Book Club Nominees

6 Exhilarating Tales of Excursions Gone Wrong

by Solomon Forse, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for July’s “Provisions, Parkas, and Penguins” category

As an avid outdoorsman living in the Rocky Mountains, there is nothing more thrilling to me than stuffing my pack with several days of supplies and adventuring into the great unknown. While I enjoy the sweeping landscapes and sublime vistas afforded by my daylight excursions, I have never mastered my relationship with the nighttime—that oppressive silence that hangs in the midnight murk around my campsite: my mind playing tricks with every creak of a tree, splash of a stream, or whisper of the wind. It was in this very environment as a young man that I first read H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, the pages illuminated only by the soft glow of my headlamp and the workings of my imagination. Through this experience I fell in love with what I, for lack of a better term, will call “expeditionary horror.” Considering the upcoming HOWL Society discussion of Gou Tanabe’s adaptation of AtMoM there is no better time to gather our provisions, don our parkas, and watch out for giant freaking penguins as we journey into the unexplored territory of these six titles. 

Cover of The White Vault by K.A. Statz and Travis Vengroff.

The White Vault by K.A. Statz and Travis Vengroff

Explore the far reaches of the world’s horrors. Follow the collected records of a repair team sent to a remote arctic outpost and unravel what lies waiting in the ice below. The White Vault is a horror fiction audio drama podcast that features languages and voices from around the globe. It often showcases the found footage format, accurate depictions of modern archaeology, and isolation horror, brought to life by a full cast and detailed soundscape. (from

With its diverse cast of characters, inclusion of multiple languages, quality production value, and woman co-writer, I thought HOWL Society would jump on this one. Furthermore, I had a great experience listening to the first two seasons on a winter road trip a couple years ago.


Cover of The Anomaly by Michael Rutger.

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

If Indiana Jones lived in the X-Files era, he might bear at least a passing resemblance to Nolan Moore—a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists. Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways. Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?

Several years ago the blurb above had me at “Indiana Jones” and “X-Files.” While in my opinion the book is more like Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama meets The Descent (2005), I will definitely vouch for this novel. 

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Cover of The North Water by Ian McGuire.

The North Water by Ian McGuire

A ship sets sail with a killer on board . . . 1859. A man joins a whaling ship bound for the Arctic Circle. Having left the British Army with his reputation in tatters, Patrick Sumner has little option but to accept the position of ship’s surgeon on this ill-fated voyage. But when, deep into the journey, a cabin boy is discovered brutally killed, Sumner finds himself forced to act. Soon he will face an evil even greater than he had encountered at the siege of Delhi, in the shape of Henry Drax: harpooner, murderer, monster . . .

This novel is new to me but came highly recommended from users on /r/HorrorLit, yet I couldn’t help thinking of that ridiculous movie Cabin Boy (1994) after reading the blurb.

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Cover of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe found the germ of the story he would develop into Arthur Gordon Pym in 1836 in a newspaper account of the shipwreck and subsequent rescue of the two men on board. Published in 1838, this rousing sea adventure follows New England boy, Pym, who stows away on a whaling ship with its captain’s son, Augustus. The two boys repeatedly find themselves on the brink of death or discovery and witness many terrifying events, including mutiny, cannibalism, and frantic pursuits. Poe imbued this deliberately popular tale with such allegorical richness, biblical imagery, and psychological insights that the tale has come to influence writers as various as Melville, James, Verne and Nabokov.

As an English teacher, I’ve yet to encounter a Poe-adoring colleague who’s actually read this story—so can we call it a “deep cut”? Either way, Lovecraft critics claim Arthur Gordon Pym as a direct inspiration for At the Mountains of Madness, and after reading Gou Tanabe’s adaptation with HOWL Society, I’d love to check out some of the source material.

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Cover of Dark Matter by Michelle Paver.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely, and desperate to change his life, so when he’s offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year, Gruhuken, but the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice: stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return–when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible. Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark…

Not only is it written by a woman but also seems to encapsulate exactly what I want from “expeditionary horror”: desolation, darkness, danger, and doggos. 

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Cover of Far From Home: An Anthology of Adventure Horror edited by Samantha Kolesnik.

Far From Home: An Anthology of Adventure Horror edited by Samantha Kolesnik

A dangerous climb in the moonlight. A couple’s trek through uncharted wilderness to save their child. A sinister painting that holds unimaginable power. Sixteen horror authors share thrilling tales of terrifying adventures in Far From Home: An Anthology of Adventure Horror.

Sixteen chilling tales of adventure horror from acclaimed horror authors, including Ali Seay, Cynthia Pelayo, Hailey Piper, Stephanie Ellis, Lenn Woolston, Michael Patrick Hicks, Ed Kurtz, Beverley Lee, Villimey Mist, Mitch Sebourn, Ross Jeffery, A.K. Dennis, Audrey WIlliams, A.A. Medina, Carmen Baca, and Vaughn A. Jackson. 

Despite the challenges of this subgenre, we’ve got a few diverse authors here, and while not all the stories align with “expeditionary horror,” several of them sound like they’ll work perfectly. On top of that, the HOWL Society discussion of Kolesnik’s other anthology, Worst Laid Plans, is among my favorites, and I’d love to go for Round 2.

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And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. Join HOWL Society on Monday, July 4, 2022 to begin discussion!

Solomon Forse is the founder of HOWL Society, the most active online horror book club in the Western world. After serving in Alaska with the US Army and completing a deployment to Iraq, Solomon moved back to his home state of Colorado to attain a master’s degree in education. He now lives among the lakes and forests of the Rocky Mountains where he teaches literature and writes fiction. If Solomon isn’t reading, watching, or writing horror, you’ll find him role-playing horror with tabletop RPGs like Call of Cthulhu—or shredding horror on the guitar in his Lovecraftian metal band Crafteon. Follow him on Twitter @SolomonForse. 

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