How to Get Your Book Reviewed

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Featured Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

Authors, especially ones who self publish or publish with indie/small presses, understand the importance of getting their books reviewed. Promotion and consumer feedback are the lifeblood of a new release, and having readers write reviews* is a vital component to this. Not only will seeing reviews splashed across social media motivate onlookers to purchase, but they play a major role in how a book ranks and gets exposure on sites like Amazon and Goodreads.

(*by the way, if you’re a reader and you’re not regularly writing reviews, please consider starting now – Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, blogs, social media, anywhere. Seriously, it doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t even have to be glowing. Every single one helps)

row of scary old books

Before Your Book is Reviewed

Before you even begin reaching out to people for reviews, there are a few items you should have in order first:

  • Reassess your editing and formatting. You could have the most original story idea ever, but if your manuscript is riddled with typos of bizarre formatting issues you could lose someone right out of the gate. Many reviewers have a hard time overlooking such errors, so it’s certainly in your best interest to make sure your book has been edited and formatted correctly (ideally by professionals in those specifics areas)
  • Set up author accounts on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. These are the three main sites you’re going to want people to submit reviews to, so you will need to make sure your book is actually available to be purchased from and reviewed on these particular platforms. Ideally you will have set these accounts up far in advance of your book’s release date so readers/reviewers can explore them as soon as you begin reaching out.
  • Put together a media/release kit. If you’re releasing the book through a publisher, odds are some of this will be done by their marketing team. However, if you’re self-publishing, or if the press doesn’t do much outreach, there are a few items you should prepare before seeking out reviewers. These items include: copy of the book (either digital or physical, depending on your means), short press release (think of it as an advertisement for your book), plot synopsis, brief author bio, and finally author and book cover photos. Not every reviewer will want all of this, but the more you have ready the better prepared you are just in case.
  • Set up social media accounts. Having an established presence online is often critical to the success of your book. Not only is engaging on social media a great way to attract reviewers, but it’s an important part of marketing/promoting your work as well as yourself as an author. The main platforms being used are Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We recommend setting up accounts and engaging with the book community for at least a few months prior to asking for reviews. This gives people a better chance of knowing your name ahead of time, and possibly means they would be more receptive to your request.

Getting Your Book Reviewed: Thoughts from Actual Reviewers

So authors, wondering about best practices for getting your horror book reviewed? I have my own personal opinions on the subject, but I also decided to reach out to the review community for their input. Lo and behold, it basically matches what I said. If multiple reviewers are all saying the same thing, it’s probably worth taking note. Below are some of the most popular suggestions (including the reviewer’s name and Instagram handle):

“I always appreciate when an author takes the time to get to engage with me and get to know my interests better before reaching out. The initial review request should mention why I’m a good fit, what the book is about, what format you’ll send, and if you’re looking for a specific time frame (if you are I probably will say no because I can’t guarantee anything right now). Personally I’m fine with a DM, but I know some reviewers take emails more seriously. A good way to lose my interest immediately is to send communications that are brusque, incoherent, or impersonal.”


Ben Long (@reading.vicariously)

“I’m willing to review books for people who think I would be a good voice for their books, so they’ve taken me and my personality into consideration. They’ve interacted with me enough & approached me in a friendly manner. I am not willing to review books from people who have not followed me, have not interacted with me, don’t offer any kind of free copy, and don’t take into consideration stuff I like to read. I prefer physical copies for pictures, but I can make things work with an electronic copy. If you can offer physical copies though, definitely do.”

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Melissa (@melissanowark)

“Flattery helps. I’ve had people approach me and say they liked my other reviews or they liked my aesthetic and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing theirs. Or they said they’ve seen what I’ve reviewed and think their book might be something I’d be interested in and asked if I’d be willing to give it a try…approach is everything. But an organic approach is best. I want to feel like you’ve taken time to see if I’d even be into your book. I’m also not interested in buying your book just to do you a favor because you “cold called me.” I’m far more likely to review if you offer me a copy and even more likely if you offer me a physical copy. I prefer them for photographing.”

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Sarah (@thebookish_daydreamer)

“Find reviewers that specialize in your genre or have an interest in your genre. Accept a negative review as valuable feedback. Personalize your review pitch rather than copy and pasting generic ones. Once the review is written, return the favor by sharing the review with your audience. And finally, don’t chase a reviewer down and ask if they have read your book. It is ok to ask a reviewer for a time frame. If they give you one and its elapsed, it is then ok to follow up.”

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Tali (escapereality4now)

“I appreciate it when someone tells me if they would like it read by a certain date or specifically the release date so I don’t have to ask. I’ve gotten excited about reading review copies and then when I ask they have wanted it done by the release date in a couple weeks or so and had to decline.”

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Keely Fuse (@keelyfuse85)

“For me personally, an author has a higher chance of me reviewing their book if they have engaged with me in an organic way prior to asking. ALWAYS ask if you may send the book. Do not send a link in the initial contact. It shows you are not concerned with connecting with me as much as getting your book out. Authors should also survey my feed, read my other reviews, and check out my blog and socials to make sure your book is really a good fit for me. Physical copies are expensive so electronic copies are fine, but if you are going to send electronic for the love of everything good and pure do not send a PDF. Also, Do NOT expect a review to be completed by a certain time. Reviewers are human and this isn’t their job, its a hobby. Finally, continue engaging after I receive your book. Stay in the reviewers line of sight WITHOUT being pushy.”

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Roxie Voorhees (@the.book.slayer)

“Don’t DM reviewers you don’t know asking for reviews. Go to their blog or look for an email address. Include promotional links and a summary. Don’t tell me you’ve written the best book ever written.”

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Matt (@teamredmon)

“It’s important to be personal and real. Don’t send messages requesting a review for your book that appear to be copied and pasted and impersonal. Also, if you’d like your book reviewed in a certain time frame, be up front about that with your potential reviewers. I personally always consider a paperback copy to review over a digital copy due to eye strain from screen reading, but also because I find a physical copy to be easier to photograph and promote. I know all readers are different though, so having digital or physical copies available for reviewers is great, but I also know that is not always possible. When seeking engagement surrounding your book, build up hype, ask engaging questions related to the book topics, host giveaways, and interact with anyone who shows an interest in your writing or the genres you write in.”

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Amanda (@spooky.octopus.reads)

“Bullying or unbecoming behavior will not be tolerated and I will sever ties completely if needed. My interest has already been piqued by the time I’ve chosen a book and that spine has been cracked open (or the Kindle powered on). I am your target audience, as such I don’t necessarily need to be won over but I am your reader to lose.”

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Zakk Madness (@zakkmadness)

“Be cool, be not creepy, be nice.”

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Ashley (@spookishmommy)

To reiterate, here are the reviewers’ top “Dos” and “Don’ts” summed up:

DO

  • Engage authentically with potential reviewers
  • Have organic interactions with potential reviewers (likes, comments, shares, tags, etc)
  • Express understanding of a reviewer’s interests and genres they prefer
  • Consider the manner and medium with which you make first contact
  • Offer physical copies if possible, but if not then check to see if digital is fine (typically MOBI or EPUB)
  • Scan your messages for typos

DON’T

  • Communicate aggressively (audacious tone, repeated messages, commands to buy your book, etc)
  • Pressure the reviewer
  • Demand specific deadlines (requesting a time frame may be fine, as long as the reviewer is on board and the understanding is that the deadline may not be met)
  • Assume everyone wants to read your book
  • Harass people who leave negative reviewers
  • Act in a trolling, bullying, or otherwise unpleasant manner online (you never know who could be a potential reviewer that you’ve turned off with inappropriate/negative behavior)

After Your Horror Book is Reviewed

So you’ve gotten a review (or twenty)? Hooray! While you should bask in the glow of knowing people are reading and writing about your book, don’t stop there. To really get the most out of each and every review, consider doing the following:

  • Keep engaging! It’s important that your engagement has been authentic, and a reviewer’s positive experience means they will be much more likely to review future books down the line.
  • Write a thank you! Reviewers like knowing you appreciate their feedback. Even if the review was less than stellar it shows you’re willing to listen and engage as an author.
  • Use those reviews! Share quotes from positive reviews on social media, marketing/press materials, your website, and even on the book cover (if you got them in before print or if you end up reprinting) – anywhere you can share the good things people are saying about your work.

The Bottom Line

Obviously there’s a lot more that goes into the success of a book release (including social media marketing, promotional giveaways, blog tours, and even the right cover to name a few things). But when it comes to successfully pitching your work to reviewers and bloggers in your niche, following these tips will go a long way in helping get your horror book reviewed!

Rogue Planet Sci-Fi Horror Comic Review

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Reviews

In his seminal novel Dune, author Frank Herbert writes, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer”. This idea, that fear steals and kills who we are, is taken to a terrifying new level in the space horror comic Rogue Planet (2020) where the fears of our main characters literally come to life and hunt them down in a strange alien landscape. Though the story shackles itself within its sci-fi horror conventions, if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise or H.P. Lovecraft then you will probably still have a good time with this one. 

Rogue planet horror comic cover
Rogue Planet Horror Comic Book Cover

In a faraway galaxy there is a “rogue” planet (i.e. one not bound to any planetary system or star) where aliens worship a grotesque and horrifying elder god. The comic wastes no time introducing us to some of its main elements, namely the towering fleshy monument of the god and the lengths the inhabitants will go through to appease its bloodlust. We see an alien father sacrifice his own son in front of the multi-eyed obelisk, which really helps set the dark and dangerous tone that runs throughout the story.

After this jarring opening we cut to the salvage ship Cortes, where the crew is just beginning to wake from hyper-sleep. They’ve found a distress signal and followed it to the unknown world, hoping to loot whatever treasures they may find. However, upon discovering a massive ship graveyard they begin to feel something is amiss. This uneasy feeling quickly turns to outright terror as they are attacked by a massive tentacled monster, and they spend the rest of the comic fighting for their lives against numerous bizarre and deadly enemies.

alien art from Rogue Planet horror comic
The god of Rogue Planet demands sacrifice

No spoilers here, but the Rogue Planet comic makes it clear pretty early on that none of the crew are safe from the planetary nightmares they face. While this ramps up the stakes and tension, it would have been even more effective if we cared more for our main characters. We do get scenes of expository banter that lend layers to their personas, but for the most part they remain static archetypes typical of the sci-fi horror genre. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it adds to the feeling of “been there, done that” that permeates the story. 

For a story about a ship following a distress signal to a hostile world, it plays out about like one would expect. The humans are placed in increasingly dangerous scenarios as the mysteries of the planet are slowly revealed. The aliens are all fairly nondescript, resembling a primitive tribe that has been intruded upon by foreigners. Following its cosmic horror roots the plot also dips into a baffling spirituality and mythos in its final act. True to the genre I was left wondering what I’d just read, but unfortunately it didn’t have the unnerving impact that the best in cosmic horror carries.

Where Rogue Planet really shines is in its unsettling imagery, abundant violence, and eye-catching artwork. The chaotic evil force is presented in various ways: there’s a gargantuan, veiny, many-mouthed worm (reminiscent of Junji Ito’s manga Remina), a host of hollowed out astronauts with streaming tentacles where their heads should be, and even a larger, bonier version of the facehugger from Alien. All iterations are unnerving, and all represent new levels of dread and mayhem for our misfortuned crew. These creatures are particularly creepy thanks to the bold illustrations from Andy Macdonald and the shimmering colors from Nick Filardi.

alien spacemen art from Rogue Planet horror comic
The horrors of Rogue Planet

In terms of sci-fi horror, Rogue Planet doesn’t break any new ground. But the comic also manages to elevate above being a completely awful rip-off. There’s enough here – between the intriguing concepts and provocative artwork – to keep readers engaged in the story, even when they’re confused or find themselves feeling déjà vu. Though previous entries in the genre have tackled the same concepts with better results, the creepy images and stellar coloring make this one still worth a read. Just lower your expectations and you’ll have fun with it.

Rogue Planet is available now from Oni Press.

Puzzle Box Horror’s Best Sci-Fi Horror Comics

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books

Comic books in the science fiction and horror genres have long sat adjacent to one another, but occasionally they cross paths and the results are spectacularly frightening. The best sci-fi horror comics have stories full of suspense and heavy with dread, as well as artwork that shocks and unnerves. In fact, comics and graphic novels are a great medium for the horror genre. The narrative format often keeps the dialogue and description to a minimum, increasing the suspense and allowing the images to speak for themselves. And, likewise, the artwork expertly compliments the prose, whether it’s using muted shades and darkened corridors to augment the mood or vivid colors and heaps of blood to highlight the horror. The writers at Puzzle Box Horror are obsessed with comics, and we’re very excited to share some of the best sci-fi horror comics on the market!

The Best Sci-Fi Horror Comics

Plunge (2020)

Plunge sci-fi horror comic cover

First on our list of best sci-fi horror comics is Plunge. A drilling vessel, the Derleth, that disappeared forty years ago in the Arctic Circle suddenly begins sending out distress signals from the Bering Strait. Wanting to investigate further, an oil company hires a salvage team and a marine biologist to go explore the ghost ship. Their mission is to recover the bodies and find out exactly what happened to the ship. The expedition quickly goes awry when they discover the crew isn’t exactly dead, though they aren’t exactly alive either. This six-issue miniseries is gory, surreal, and a wonderful homage to eighties horror.

Plunge (Image Comics) is written by Joe Hill with art by Stuart Immonen.

Come Into Me (2019)

Come into me horror comic cover

The story opens on a failed demonstration of InBeing, the process by which ropy entrails connect two different people by ports in the back of their heads and allows their minds to form a “synaptic connection”. Sebastian, the creator and scientist behind the technology, is quickly running out of money and desperate to find an investor. Enter Becky, a mysterious and seemingly desperate young lady who convinces Sebastian to bond their minds with InBeing, using his body as host. It’s strange for Becky, seeing the world through someone else’s body and forming a telepathic-like connection with another. If only she had been upfront with Sebastian about her past. As their minds are conjoined and their memories/experiences blend together, the host realizes he failed to anticipate just exactly what could go wrong…and that, like in our online lives, shared data is open to manipulation and exploitation.

Come Into Me (Black Mask Comics) is written by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, illustrated by Piotr Kowalski, and colored by Niko Guardia.

Destroyer (2018)

Destroyer horror comic cover

Though lighter on the horror than the other entries in this list, Destroyer is still an intriguing take on the creature at the center of Mary Shelley’s classic sci-fi story Frankenstein. In this story the monster has survived into present day America, but he has lost his emotional side and empathic nature. Instead he has become the Destroyer, bent on wiping mankind from the face of the earth. In his quest for vengeance he ends up partnering with Dr. Baker, the last descendent of the Frankenstein family who has recently lost her son at the hands of the police. Also caught up in all of this are two scientists, Byron and Percy, who find themselves desperately trying to protect humanity. It’s a story that is raw, powerful, and not afraid to shine a light on heavy socio-political topics. Sometimes the line between thriller and horror is slim but this one still made our list of best sci-fi horror comics as it fits the bill.

Destroyer (Boom Studios) is written by Victor Lavalle and illustrated by Dietrich Smith, with colors by Joana Lafuente and letters by Jim Campbell.

Nameless (2016)

Nameless horror comic cover

A group of billionaires have hired occult hustler “Nameless” in a desperate bid to save the planet. An enormous asteroid they’re calling Xibalba is hurtling on a direct course for earth, bearing a strange symbol on its side and a vengeful extra-dimensional god in its core. While trying to stop the death rock, Nameless and his team accidentally set loose the wrathful being and things go from bad to inconceivably worse. That’s the brief synopsis, but this six-part miniseries deals with so much more. Secret experiments, the downfall of civilization, lost planets, epic cosmic wars, a doomsday asteroid, and soul-destroying truths are all par for the course here. This sci-fi horror comic also has a strong cosmic horror vein running through it, featuring terrifying Lovecraftian beings and an overwhelming atmosphere of dread. What could be better in sci-fi horror than a touch of existential dread?

Nameless (Image Comics) is written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Chris Burnham.

The Disciples (2016)

The Disciples horror comic cover

This sci-fi horror comic is Set in a bleak dystopian future where the solar system has been colonized by the rich upper class, The Disciples is about a girl who has gone missing and the bounty hunters who have been hired to find her. These hunters follow the trail to Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede, where they discover a group of cultists who have awakened a horrifying force. Turns out the girl is the daughter of a Senator who has joined the cult, and things are about to get a whole lot worse for these well-intentioned investigators. Taunt and terrifying, the comic is reminiscent of the video game Dead Space but with more extraterrestrial ghosts. 

The Disciples (Black Mask Studios) is written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Chris Mitten, with colors by Jay Fotos and letters by Thomas Mauer.

Spread (2015)

Spread horror comic cover

In this post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror comic, a strange viral infection called “the Spread” has devastated the land and devoured its inhabitants. While most of the world lies in ruin, there are pockets of humanity struggling to survive in quarantine zones. In one of these zones a man named No happens upon a baby named Hope who can undo the virus with a touch of her hand. Insane creature designs and an interesting cast of characters help flesh out this dark and suspenseful tale of survival. The unholy baby of The Thing and Mad Max bathed in buckets of blood, Spread is full of extreme gore, tentacles, and body horror fun.

Spread (Image Comics) is written by Justin Jordan with art by Kyle Strahm.

Caliban (2015)

Caliban horror comic cover

In the future hyperspace travel has been invented, allowing humans to explore the furthest reaches of outer space. For all their searching no signs of life have been uncovered, but they have begun to harvest all the valuable resources the universe has to offer. At first it’s just a regular mission out in deep space for the crew of the mining ship Caliban. Everything is going according to plan, until they happen upon a strange alien ship. It would appear the unusual vessel was waiting for them, and what was once a routine trip quickly turns to nightmare. A vicious, hulking something is stalking the corridors, separating the crew and taking them one by one. It’s a tense and chilling thriller reminiscent of Alien, full of shocking moments and terrific artwork.

Caliban (Avatar Press) is written by Garth Ennis with art by Facundo Percio.

The Wake (2014)

The Wake horror comic cover

The Department of Homeland Security has identified an unnerving new threat, and so they reach out to Lee Archer, a marine biologist, for help. Though she initially declines, the government overrides her decision and sends her deep beneath the sea in the Arctic Circle. There’s an underwater oil rig in that part of the ocean where a group of scientists have made an unbelievable discovery. Part multi-generational thriller and part creature feature, The Wake is a ten-issue miniseries that manages to combine tense horror, beautifully bold artwork, and scientific questions on life and the human condition.

The Wake (DC Comics) is written by Scott Snyder with art by Sean Murphy.

Revival (2012)

Revival aci-fi horror comic cover

The dead have come back to life in rural Wisconsin. In the particular town where our story is set, the CDC has quarantined the area and sent in experts to help out. Revival, labeled as “farm noir,” is interesting because of its unique take on the genre. Yes, it’s a zombie tale full of scares, violence, religious zealots, and government busybodies. But a lot of the series also focuses on a brutal murder and the detective who is trying to solve the crime. Officer Dana Cypress has her hands full dealing with the media, the government, and a full-scale zombie invasion while also investigating a case where anyone, dead or alive, could be a suspect.

Revival is a staff favorite for best sci fi horror comics.

Revival (Image Comics) is written by Tim Seeley, illustrated by Mike Norton, and colored by Mark Englert.

Puzzle Box Horror’s Best of Sci-Fi Horror Books

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured NA

While exploring the best of sci-fi horror books we traveled as far back as 1818 and well into the future. Stories set in the speculative genre known as science fiction have always had a thrill and a sense of wonder about them. Technological advancements, adventures on alien worlds or deep below sea, life-altering discoveries – all aspects that incite excitement in the reader. And yet there are some stories that eschew the glossy-eyed outlook and choose to peer into the darker side of it all. What if those technological advancements come at a high moral price? What if those alien planets hold unfathomable dangers? And what if those discoveries alter life in a way that dismantles the construct of our humanity? 

There are many science fiction authors who occasionally dwell on the negative consequences of mankind’s headlong rush into the future. Sci-fi greats like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, and many others write stories that have a darker side to them. But here at Puzzle Box Horror we lean heavy into the horror side of things, and so in creating this list we sought out books that have sci-fi trappings while also being downright terrifying. The genres of science fiction and horror have many base similarities, and it’s our belief that tales that blend the best of both worlds are pretty much perfect. Read on to see our selection of the very best sci-fi horror books!

Hell on Mars by J.Z. Foster and Justin Woodward (2020)

Hell on Mars Sci-fi horror book

Scientists have been working for years on a secret project at the Mars Felicity Station. Something to do with opening a gateway to another dimension. Suddenly communications with earth are cut and the station goes dark. The US sends a crew in to investigate, but they are completely unprepared for what they find. What starts as a routine investigative mission turns into war with a new terrifying enemy and a high-stakes fight for survival.

The story follows the crew of the Perihelion as they journey towards the space station. We learn about the characters and their personality quirks, but the closer they get to Mars the more the dread begins to mount. When they arrive building suspense bursts vividly into nightmarish horror. Mixing the fast-paced action of Doom, the grotesque creatures of Dead Space, and the cosmic horror of Event Horizon, Hell on Mars is a gory good time and the first book in what is sure to be an exciting series. An immediate addition to our best of sci-fi horror books list.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling (2019)

The Luminous Dead Sci-Fi Horror Book

Abandoned and alone on a remote planet, Gyre Price descends deeper into the cave. She’s lied about having cave-diving experience, hoping the paycheck from the expedition will be enough to cover any incidents that may happen. Her only connection to the outside world is her handler Em, who controls her body suit from the safety of the surface. Unfortunately, Em is both mysterious and dangerous, and she has her own dark plans for Gyre.

The Luminous Dead is a tense, claustrophobic and psychological thriller. Considering the limited setting, essentially just two characters in a mine, it’s amazing the levels of emotion and suspense author Caitlin Starling is able to provide. Both characters have secrets and ulterior motives, keeping readers guessing as to where each new revelation will lead. While the pace plods some it’s never boring, and it’s punctuated with some truly gruesome and terrifying moments. 

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)

Annihilation book cover

This Nebula award-winning book is about a group of female scientists on a mission to explore a place that’s mysteriously appeared on earth known as Area X. There have been numerous previous missions, all met with disastrous results, insanity, and death.This group of women, whose story is narrated by the biologist, are tasked with exploring the area and avoiding contamination. No matter what they expected to happen after crossing the border, what actually transpires is beyond their wildest imaginations.

Annihilation is a bizarre story of psychological terror and cosmic dread. There’s no way to adequately prepare yourself for the strange events that will unfold. The four women are trying to survive in a land that is actively trying to hurt them, but their own secrets and duplicity might just be the thing that tears them apart. The book deals with big questions on life and identity, while mixing weird eco-horror with a healthy dose of cosmic horror in the second half.

Infected by Scott Sigler (2008)

Infected horror book cover

A mysterious bioengineered parasite is spreading disease across America, turning the infected into deranged and bloodthirsty murderers. This sci-fi horror story is told mainly from three different perspectives. First, there’s the secret CIA agent Drew Phillips who is searching the country for a victim that’s still alive. Second, there’s the CDC epidemiologist Magaret Montoya who is racing to better understand the disease. And finally, there’s the desk jockey Perry Dawsey who is infected and must fight against his own body to survive. Infected is a glorious combination of gore and thrills that manages to blend nauseating pulp and smart storytelling.

Blindsight by Peter Watts (2006)

Blind Sight Sci-fi horror book

In the near future, a space probe happens to pick up transmissions from a distant alien spaceship. Something is whispering in a strange tongue. An unusual crew is thrown together to go investigate the signals: a warrior who wants peace, a biologist entwined with machinery, a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, and a vampire exhumed by paleogenetic witchcraft. This ragtag group boards the alien ship and what begins as a routine investigation quickly devolves into an unnerving series of discoveries. A heady horror sci-fi adventure, Blindsight blends unforgettable images with philosophical inquiries about communication, consciousness, and what it means to be alive.

Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo (2001)

Ship of Fools Sci-fi horror book

Thousands of humans have been living on the spaceship Argonos for several generations, traversing the galaxy in search of other life. Suddenly an unknown transmission captures their attention and leads them to a mysterious yet habitable planet. The planet, named Antioch by the crew, is barren but a group decides to go exploring anyway. They are tired from their aimless wandering of the stars, and they yearn for a new home. Unfortunately, there’s more to this planet than first meets the eye. Ship of Fools engages readers with strong character studies while also striking fear into their hearts as the crew begins to unravel into madness.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison (1967)

I have no mouth and I must scream Sci-fi horror book cover

This collection features seven short stories by science fiction great Harlan Ellison, but it’s the titular tale that has captivated and terrified audiences the most over the decades. In this story, a post-apocalyptic future finds a small group of five people struggling for survival. Human warfare has wiped out most of the population, and now a malicious supercomputer powered by artificial intelligence has imprisoned the remaining few. They are kept alive only to be brutally tortured by the sadistic machine. It’s a disturbingly inventive story, and one that helped create the “A.I. nemesis” trope in the sci-fi horror that followed.

The stories that appear in this collection are:

  • “I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream”
  • “Big Sam Was My Friend”
  • “Eyes of Dust”
  • “World of the Myth”
  • “Lonelyache”
  • “Delusion for Dragonslayer”
  • “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951)

The day of the triffids Sci-fi horror book cover

A spectacular shower of comets blinds most of the world’s population, leaving those few left with sight to battle a race of giant, mobile, flesh-eating plants known as Triffids. As society crumbles, our two main characters Bill and Josella, along with a band of other survivors, must find a way to avoid the poisonous stingers of these assailants and rebuild what they can of civilization. Written during a time of Cold War paranoia, The Day of the Triffids anticipates weapons of mass destruction and biological warfare. Not only did the book help popularize the post-apocalyptic genre, but it remains to this day a staple in the sci-fi horror genre overall.

Who Goes There? By John W Campell (1938)

Who goes there Sci-fi horror book cover

Scientists at a research camp in Antarctica have discovered a frozen alien form that appears to have crash-landed there a long time ago. Misguided by their excitement, the researchers decide to thaw the creature and chaos quickly ensues. The being they have revived can transform itself to look like both humans and animals, and it’s using its shape-shifting abilities to pick them off one by one. Now this paranoid band of men must struggle to survive against a foe who can present itself as a friend. Though this story is better known as the 1982 John Carpenter film The Thing (plus various other movie remakes), it’s interesting to go back and look at the sci-fi horror novella that started it all.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Frankenstein Sci-fi horror book

At this point everyone is familiar with Mary Shelley’s story of Dr. Frankenstein and the reanimated being he assembles. Written centuries ago, this story has spawned countless iterations and made Frankenstein’s monster a pop culture horror icon. Though the book features a mad scientist and explores early on the methods used to reinvigorate life, a large part of it focuses on the humanity of the monster and the inhumanity of those around him. While it doesn’t fall into the horror genre quite as squarely as other entries on this list (though there are plenty of horrifying moments), it’s influence on the genre should not be neglected. Frankenstein is definitely one of the best sci-fi horror books of all times in it’s own right.

The History of Sci-Fi Horror from Books to Film

Categories
Featured Horror Books Scary Movies and Series

Defining Sci-Fi Horror

Mankind has always looked to the stars as a source of inspiration. The desire to explore and make meaning of the unknown is woven into our DNA. The more we learn through science and technology, the more we look to advance our understanding of both the world around us and the worlds above us. But there is a dark side to all of this. What boundaries are we pushing, and can they be pushed too far? What consequences are brushed aside with each new technological advancement and innovation? What terrors lurk in the vastness of space? There’s a reason the sci-fi horror genre has been popular for decades.

Science fiction horror stories often have a lot of bright-eyed wonder and fascination, but there’s also an inherent or underlying fear. Outer space is wondrous and also terrifying. Though not technically a horror film, you can’t watch Gravity and not be petrified by the cold, cruel infinite nothingness. Science fiction and horror are inextricably linked in many ways, and coming up with an exact definition is challenging because they share many of the same genre roots. Not to mention there’s plenty of overlap in sub-genres of body horror, cosmic horror, eco-horror, as well as in stories of the apocalypse or dystopia. To gain a better understanding of what exactly sci-fi horror is, let’s take a look at its origins, development, and notable creators. 

Origins of Sci-Fi Horror

Though the blended genre has been proliferated with noteworthy entries in the past few decades, the origins of sci-fi horror actually date back to over two hundred years ago. Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus shocked the literary world and continues to ignite imaginations to this day, its tale of reanimated bodies and mad scientists spawning countless spin-offs and reinterpretations. Shelley created not only an incredibly influential horror story, but also one of the first real science fiction books. Her “mad scientist” trope fascinated cosmic horror great H.P. Lovecraft, and she pioneered the way for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds (1897), the latter of which sent America into a frenzy during a 1938 radio broadcast because everyone thought aliens were actually invading earth. This just goes to show how genuinely frightening sci-fi horror can be.

Tracing the development of sci-fi horror also means exploring the history of social commentary and political statements, as stories within the genre are often born from societal upheaval and seek to question trends, policies, and belief systems. The film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is ostensibly about aliens taking over the bodies of human hosts, but it’s also a reflection of the cold war paranoia and fear of communism prevalent in that time period. Larry Cohen’s film The Stuff (1985) is campy, gross B-movie fun, but it’s also a critique of capitalism and consumerism. Of course some sci-fi horror stories are created purely for entertainment value. But more often than not they contain social commentary, ranging from subtle to overt, that adds a layer of critical intrigue to the enjoyment. 

Notable Creators of Sci-Fi Horror

dead space sci-fi horror book cover

Sci-fi horror got its start centuries ago in literature, and many writers (such as Ray Bradbury and Philip K Dick) have helped it stay a mainstream attraction along the way. Even in recent years there are numerous authors continuing to push the genre in new directions. Some of the more famous ones that come to mind are Michael Chricton, Jeff Vandermeer, Octavia Butler, and Scott Sigler. The genre also has exciting entries in comics (such as Grant Morrison’s Nameless and Rob Guillory’s Farmhand) and video games (Bioshock, Dead Space, Alien: Isolation, SOMA, etc). But the most popular medium for sci-fi horror over the last few decades is unquestionably film.

When one hears the term “sci-fi horror” it will come as no surprise when images of viscous xenomorphs spring to mind. Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise is a staple of the genre. And no article about influential sci-fi horror would be complete without mentioning John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly, movies that are terrifying in concept but also in their use of practical effects. To list out all the important movie makers in the genre would be pointless as popular creators are constantly emerging, but some other ones you should be paying attention to are Brandon Cronenberg (with provocative films like Anti-viral and Possessor) and Alex Garland, who has either written or directed such masterpieces as Ex Machina, Sunshine, and Annihilation

In Conclusion

Sci-fi horror is an engaging and exhilarating genre, melding mankind’s greatest hopes and fears into tales that shock and awe. It’s also a genre that is riff for new stories, as we continue to advance modern technology and seek the outer limits of space. The question of “what if” is extremely compelling, and it’s very exciting to speculate what dark and insidious conclusions lie on the other side. From where we’ve come and where we are now, the future of the genre certainly seems to be in good hands.