stories are told in a gentle manner, almost reverently rather than rushed and excited and the quiet tone did the stories justice as the horrific parts snuck up on you rather than hit you over the head. I loved the feeling that I got from these tales and the haunting beauty on each page.
Last but far from least, I give a standing ovation to Deaths Head Press for the Splatter Western series. These have been absolute gold and highly enjoyable to read. If you are looking for something just a bit different, try some horror done Wild West style. I cannot recommend these books enough. Buy them. Collect them. Share them. There are more coming and I can’t wait!
I could go on and on. I have read well over 150 books this year, ARCs, Kindle, paperback. I have reviewed almost all of those and have bought them as they were released. If I gave awards out for Uncomfortably Dark Horror, the books I just listed would be winners, along with probably 25 others.
(Maybe awards next year? That could be fun. )
If you are not on this list, do not be offended. There are so many great authors out now that it would be impossible to list them all without writing a small novella. If I reviewed you this year, rest assured you are worthy. My website is built to promote and recommend great new horror to my subscribers.
With a growing team, I hope to read, review, and promote even more great books and authors over this next year, all while bringing you some new books of my own.