9 Creepy Science Fiction Novels With A Horror Twist
Look, you can keep your haunted houses and your clown-shaped murder demons. As far as I'm concerned, the scariest horror fiction out there involves weird wormholes, rogue A.I., and creepy aliens floating about in space (where no one can here you scream and also there's very little atmosphere and it's dark and just generally unpleasant). Sci-fi and horror have always gone hand and hand. When original goth teen Mary Shelley first wrote Frankenstein, she kicked off a whole genre of mad scientists and technology gone way, way wrong (and also large corpse sons who just need a hug). So here are a few of the spookiest science fiction books to read if you're looking for a speculative scare.
Of course, not all of these books involves robots or space or laser guns. Science fiction is a big, messy genre with a lot of stories to tell. But each of these stories takes some speculative element and turns it up to a horrifying degree (what if phones, but too much?). Here you'll find post-apocalyptic nightmare-scapes, ghost spaceships, and murderous time travelers. Read on if you dare... and then let's all maybe have a big sit down and discuss how to make sure that the real future is slightly less terrifying?
'The Shining Girls' by Lauren Beukes
What's scarier than a serial killer? A serial killer who can travel through time. Specifically, he's the murderer Harper Curtis and he's using time travel to hunt down and kill "the shining girls," young women with great potential who seem mysteriously tied to his own fate. Kirby Mazrachi is the last of these girls. Unfortunately for Curtis, though, she has no intention of going down without a fight.
'I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream' by Harlan Ellison
"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is an all time classic as far as sci-fi horror goes. Take an evil A.I. program and five trapped humans, and you've got a tale of torture and woe that'll haunt your every dream for years to come. Plus, it comes in a collection of Harlan Ellison's more upsetting sci-fi stories, if one mad computer isn't quite enough for you.
'Annihilation' by Jeff VanderMeer
Area X is an enigma. It's been "reclaimed by nature," cut off from human society for years. But every expedition that attempts to chart it finds something wholly different: a beautiful garden of Eden or a war-torn landscape of horrors or an inexplicable realm of madness. Previous expeditions have ended in cancer or mass suicide. Now we join the twelfth expedition of four women, each of them determined to find the truth of Area X... or possibly die trying.
'Ice' by Anna Kavan
The world has ended (sort of). The Earth is increasingly covered by a layer of thick, encroaching ice. And through this frozen, surreal wasteland, our narrator searches for a fragile woman with white hair... because if he doesn't find her first, someone else will.
'American War' by Omar El Akkad
The second American Civil War broke out in 2074, fracturing the nation. Now oil is illegal and Louisiana is underwater. Drones patrol the skies and camps for "displaced persons" are full to the brim. It's... maybe just a little too plausible for comfort. But if you find war and the impending doom of the United States of America to be frightening in anyway, then it's also an excellent horror novel about a very, very possible dystopian future.
'Ship of Fools' by Richard Paul Russo
The starship Argonos has wandered the galaxy for generations, carrying an entire civilization of humans through space in search of other intelligent life. At long last, they've received a transmission from a nearby planet, proof that they're not alone in the universe—but all is not quite as it seems in this deeply chilling alien mystery.
'The Cipher' by Kathe Koja
The black hole is a staple of most space-faring science fiction. But what do you do when a black hole turns up in the storage room at the end of the hall? Well, if you're a character in the supremely creepy novel The Cipher, you experiment with putting various objects through the hole... and see how they come out changed. And the more you put inside the hole, the more the hole seems to call to you...
'The Burning Dark' by Adam Christopher
Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland has been relegated to the backwaters of Fleetspace. His glory days are behind him. Now, he's stuck with the assignment of decommissioning a remote space station with the help of a particularly hostile crew. And when the station is cut off from long-range communication, Cleveland and his ragtag gang start to see shadows and hear whispers that couldn't possibly be there...
'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley
You can't go wrong with the classics (or rather, you can, but this one still holds up OK). When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, she forever entwined the genres of horror and science fiction. Frankenstein isn't creepy because it involves spooky ghosts and sexy vampires: it's creepy because it speculates on how humans might use technology we don't entirely understand... and how we might harm our own creations in the process. It's not the most science fictional of sci-fi books, nor the more horrifying of horror books (the monster's not that scary, I mean, he speaks French), but Frankenstein is still a must read for all fans of creepy science fiction.