Brian Keene knows a thing or two about the darkness. Whether penning a breakthrough zombie series or deftly merging a canon into new, metaphysical works, Keene has explored a diverse range of horror, crime, and more.
He started his career by publishing none other than The Rising, a book that helped bring the zombie to the forefront of popular culture. Amid writing works like Dead Sea, Castaways, and Dark Hollow, he also dove into intellectual property like Aliens and the X-Files, carving his own vision of those universes. To date, he has published an amazing oeuvre of over 50 books.
Keene has also been a voice for writers, particularly in regards to the craft and business of being a writer, and has worked on founding Scares That Care, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization aimed to raise and donate funds for organizations and families with children affected by illness. He has also turned to Patreon to create an inspiring and entertaining space for readers where he posts daily content, often including exclusive access to works in serialized formats.
Wherever you begin reading Keene, there’s always the lure to seek out more, to dig deeper and see more of what he’s conjured on the page. That’s where we hope to be of some help! Here are some must-read titles to begin (or continue) your trek through Keene country.
There’s something so uncanny when the setting becomes a character all its own. In The Complex, readers visit Pine Village Apartment Complex as it becomes a site of gory, palpable horror. Readers are introduced to its various tenants, from a mother and child to a down-and-out writer; there’s even the inclusion of a recurring character from Keene’s own mythos, the serial killer known as “The Exit.” After a horde of sadistic killers descend upon the apartment complex, the tenants, barely willing to be neighbors, must join up and attempt to survive. If you like your horror claustrophobic, The Complex is a must-read, turbo-charged romp.
Let’s take it back to the 90s. Ghoul introduces readers to young Timmy and his friends Barrie and Doug. It’s just in time for summer, and the boys want nothing more than to play music and video games. But when Barrie’s alcoholic father breaks a stone tablet while tending to the cemetery, a creature from beyond is brought out from its slumber.
Ghoul quickly descends into a dark and incredibly endearing tale of carnage, with summer itself becoming a battleground. This book demonstrates Keene’s deftness with developing characters that breathe off the page. You’ll undoubtedly be turning those pages to see what Timmy and crew do next.
The Clickers series, co-written with author J.F. Gonzalez, is an energetic oceanic cosmic horror series spanning five books. The series chronicles the existence and carnage of the eponymously named “Clickers,” deep sea crabs being chased out of their habitat.
At the start of the series, readers are introduced to Rick Sychek, a writer recently relocated to Philipsport, Maine in desperate hope of finding inspiration. When the aforementioned Clickers rise to the surface, Sychek finds himself in survival mode. The townsfolk must fend off the Clickers, as well as the ominous menace that’s really driving the creatures from their depths.
The Clicker series is an addictive excursion into a world that makes you think—where humanity stands against the totality of life on earth. Keene and Gonzelez were writing “eco horror” long before the industry gave it a name.
As the title may suggest, Alone is a quiet, solemn, and spare tale about a man who finds himself out of sync with reality. Dan Miller wakes up and everyone is gone: his wife, daughter, neighbors—everyone. After exploring all the logical conclusions, he comes face to face with a situation more surreal than real.
Keene walks into eerie, Twilight Zone territory, with a mindfulness and emotional depth that will leave you thinking long after the novella’s conclusion. Alone stands out as yet another example of Keene’s range on the page.
The Triangle of Belief
In The Triangle of Belief, we see Keene and Mary SanGiovanni delving into nonfiction, exploring the supernatural and the occult. As the cover copy explains, the book got its impetus in January 2018, when Keene and SanGiovanni experienced events involving UFOs in the sky over their home. What results is a deep dive into Keene’s belief system, complete with a well-rendered explanation of events that defy modern science. His inspection shows a through line of having belief and faith in something despite not having a concrete explanation to back it.
End of the Road
End of the Road is for all the writers and creatives out there who put everything into their craft. Keene crafted this book to be a memoir of all the years spent as a writer, traveling and touring for various titles. Through his account, Keene showcases how the publishing industry changes over time, and how the craft itself is what inevitably stays with a writer.
To be a writer, it’s not just happenstance; it’s commitment, keeping on the literal and proverbial road, writing through the (sometimes long) years that one endures.
It wouldn’t be a list about Keene’s work without The Rising. The novel joins the ranks of the best zombie horror fiction out there and cemented Keene’s name in the minds of generations of readers.
In The Rising, readers meet Jim Thurmond, a survivor in the zombie outbreak who endures because he must find his son before it’s too late. The zombies in this book can wield weapons just like humans, and the thought of them with more cogent behavior is extremely effective and harrowing.
This book set the tone for a prolific career, and it remains a highly entertaining, timelessly gruesome tale of zombies and humans fighting to stay alive.