Nick Cato's top 10 for 2017:
Due (once again) to several writing projects, my reading time this past year was drastically cut down, but I still managed to read and review over 35 books. There were many titles that made several other Best Of lists that I planned to read and hope to get to early in 2018, but out of the crop I read these are the ten that stuck with me the longest. I've included a snippet from my review from each book and then an updated thought:
Counting down from 10:
10) THE FORGOTTEN GIRL by Rio Youers
From my review: "THE FORGOTTEN GIRL features a serial killer side plot, fantastic villains, a relentless pace, and a host of colorful people who elevate the story far beyond the norm. The last three chapters (no peeking!) had me cheering Harvey on out loud, and despite the novel's serious tone, Youers uses some clever, humorous similies among his spectacular prose. I winged through this in two manic sittings and so will you."
-Youers' first mainstream novel made smile from ear to ear: after following him throughout his small press days it was satisfying to see him bat in the big leagues (and belt it out of the park). Very impressive work.
9) BURIED IN BLUE CLAY by LL Soares
From my review: "Like Soares' previous horror novels (the Stoker winning LIFE RAGE and the grossly underrated ROCK 'N' ROLL), BURIED IN BLUE CLAY is a weird and original tale that kept me guessing until the last chapter. I had no idea where this was going even into the third act, and while Soares throws everything at you including the kitchen sink, he ties everything up during the satisfying finale. Part monster mash, part strange occult sex drama, and with a feel all it's own, Soares' latest novel is a refreshing treat in a genre flooded with rehashes."
-It's always weird listing one of your friends on these top ten lists, but Soares has been consistently coming up with the most original ideas out there. Horror fans sick of the same old thing are advised to check this out.
8) THE TEARDROP METHOD by Simon Avery
From my review: "Avery's story is a dark and tense thriller, set against a cold Hungarian back drop. The reconnection between father and daughter gives THE TEARDROP METHOD melancholy in light of the father's declining health, and the handling of the supernatural element is done so latently it feels authentic and hence, genuinely spooky. The prose here is compulsively readable and even the stranger members of the cast pop off the page."
-Avery is another writer I became a fan of through his short stories in Black Static magazine, and this impressive novella shows off his talent to keep readers glued to the pages.
7) THE HANDYMAN by Bentley Little
From my review: "I've been saying for years (in light of some of Little's short stories) that he'd surely be able to write an EPIC all-out bizarro novel...but until that day comes, THE HANDYMAN should easily suffice fans of weird horror fiction. For the hardcore Little fan, this one falls somewhere between his "industrial" novels and his more experimental work, and with all fan boy-ness aside, it's a solid offering from one of the genre's favorites."
-Little is one of my all time favorite writers, and after a few more experimental novels, he has been back on track with his "industrial" style stories we old school fans live for. Last year's THE CONSULTANT was great, but I enjoyed THE HANDYMAN even more.
6) THE NOCTUARY: PANDEMONIUM by Greg Chapman
From my review: "PANDEMONIUM keeps the scares coming and the peril alive on every page. A couple of scenes inside a mental institution raise serious goosebumps, and the impending sense of doom is relentless. This delivers the goods and should chill even the most jaded reader."
-It's not too often a sequel triumphs the original, but Chapman manages to do so and also create what I believe was the scariest story of the year. The original novella is included in this edition for those not familiar with it.
5) ARARAT by Christopher Golden
From my review: "While ARARAT reminded me somewhat of Lee Thomas' excellent 2006 debut novel STAINED, it stands on its own as a page turning action adventure/horror hybrid. Golden's past three novels, DEAD RINGERS, TIN MEN, and SNOWBLIND, were all excellent, and now with ARARAT he's 4 for 4 in a big way. A best bet for fans of religious-themed horror."
-I've been a fan of Golden's work for a long time but the past few years he has really been on fire. ARARAT is another fantastic, satisfying read that'd make one hell of a movie.
4) PRETTY MARY’S ALL IN A ROW by Gwendolyn Kiste
From my review: "Kiste's dark fantasy grabbed me from the first sentence and forced me to finish in one sitting. This highly imaginative novella features some incredible imagery, gorgeous prose, and a satisfying finale that could easily lead to a sequel. I loved it."
-After reading (and falling in love with) one of Kiste's stories in Black Static magazine, I couldn't wait to read more, and this fine novella delivers big time. Looking forward to her short story collection which also came out in 2017.
3) SYCORAX’S DAUGHTERS edited by Kinitra Brooks, Linda D. Addison and Susana Morris
From my review: "SYCORAX'S DAUGHTERS is a massive undertaking delivered with style and substance. Many of the stories here would work well in any speculative anthology, not just one showcasing black female authors, and that's the beauty of this project: These stories and poems suck you in and take you to their own worlds, making the reader forget, at times, that this is a themed anthology. There's some serious talent on display here, and here's hoping to see more from those involved."
-Anthologies come and go but here's one with serious staying power. It was great to read such a big collection featuring so many writers I had not heard of before, many of which I'm now keeping my eye on.
2) BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough
From my review: "..But the highlight here is the ending. OH MY GOD the ending. I know endings aren't the most important thing to a lot of readers, but they are to me, and this is one of the finest to come down the pike in years. It's to-die-for good. This is like GONE GIRL on speed, with a slight supernatural leaning to push it more into the horror realm, keeping it a creepy arm's distance from your standard "thriller." Needless to say this is highly, highly recommended, and if you're a fan of killer finales, get this before some Internet troll ruins it for you."
-Sarah is one of those authors who seems to get better with each book. Few writers make novels move like novellas like she does. She recently signed a fantastic book deal and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. Did I mention this has a to-die-for ending?
And now, drum roll please ...
1) BEYOND THE GREAT, BLOODY, BRUISED, AND SILENT VEIL OF THIS WORLD by Jordan Krall
From my review: "Krall's latest novella is a trippy, dark science fiction story dealing with a group of mentally unstable men on their way to an already colonized Mars. As with many of the author's stories, we're never sure if we're actually on a shuttle or on Mars, or in a psychiatric ward. The mystery and constant guessing keeps things moving, eerie, and unsettling. As we journey along with our main untrustworthy protagonist, the story expands into the life of a Messianic figure, terrorism, and a look at industry that's as obscure as the main scifi story. And in the end, things are (sort of) tied up with a chilling note. BEYOND is told in short sections, making it very easy to digest in one sitting, and Bizarro Pulp Press's page layouts enhance an already fantastic tale that's way out of the ordinary."
-More so than any title I read in 2017, Krall's latest kept coming back to haunt me. It may be scifi on the surface but the underlying sense of horror and paranoia is priceless, and the writing itself sings. Krall is another writer I've been following for a while and he continues to find new ways to dig into his readers' minds. Enter at your own risk...
So there you have it, folks! Looking forward to a new year of more great reads.
Our second 2017 Top Ten List will be published soon...