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

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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.

Puzzle Box Winter Horror Guide

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Best Horror Books Best Of Best of Movies Featured Horror Books Scary Movies and Series

Winter is a wonderful time with falling snow, crackling fireplaces, and precious family moments. However, like all beautiful things, this season also has a dark side – and Puzzle Box Horror is bringing you the ultimate guide to winter horror seasonal scares. From real-world terrors like almost dying from frostbite to holiday folklore creatures that pull you into the depths of Hell, here are the top winter horror stories you need this season.

Movies

30 Days of Night 

Released: 2007

30 days of night winter horror movie poster

Before there was Twilight, there was 30 Days of Night… a truly brilliant horror film that tells the story of bloodsuckers, captivity, and bone-chilling terror in Alaska. The town of Barrow is preparing for the annual “30 Days of Night,” a period during the winter when there is a polar night for an entire month. Or in simpler terms, 24-hour a day darkness. As the community is snowed in and confined to their homes, a band of bloodthirsty vampires arrives and begins to pick off the townspeople one-by-one. With monstrous killers on the loose, and no communication to the outside world, the main characters must find a way to stay alive and overcome the darkness. Both literally and figuratively. If you’re a real vampire enthusiast with a side of winter horror obsession, this is the perfect film for you! Stream on Amazon here.

Krampus 

Released: 2015

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Who doesn’t love a good holiday horror movie? Especially when it’s about a demonic creature from European folklore that guarantees you’ll sleep with one eye open on Christmas Eve. Krampus has everything you could typically expect from a Christmas film – a dysfunctional family, a blizzard snowing people in, a child doubting his holiday spirit – but instead of Santa, you have Krampus. This horned, demonic creature originates from German folklore, and descends each winter to punish those who have lost their Christmas spirit and drag them straight to Hell. Which seems a little harsh, if you ask us… but you’ll get a kick out of this winter comedy horror film that’s scarily good. Stream on Amazon here.

Frozen 

Released: 2010

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Sometimes your winter vacation can turn into a nightmare, and it definitely did for the three college students in Frozen. It’s a simple premise, but truly terrifying. One second, you’re in a chairlift getting ready to ski and snowboard at a high-end resort – and the next, you’re trapped in freezing cold temperatures 100 feet above the ground. When the three friends get stranded in the chairlift with no help in sight, they go to extreme measures to stay alive and avoid freezing to death. There’s no ghosts or demons, just three people fighting against nature to protect themselves from the woes of winter… and it’s incredibly frightening. Stream on Amazon here.

The Thing

Released: 1982

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When a group of researchers in Antarctica encounter “The Thing,” it’s not just the bitter cold that they need to protect themselves from. This alien orgasm is a parasite that can imitate people to perfection, giving them all paranoia that they can’t trust each other. And to be honest, they probably can’t. Like many winter horror films, this is a story of survival amongst both evil forces and the steep snow… and it’s simply chilling to watch. After you’ve finished watching the 1982 version of The Thing, you can also watch the 2011 remake that many horror fans believe is as brilliant as the original! Purchase the DVD here.

The Invisible Man

Released: 1933

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If you’re in the mood for a black-and-white holiday movie that’s a bit less cheery than It’s A Wonderful Life, this eerie winter horror film will definitely do the trick. As the name suggests, it tells the story of a man who checks into a hotel on a snowy night with this face fully wrapped in bandages and topped off with goggles. After a series of events, it’s uncovered that this man has discovered the science of invisibility, and he’s even more dangerous than you think. An invisible man who can sneak up on his victims before their brutal murders, in the middle of the snowy winter? What could possibly go wrong? Stream on Amazon here.

Books

The Shining

Author: Steven King

Published: 1977

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The Shining isn’t just one of the best haunted books of all time, it’s also a winter horror masterpiece. While it’s the supernatural forces that cause Jack Torrance to lose himself and become a danger to himself and his family – it’s safe to say that any of us would go crazy after being trapped in a haunted hotel during a winter snowstorm. Jack begins working there as a caretaker as he recovers from alcoholism, and his inner demons combined with actual evil spirits begin to take over his body. As the snow falls around this Colorado hotel, he goes on a quest to kill his son Danny (who posseses psychic powers called “the shining”), wife Wendy, and anybody else who stands in his way. Even if you’ve seen the cult favorite 1980 film starring Jack Nicholson, this Steven King novel is a classic that you should definitely read from your creepy hotel room. Available on Amazon here.

The Winter People 

Author: Jennifer McMahon

Published: 2014

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Living “off the grid” in a Vermont farmhouse to survive the winter cold may seem like a dream at first. Netflix, blankets, and hot cocoa… oh my! But things take a turn when 19-year-old Ruthie moves into the home with her mother and sister, only for her mother to mysteriously vanish one day. Trapped in the middle of nowhere with no answers, she uncovers an old diary that pulls her into a town mystery that may or may not decide her mother’s fate. Along with provide answers for the other townspeople who have disappeared throughout the decades. Available on Amazon here.

Ghost Story

Author: Peter Straub

Published: 1971

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You know you’ve written a killer book when even Stephen King compliments it. The famed horror author has nothing but great things to say about Ghost Story, as does Puzzle Box Horror. It tells the tale of four old men who gather around one winter night to tell the many stories of their past. Some are simple, others are frightening, but there’s one that’s purely horrifying. A terrible mistake that shows that your past can always come back to haunt you, and no sin is truly forgiven. Available on Amazon here.

Snowblind

Author: Christopher Golden

Published: 2014

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The snow is the true villain in this novel by Christopher Golden, as the town of Coventry still struggles to recover from a devastating blizzard that happened over a decade ago. And it wasn’t just your typical natural disaster. Many people died, others mysteriously vanished, and strange things began to happen as icy figures danced in the snow and gazed inside children’s windows. With another blizzard set to hit the town, the people of Coventry must put away their painful memories and prepare to save themselves from the supernatural forces of the snow. Available on Amazon here.

Misery

Author: Stephen King

Published: 1987

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Snow and Stephan King novels are always a scarily good combination, and Misery is no exception. When acclaimed author Paul Sheldon gets caught in a snowstorm and crashes his car, he awakens to find that he has been captured by Annie Wilkes, a superfan of his work who will go to great lengths to get her definition of a happy ending. This includes holding him hostage, manipulating him by withholding food and painkillers, and even cutting off his foot. It becomes clear that Annie is unstable and Paul’s life is in danger, and he must escape her before his own life story comes to an end. This novel was also made into a highly successful movie starring James Caan and Kathy Bates! Available on Amazon here.