Book Club Nominees

6 Liminal Horrors That Exist in Your Peripheral Vision

by @Hildegardia, curator of HOWLS book club nominees for June’s “🌉 Between Here and There” category

Cover of Roadside Picnic by Arkadi & Boris Strugatski. Cover shows a man in a trenchcoat standing in the middle of a series of small hillocks. These hillocks look like they are possibly made of snow and trees are in the background, as if the scene takes place in a forest.

Roadside Picnic by Arkadi & Boris Strugatski

“Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the place and the thriving black market in the alien products. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a “full empty,” something goes wrong. And the news he gets from his girlfriend upon his return makes it inevitable that he’ll keep going back to the Zone, again and again, until he finds the answer to all his problems.” (Goodreads)

Roadside Picnic is the og liminal space book if there’s any and it also has the plus side of being from outside of the english-speaking sphere on top of that, so what is there not to like. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road edited by D. Alexander Ward. Cover shows a car driving at night with its headlights on. All you see is the outline of the car, the glow from the headlines, and the black night surrounding the car.

Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road edited by D. Alexander Ward

It’s dangerous out there…on the road. The highways, byways and backroads of America are teeming day and night with regular folks. Moms and dads making long commutes. Teenagers headed to the beach. Bands on their way to the next gig. Truckers pulling long hauls. Families driving cross country to visit their kin. But there are others, too. The desperate and the lost. The cruel and the criminal. Theirs is a world of roadside honky-tonks, truck stops, motels, and the empty miles between destinations. The unseen spaces. And there are even stranger things. Places that aren’t on any map. Wayfaring terrors and haunted legends about which seasoned and road-weary travelers only whisper. But those are just stories. Aren’t they? Find out for yourself as you get behind the wheel with some of today’s finest authors of the dark and horrific as they bring you these harrowing tales from the road. Tales that could only be spawned by the endless miles of America’s lost highways. So go ahead and hop in. Let’s take a ride.” (Goodreads)

Roads are quintessential places between here and there and this anthology is all about them. Also because short stories are the best.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher. Cover shows a tree with roots floating in the fog. The rootball is suspended in midair.

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

“Pray they are hungry. Kara finds these words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring the peculiar bunker—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more you fear them, the stronger they become.” (Goodreads)

I feel like this book captures the theme perfectly and Kingfisher manages to write in a way that is both terrifying and funny. Sorry Chris, but it’s the truth.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Alice Isn't Dead by Joseph Fink. Cover shows a large commercial truck driving with the sun setting in the background. The art is made of simple shapes and colors in solid black, white, red, orange, and yellow.

Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink

“Keisha Taylor lived a quiet life with her wife, Alice, until the day that Alice disappeared. After months of searching, presuming she was dead, Keisha held a funeral, mourned, and gradually tried to get on with her life. But that was before Keisha started to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead, and she is showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country. Following a line of clues, Keisha takes a job as a long-haul truck driver and begins searching for Alice. She eventually stumbles on an otherworldly conflict being waged in the quiet corners of our nation’s highway system—uncovering a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.” (Goodreads)

Uncanny stretches of road and places that are not quite there, Alice Isn’t Dead has it all. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Liminal Spaces: An Anthology of Dark Speculative Fiction compiled by Kevin Lucia. Cover shows a photo of a person standing in a stairwell. We are looking down at them from above.

Liminal Spaces: An Anthology of Dark Speculative Fiction compiled by Kevin Lucia

“Liminal Spaces is a quiet horror anthology from Cemetery Gates Media featuring stories from well-known dark fiction writers such as: Joanna Koch, Jessica McHugh, Mark Allan Gunnells, Anthony J. Rapino, Gwendolyn Kiste, Michael Wehunt, Bob Ford, Kelli Owen, Richard Thomas, Todd Keisling, Chad Lutzke, Kristi DeMeester, Joshua Palmatier, and Norman Prentiss.” (Goodreads)

Because two anthologies in one list is better than one and it fits the theme perfectly.

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Tainaron: Mail from Another City by Leena Krohn. Cover shows a collage of red, orange, black, and yellow shapes. The shapes made mostly an abstract collage but come together in the center of the mostly red-orange collage to create the image of a bird.

Tainaron: Mail from Another City by Leena Krohn

Tainaron consists of a series of letters sent beyond the sea from a city of insects. Tainaron is a book of changes. It speaks of metamorphoses that test all of nature from a flea to a star, from stone and grass to a human. The same irresistible force that gives us birth, also kills us. Nominated for the prestigious Finlandia prize, this is the perfect introduction to the work of a modern fabulist. (Goodreads)

Did you really think I would curate a list and not include any Finnish writers? Tainaron is a masterpiece of Finnish speculative fiction and is all about transitions and places between, maybe most of all the books on this list. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. Join HOWL Society on Monday, May 30, 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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