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8 Survival Horror Books to Drive You Wild

It's a scary world out there...

survival horror books
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  • Photo Credit: "The Hunger" by Alma Katsu

The horror genre has no limit to its potential. Ghosts, demons, serial killers, aliens—it's all terrifying. But what if the most dangerous thing you could ever face is the world around you? That's where the heart-pounding scares of survival horror come in.

More commonly seen in film, survival horror draws heavily on the deadly wonders of the natural world. Sprawling oceans, sweltering jungles, snow-capped mountains—you'd be fighting tooth and nail to find your way back home. While there might be supernatural elements or other looming threats in these books, a large portion of the tension comes from the isolation and struggles presented by the intense environment. These eight survival horror books showcase just how deadly it can be to venture too far.

the last one

The Last One

By Alexandra Oliva

Reality TV loves to put people in harrowing situations—and this show is no different. A dozen contestants are shipped off to the woods to compete in intense endurance challenges. But while they're sequestered away, something horrific happens to the rest of the world. Detached from the rest of society, these competitors have no way of knowing the destruction that has been wrought, so when Zoo stumbles across a scene of complete devastation, she has no reason to think it's anything other than just another part of the game.

Plagued with doubt about the life and husband she left behind, Zoo pushes through the struggle to see this contest through. But this strange new territory puts her survival skills to the test. How long will it take her to realize what is a farce and what is a very real terror?

one by one

One by One

By Ruth Ware

While very few people enjoy company retreats, it's hard to complain when it's a luxurious getaway to a ski chalet in the French Alps. Eight coworkers for the London-based tech start-up Snoop split their time between strategy sessions and making the most of the slopes and their cozy accommodations. But tensions begin to rise as one shareholder brings up a contentious buyout offer. The uneasy affair turns deadly when an avalanche crashes down to cut off the group from the outside world.

The coworkers are trapped in their picturesque chalet—but one of them didn't make it back from the slopes. The storm rages on outside, and no sign of rescue seems to be coming. Panic skyrockets, and one by one, their group grows smaller...

books recommended by stephen king

The Ruins

By Scott Smith

Two couples go for a relaxing vacation in Mexico full of lazy sunny days and crazy drunken nights. In good spirits, the couples make friends with other tourists. But when the brother of one of those friends goes missing, everything goes to hell. The group ventures out into the jungle to find the missing man, but their discovery of ancient ruins turns their day-trip deadly.

authors to check out after stephen king

The Troop

By Nick Cutter

It's an annual tradition for Scoutmaster Tim Riggs to take his troop out for a camping trip in the Canadian wilderness. But this year, their fun excursion is intruded upon by a shockingly pale, thin, and starving stranger. This man is carrying a bioengineered terror, and Tim and his boys are in for the fight of their lives. But it's not just this infection they have to survive, but the elements and the increasing tensions between one another.

best horror books 2018

The Hunger

By Alma Katsu

The Donner Party is known to all as a brutal story of desperation and cannibalism. But what if there was something more to it?

This historical horror novel by Alma Katsu takes readers into the tense conditions of the infamous wagon train. Dwindling rations, bitter arguments, and the inexplicable death of a young boy have driven these weary travelers over the edge of sanity. They yearn to reach the West, but their troubles leave them stranded and their secrets feed the chaos. Tragedy seems to follow their every step... or is it a strange, supernatural being that stalks their journey?

the river at night

The River at Night

By Erica Ferencik

Winifred Allen—in the midst of a miserable job, the tragic death of her brother, and the dissolution of her 15-year-marriage—needs a break. It's a good thing her friends are always looking out for her. Together, the four women set out on their annual girls' trip, but Wini has her reservations about white water rafting through the Maine wilderness.

Their adventure through the remote Allagash Wilderness starts out well enough, but a freak accident finds the women stranded. With no raft and no supplies, they have to find a way to survive the woods around them. As night falls, a fire leads them to a camp they think could be their saving grace. But it may just be one more level to their fresh new nightmare.

Dan Simmons books

The Abominable

By Dan Simmons

1924. Brave climbers race to be the first to scale the world's highest mountain: Mt. Everest. But this exhilarating competition is put on hold following the devastating disappearance of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine. A year later, three climbers are about to try to climb their way to the top once more, funded by Lady Bromley, who is still wracked with grief after her son also vanished on the mountain. Everyone is certain the boy must be dead, but Bromley refuses to accept it. So the trio is tasked with bringing him home.

The brave climbers set out with young Bromley's cousin, but deep in Tibet and high up on Everest, they don't seem to be alone. At 28,000 feet, is something sinister in pursuit of them? Is it the cause of the 1924 disappearances? And if they find their way to the top of the world, will they ever make it back down?


The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

By Stephen King

From the Master of Horror himself, this gripping novel follows nine-year-old Trisha McFarland on the most harrowing journey of her life. She was just supposed to spend the day with her older brother, Pete, and their newly divorced mother. But as the three of them set out on their six-mile hike through the Appalachian trail, escalating arguments have Trisha breaking off to get some peace and quiet. Next thing she knows, the shortcut that was supposed to lead her back to her family drags her only deeper into the woods.

As night creeps in, the terror of the wilderness seems only to swell. Trisha has no map to guide her home, no shelter against the elements—nothing but resilient courage and no other choice but to find her way through. And to help her hang on to that bravery, she has her Walkman broadcasting the Boston Red Sox games and the magnificent skills of her hero, relief pitcher Tom Gordon. But is it enough to see her through the slaughtered animals and mangled trees that promise a threat of something darker?