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From the Haunted Stacks: Space Horror That Actually Terrifies 

These books have an other-worldly fear factor.

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  • Photo Credit: John Fowler / Unsplash

The universe is vast, cold, empty, and mostly unknown. Sounds like the perfect setting for a horror novel, right? It is, but honestly, until recently, there were not many space horror tiles to choose from.

Sure there are many books—including some newer titles—set in the Aliens movie franchise universe. And there are a few anthologies of classic scary science fiction stories set in space—such as In Space No One Can Hear You Scream edited by Hank Davis. 

But what about some intentional 21st-century takes on the subgenre? Books that set out to scare in space, not just science fiction that features some serious chills that are “good enough” for horror readers. 

Today, I am here to help you navigate the current space horror landscape, with nine books that offer a range of scare levels, inventive otherworldly monsters, storytelling styles, and settings from generation ships to exploring new planets and more.  

Gideon the Ninth

Gideon the Ninth

By Tasmyn Muir

The first book in the Locked Tomb series, this novel is set in a fantasy world similar to an epic fantasy series like Game of Thrones, except it is in space.

Gideon, our narrator, is a lesbian neuromancer, who must compete in a violent series of events all driven by the Undead Emperor. She is snarky, hot-tempered, complicated, and utterly fascinating to follow. Gothic, tense, and violent, this is a story that is driven by the way it invokes real, raw emotions.

Readers who are new to space horror but already familiar with dark fantasy, will find this to be a great bridge title to dip their toes into a new genre. 

Dead Silence

Dead Silence

By S.A. Barnes

Clarie Kovalik, is leading a final mission on the farthest outpost in space, when the crew are shocked to discover a lost luxury ship, one that held a who’s who of the rich and famous, before it went missing.

After some deliberation, the crew decides to enter the ship to see what happened to everyone inside, but immediately, they can tell this was no ordinary disaster, and, even worse, they might be the next victims.

Featuring a compelling ghost ship frame, sustained visceral unease, an exclusive first-person narration from Koalik’s increasingly unreliable point of view, and biting social commentary, Barnes is quickly cementing herself as the go-to author in space horror.

Look for her next standalone space horror novel, Ghost Station to be published in April 2024. 

The Hematophages

The Hematophages

By Stephen Koziniewski

Paige, a historian on a team sent to salvage a ship that has been lost for centuries, has never left her space station home base. She narrates—giving the reader insight into a future where the male gender is extinct—corporations have replaced governments, and most humans live off-Earth.

But when the team reaches the ship, the true terror begins—a terror which springs from the hematophages, lamprey-like creatures, who attach to their prey and suck out their insides for nourishment. They especially enjoy the brain.

Think Office Space meets Event Horizon, with excellent world-building, dark humor, a fast pace, awesomely gross scenes, and a perfect Horror ending.

The Scourge Between Stars

The Scourge Between Stars

By Brown, Ness

Generation ships are a big subgenre within science fiction, and space horror has titles that embrace the theme such as in this critically acclaimed, fast-paced, and emotionally resonant, debut novella by Brown, a self-proclaimed “speculative fiction author by day and astrophysicist by night.”

Jacklyn “Jack” Albright is the Captain of a doomed generation ship populated by the last humans, with nowhere left to go. She is not only trying to keep the peace among her understandably anxious passengers, but also, there appears to be something evil, and not human, stalking the ship as well.

This is a great choice for readers who want their chills wrapped up in a scientifically accurate blanket. 

The Luminous Dead

The Luminous Dead

By Caitlin Starling

In this intensely claustrophobic novel, Starling brings readers to a near future dystopia, sending them deep underground on a non-earth planet while introducing them to two captivating but very unreliable women.

Gyre, our narrator, lies her way into a great-paying job, exploring a system of caves. Em is the person above ground who acts as her guide and is monitoring Gyre’s well-being through a very intricate bodysuit.

But as Gyre begins to find the dead bodies of past explorers, the entire story takes a terrifying and monstrous turn. This is a psychological horror tale that will burrow into your soul.

Starling is a rising star in horror, an author who is a great choice for all horror fans, but please note, this is her only title in the space horror category. 

We Have Always Been Here

We Have Always Been Here

By Lena Nguyen

Grace Park is the psychologist on the Deucalion, a ship that is scouting the icy planet Eos, to see if it is habitable. None of the crew likes Park and they treat her poorly, but it gets worse as a radiant storm cuts off all communication with the outside world.

And then, the crew begins acting strange, as if possessed. But by what? And how can she figure out why? There are dangerous secrets about Eos and the mission being withheld, and her only hope to find answers may be the ship’s androids, with whom she has a unique relationship.

 This atmospheric debut satisfyingly straddles the line between science fiction, thriller, and horror. 

Salvation Day

Salvation Day

By Kali Wallace

Cult horror fans, rejoice as there is a perfect space horror novel for you to devour.

Zahra and her team, acting on a plan devised by their leader, set out to find their exiled cult a new home on the exploration spaceship, House of Wisdom, now deserted because a virus killed everyone on board.

In order to gain access to the ship, however, Zahra and her team must kidnap the only survivor of the House of Wisdom disaster so that they can access the ship using his genetic signature. And because this is solidly a Horror novel, once on board, they find out the truth behind what killed the previous crew, a secret that is not happy to be awakened.

Featuring great characters, an intricate plot, and a suspenseful tone, this is a riveting and creepy read. 

Screams from the Void

Screams from the Void

By Anne Tibbets

Mechanics Ensign, Reina is done with living on the freighter Demeter after two years in deep space, stuck with a small crew, collecting plant life from other planets, all alongside her abusive ex, a fellow crew member.

However, she may have even bigger problems, as a wolf-esque creature appears to have snuck on board during one of their stops. As it literally tears through the crew, Reina needs to figure out how to stop it. Horror fans will be uneasy from the start as the ship’s name will ring a doomed bell.

This is also a great choice for fans of the Aliens film franchise. 



By David Wellington

I began this list with a title that was a great way for dark fantasy fans to try space horror, and now I want to end with a great option for hard science fiction readers.

Special Agent Petrov and Dr. Lei Zhang are being given another chance to serve the interstellar government by being sent to Earth’s first deep space colony, Paradise-1. However, the second they are woken from their travel sleep, their ship comes under attack by frozen yams!?! 

Working with the ship’s Captain and its inventive and scene-stealing robot, Rapscallion, the crew realizes that they are surrounded by dozens of spacecraft that appear to be devoid of life.

Balancing a steady stream of increasingly dire action, creepy world-building, satisfying character development, an original monster, and the right dose of humor, readers will be eagerly awaiting the sequel, Revenant-X coming in November of 2024. 

Featured image: John Fowler / Unsplash