Book Club Nominees

5 Books That Will Draw You Into the Void of Space

by @mrkvm, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for March’s “Lost In The Void” category

For me, the cold, dark isolation of space is the perfect setting for horror. This category includes a set of stories with characters trapped by their surroundings, whether that be in a claustrophobic spaceship far from home or on the surface of an alien world. Here you’ll find echoes of Alien, Event Horizon, and The Thing. Let’s get lost in the void.

Cover of Blindsight by Peter Watts. Cover shows a space ship hovering over a landscape full of jagged sticks that look like daggers. There are thin whispy clouds in the background and beyond that, a black sky.

Blindsight by Peter Watts

It’s been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since – until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who to send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn’t want to meet? Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, and a biologist so spliced to machinery he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior, and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they’ve been sent to find – but you’d give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them. (Goodreads)

I read Blindsight several years ago, and it was one of the strangest and most thought-provoking alien first contact stories I’ve ever experienced. I always felt it could benefit from a reread, and I often see it cited as one of the best science fiction novels to feature elements of horror. This is a cerebral hard sci-fi read with a hefty dose of weirdness.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes. Cover shows a gloved hand gripping the window of a porthole in what appears to be a spaceship. Green and red lights light up the background behind the hand.

Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes

Titanic meets The Shining in this SF horror in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended. Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed—made obsolete—when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate. What they find at the other end of the signal is a shock: the Aurora, a famous luxury space-liner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick trip through the Aurora reveals something isn’t right. Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Words scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold onto her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora, before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate. (Goodreads)

As both a science fiction and horror fan, I’m always on the lookout for new books featuring a mashup of the two. The moment I read the description of this novel, it became one of my most anticipated new book releases of the year. A creepy and deserted derelict luxury space-liner? Sign me up! 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson. Cover shows a blue wolf howling against a black background.

Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years to bring one thousand sleeping souls to a new home among the stars. But when first mate Michelle Campion rouses, she discovers some of the sleepers will never wake. Answering Campion’s distress call, investigator Rasheed Fin is tasked with finding out who is responsible for these deaths. Soon a sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel, one that will have repercussions for the entire system—from the scheming politicians of Lagos station, to the colony planet Bloodroot, to other far-flung systems, and indeed to Earth itself. (Goodreads)

A locked-room mystery set on a spaceship was simply too tempting not to include on this list. The book was reportedly inspired by Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue”, and some reviews suggest there’s a dose of some dark weirdness as well. What’s more, I’ve been wanting to check out Tade Thompson’s work since hearing great things about his Afrofuturist Wormwood trilogy.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Last Astronaut by David Wellington. Cover shows a close up view of a white woman's face. Her face is covered by the helmet of a space suit and we can see glares of light off of the helmet.

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

Sally Jansen was NASA’s leading astronaut, until a mission to Mars ended in disaster. Haunted by her failure, she lives in quiet anonymity, convinced her days in space are over. She’s wrong. A large alien object has entered the solar system on a straight course toward Earth. It has made no attempt to communicate and is ignoring all incoming transmissions. Out of time and out of options, NASA turns to Jansen. For all the dangers of the mission, it’s the shot at redemption she always longed for. But as the object slowly begins to reveal its secrets, one thing becomes horribly clear: the future of humanity lies in Jansen’s hands. (Goodreads)

Looks like we’ve got all the makings for a classic world-saving redemption story here. I almost missed this one even though I knew it was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award, as I didn’t realize that it has a strong horror/thriller element. Then I discovered David Wellington has a history of working in the horror genre, most notably with his Monster Island series. Now I’m itching to read it.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Salvaged by Madeleine Roux. Cover shows a black woman's head. She is in a position as if she is lying down. Behind her is a background that appears to be space, filled with stars. Surrounding her head are rings, such as the rings surrounding a planet.

Salvaged by Madeleine Roux

Rosalyn Devar is on the run from her famous family, the bioengineering job she’s come to hate, and her messed-up life. She’s run all the way to outer space, where she’s taken a position as a “space janitor,” cleaning up ill-fated research expeditions. But no matter how far she goes, Rosalyn can’t escape herself. After too many mistakes on the job, she’s given one last chance: take care of salvaging the Brigantine, a research vessel that has gone dark, with all crew aboard thought dead. But the Brigantine’s crew are very much alive–if not entirely human. Now Rosalyn is trapped on board, alone with a crew infected by a mysterious parasitic alien. The captain, Edison Aries, seems to still maintain some control over himself and the crew, but he won’t be able to keep fighting much longer. Rosalyn and Edison must find a way to stop the parasite’s onslaught…or it may take over the entire human race. (Goodreads)

I found this book on a list of best sci-fi horror novels, and boy does it look to fit the bill. If it wasn’t obvious already, I’m a huge fan of the original Alien film, and this book seems to lean heavily into that vibe. Either that, or it’s space zombies infected by a mind-controlling parasitic alien? I’m down either way.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen. Cover shows giant pillars of jagged rock, presumably on a the surface of a distant planet. In the sky is a large moon.

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship—all specialists in their own fields—as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility. Shortly after landing, the crew finds themselves trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, with no means of communication or escape until it passes—and that’s when things begin to fall apart. Park’s patients are falling prey to waking nightmares of helpless, tongueless insanity. The androids are behaving strangely. There are no windows aboard the ship. Paranoia is closing in, and soon Park is forced to confront the fact that nothing—neither her crew, nor their mission, nor the mysterious Eos itself—is as it seems. (Goodreads)

I read this last year, and It really stuck with me. This is a taut psychological thriller with elements of The Thing. There’s also some wonderful exploration of the nature of consciousness and self-awareness alongside the claustrophobic paranoia. Oh, and for those creeped out by the uncanny valley, just prepare yourselves for the androids in this book.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes. Join HOWL Society on Monday, March 7, 2022 to begin discussion!

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

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