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Decapitated Dan's Best of 2015: Novels


  Well it’s the end of the year, and what better way to recap it than by making a list! This is just a list ranking the books I read / listened to in 2015.

11) The Rising - Brian Keene (Audio)
I like zombies, but I don’t like zombies. Does that make sense? Probably not, so let me try to explain. As you will go down this list you will see how much I like Brian Keene’s work, but zombies are zombies and just don’t do it for me in book form. Now I’m not bashing this book, it has a lot of great twists and turns. I love what the dead are, because it plays into the Mythos, it is why I will read the rest of the series.  I also want to point out that a big reason why it is at the bottom of my list here is because I did not care for the narrator. He even did the sequel which, I started and then stopped so I will just read it now instead of doing the audio version. So overall, it’s a good book, but from what I read in 2015 it was not as good as the others.

10) Starship Troopers  - Robert A. Heinlein (Audio)
Do you want to know more? You’re damn right you do, and this book is nothing like the movie that rocks my socks. I love the movie, so I said I wanted to try the book and my god they are nothing alike. So the book kind of has the same cast, but what I really liked about it was how militaristic it was. It was not what I was expecting at all. Following Johny Rico the book focuses on how he goes into training and on to move up in the ranks to become a citizen. But this book focuses more on how the battles are fought and what is wrong how things were done in our time. It actually bashes the worlds governments and how they were run in the 1950’s. Which could still be true today. If you go into this book because you liked the movie, expect something completely different. It’s good, but I can easily see this not being for everyone.

9) Castaways- Brian Keene (Audio)
Okay close your eyes. No wait... don’t close your eyes this is a written post not a podcast. Pretend you are closing your eyes and imagine the show Survivor. Now pretend that the island they are on is inhabited by a tribe of neanderthals who start to kill them. It’s an awesome vision right? Well that is Castaways! Kind of, there is more to it, but at it’s base this is a slaughter flick through and through. It was such a fun listen, and was done so well. Maynard McKillen was fantastic at reading this book. I have a drawback though, it was light on the connection to the other books. A small reference was all I was able to pick up. That just means it is safe for anyone who is not as big a freak on the Labyrinth Mythos as I am becoming.

8) The Three - Sara Lotz (Audio)
So this book was just different than anything I had read before. Not in terms of the subject matter, but more in how it was presented. The book is told by various people sharing their stories of the Black Thursday event and what happened after that. It’s just a style of writing I had no encountered before, and came off like a breath of fresh air. The opening chapter blew me away. By the time I was done with it, I was hooked and there was no way I was going to put this book down. Not to mention the concept here. Four plane crashes, three child survivors, what happened? Are they human? Was there a fourth child? The questions are all there and all are answered kind of. Maybe it’s just my stupidity, but the ending was very satisfying but not super specific. This book might not be for everyone, in terms of how it is told, but to me it was amazing, and I was always wanting to move forward to know more. I did struggle with the Audio version, mostly because of all the voices that the actors were using. So for me it was a better read than listen.

7) Ghost Walk - Brian Keene (Book)
If you didn’t figure it out yet, I’ll give you one guess as to who’s books I read the most of this year. Ghost Walk is the sequel to another book you will find on this list Dark Hollow, so I don’t want to really spoil anything should you want to read them. So to put it safely, this book takes place a few years after Dark Hollow, and really focuses on the setup of a Halloween attraction for the area. It has nods here and there to what happened before, but for the most part the first half of the book can stand on its own. However when it all starts to come together and move to the end, it would probably be best if you did know what had happened prior. So my personal feeling is that you need to read DH. The big takeaway for this book though is that it introduces Levi Stoltzfus, who I feel is Keene’s best character and needs more books (wink wink). So I don’t think I spoiled anything, so read my thoughts on DH and then read them both!  

6) Urban Gothic - Brian Keene (Book)
Well look at that, more BK! So let me say this before going on, I started Urban Gothic with the audio format. Jeff Pringle is the narrator, and his style was not for me. I like it when narrators get in there and work up the voices. When they sell it by doing what they do. I did not get that Pringle. So I switched it up and went to the physical copy. So this book starts off as a “Haunted House” tale that leaves you with chills, but then it dives deeper. It brings in characters that had the feel of the Natives in Castaway, and the nods to Ghoul and Ghost Walk, GOOSEBUMPS!!! And I could totally be wrong about the Castaways nod, but It was what I thought of. This is the goriest and most brutal of the Keene books I have read too. The “horror/death” scenes are detailed very well, and really put me in that uncomfortable place. Special mention to the draining scene, that was all up in my head for awhile. So here is my only drawback on Urban Gothic, it really, really, really, really left me wanting to know more, and I mean MORE! Sure what was here was enough to make this book amazing, but I wish more answers had been given as to the who, how and what next questions. This book is so good, and it’s really safe for a Keene Newbie. I know I mentioned the little things that I caught here and there, but you don’t need to know anything about those things when i comes to this book. They are just readers to find. I need that sequel now!

5) Bestial - Ray Garton (Book)
Last year I had the absolute pleasure of listening to Garton’s Ravenous, so when I got my hands on the sequel I was really excited. This is a werewolf tale like no other, in terms of how the disease is spread. This book picks up sometime after the first book, but does a great job of recapping as it goes along. I needed that too, because it had been awhile since I had listened to its predecessor. The moments depicting attacks and death are fang-tastic, and what I came to expect from Garton. I was also introduced to two characters who had starred in a previous book of his, which I will hopefully get to read in 2016. I will say that this book is not safe to jump into on it’s own. I really do think you need to have read the first, but again that could just be because they are both such amazing books. I really want to know what will come next, but I have to wait patiently. Werewolf fans looking for a book to check out, look no further than Ravenous and Bestial, you will not be disappointed.

4) Nightwhere - John Everson (Book)
Erotic Horror, I think that might be a simple way to explain this book, but if I go for bigger words I think that calling it a Dark Sadomasochist Erotic Trip Through the Bowels of Hell might be more up it’s alley. Everson won my literary heart with The 13th. So I did expect the sex-factor with this book. I did not expect it to be this graphic though. I’m kind of worried now about John, just kidding. So this book revolves around a good and evil style tale, that goes deeper and darker than one would even imagine. Think about a swinger party, but everyone there is a Cenobite from the Hellraiser movies. I loved every damn second of it. There were times when I was writhing in my seat because the torture descriptions were so in depth. This book is definitely not for everyone, but for those willing to go to Nightwhere, you will be rewarded for your journey. This is just a damn good book.

3) Ghoul - Brian Keene (Book)
All hail BRIAN KEENE! ALA LA KEENE! ALA LA KEEN! WOW! What a fucking fantastic read this was. This is seriously a book that I suggest EVERYONE in the world should read. There is so much emotion in the voices of these three kids. I fell in love with all of them so fast, and was so sad as it all played out. I mean Brian just makes you feel for them as if they were your friends. I’ll make a simple comparison here, this book really had a “Stand By Me” feel to it. You have Timmy who is nothing but Wil Wheaton, Barry who is a mix of River Phoenix and Cory Feldman, and Doug is just straight up Jerry O’Connell. With a pure early 80’s vibe, as it takes place then, we follow the boys as they enter the start of Summer. A time that should be full of fun and sun, but instead is full of pain, loss and terror. Another I took away from the book was the number of monsters that are in these boys lives. Of course we have the obvious Ghoul, but their family lives are not all picture perfect. It really added to that emotional connection with the boys that I got as a reader. I really can’t say enough about how great this book was. Instant classic, and sure I read it to my 2 month old, but I don’t think we will come back to it until she is in her teens. I leave you with this, there is a movie, I will take your word for it if it is good or not. I want to see it, but after what the Horns movie did to that book, I’ll stay away. You have to read this book!

2) Dark Hollow - Brian Keene (Book)
Alright this is the last Keene book for this year, I promise. I honestly never thought I would like one of Brian’s books as much as I liked Darkness on the Edge of Town and A Gathering of Crows, but Dark Hollow is a bully that threatened me to never put it down. This book was a page turner and when I was done with it, I was sad. Not because of it’s ending, but because it ended when I wanted there to be more. Thank you for Ghost Walk, Brian. Dark Hollow is a sexual tale, but it’s so messed up and introduces the reader to what will become the Levi Stoltzfus universe. So initially I was waiting and waiting and waiting for Levi to show up, but that never happened. Instead I was introduced to Pow-Wow and other great things that lead into Levi coming in with Ghost Walk. But that means nothing, when trying to explain why this book was so good. I know I compared Ghoul to a movie, but I have to say that in a way this one had a Burbs feel to it. A bunch of neighbors going out to kick some ass. It’s got action, intrique and god damn it a Satyr! Ok fine, you don’t believe me, it’s okay, maybe the opening line of the book can convince you “It was on the first day of Spring that Big Steve and I saw Shelly Carpenter giving head to the hairy man.” SOLD! I’m gonna read it again just to put it on next years list too.

1) Bird Box - Josh Malerman (Audio)
I need you to do me a favor, you the one reading this list, get the audio version of this book, put it on your ipod, phone or whatever. Turn the lights off, try to make it as pitch black as possible, sit back and listen to this book. Sure you can do the book version, but trust me on this, not hearing Cassandra Campbell read this book is a crime. This book creeped me the fuck out. I was going to bleep the bad word there, but using it explains it perfectly, this book is fucking creepy! Imagine a world where if you see something you go insane and either kill someone and then yourself, or just kill yourself. So it’s no wonder that everyone lives in the dark by being blindfolded in fear of seeing something.  This story is told in two layers, which are separated basically by even and odd chapters. So one story is of a mother and her kids trying to get somewhere, leaving the safety that they have and trying to find others. The other story takes place in the past and covers the mother when she was pregnant and how she got to where she is in the future. By the end of this book, I was so terrified of knowing what the monster really was, and I will not spoil it, but I when it was over I was relieved and had some tears of joy on my cheeks. I tell you to listen to this book over holding the book because closing your eyes and imagining it all fucks with you so much. I heard that a movie was coming, and I want to boycot the hell out of it. This is a book based on not seeing, so unless the whole movie is about not seeing what is on screen it will not be as good as this. I honestly can’t believe I was able to describe the book so well here because I typically just go duuuuuhhhhhhhhh it’s good. This book is fucking good!