Extreme horror books are a growing trend; everyone wants to read them. They’ve been around for a while, though, and you can find examples of extreme horror books dating back until at least the 18th century when Horace Walpole published his The Castle of Otranto in 1764. It is also considered the first Gothic Horror book. The genre of extreme horror books contains almost none of the mainstream horror favourites, like the best Horror Books. Some extreme horror books, of course, have overlapping genres. Gothic horror can be extreme, but it can also be more dreary and dreadful without vivid descriptions of gore and violence. Many extreme horror books lack a clear supernatural element. This makes extreme horror books more of a “tag” than a genre. The genre is Horror, Gothic or otherwise, with the tag of extreme horror as an indicator of its contents rather than its story.
The 6 Best Extreme Horror Books Without Spoilers
Here is my selection of extreme horror books without adding too many spoilers (I hope). If you’re seeking a sampling of extreme horror books, this selection is a very good place to start. Once you’ve read these, you will have a good understanding of what this niche genre (which admittedly overlaps heavily with thriller), has to offer. I am not a book reviewer; I am an author. Don’t expect the usual walls-of-text of how it made me feel or diversions into tangential topics. Reading, as writing, is my profession. Read these extreme horror books for yourself.
Geraldine Borden entices three struggling families with a lucrative offer: the children spend a day at her cliffside estate while testing her long-awaited, state-of-the-art playground in exchange for a healthy sum of money. But hiding within the playground’s innovative designs, a darker purpose lies concealed and waiting to reveal itself in all its terrible wickedness. The children become unwitting subjects in Borden’s experiment and are thrust into a world of violence, compelling them to mature beyond their years. Amidst the ominous architecture and looming peril, their survival hinges on resolving their conflicts before the playground’s evil engulfs them.
Fair warning: Playground vividly portrays graphic scenes and intense suffering undergone by children, as hinted by the title, synopsis, and cover. It is one of the most extreme horror books ever written.
#2 No One Rides For Free by Judith Sonnet
When Judi stops for petrol, a strange man enters the car with her and her children. He is unhinged and quite insane, but he also has a gun and a knife, so Jodi is compelled to do as he says. Things escalate quickly when the man forces them to drive off into the lonely desert. Despite its short length, No One Rides For Free does a good job building up dread and fear first, only to culminate in an orgasmic explosion of violence and sexual assault later where both Jodi and the children wish they were never born.
This is a short one, a novella. Truly sick and disturbing and a quick read. Excellent if you want to get your nauseating fix, but be warned: this is almost glorification-levels of violence and assault.
#3 Cows by Matthew Stokoe
Cows follows 25-year-old Steven, who lives with his sadistic mother (called the Hagbeast) and his crippled dog called Dog (who is his only friend). Things are set in motion when Steven starts a new job at a slaughterhouse, where he is taken in by a brotherhood of butchers, sharing desires of blood and dark sexual fantasies. Things seem to get better (they won’t) when he meets his upstairs neighbour, Lucy. Lucy, though, is obsessed with vivisection of the still-alive kind. From there, Cows becomes a deluge of gore, senseless slaughter, extreme violence and sex, bestiality, torture, and a peculiar mother-son relationship (yeah…).
If you want to “enlighten” your darkest, vilest fantasies with things you never held possible, Cows is the extreme horror book you never knew you wanted to read.
#4 The Groomer by Jon Athan
Imagine a groomer, a paedophile, around your child. Now imagine you get their hands on them and get to exact every cruel fantasy you desire onto them. We follow Andrew McCarthy, who shares similar concerns and harbours similar fantasies for a man called Zachary Denton. After Zachary photographs Andrew’s daughter and other kids in a park, Andrew starts a search for known sex offenders. This sets him off in a wild and delirious pursuit of everyone he deems a threat to his family.
This one describes what any dad has felt at some or multiple points in his life. A warning not to become obsessed, but at the same time, a good reminder that fathers have a moral and biological obligation toward their children that goes beyond the law. Use as inspiration.
#5 Woom by Duncan Ralston
Where do I even start with this one? Woom has two distinct story elements. One takes place in a seedy motel room where a man called Angel invites an obese prostitute called Shyla to spend the night. They don’t have sex; instead, Angel tells Shyla about all the things that happened in this room. The story then alternates between Angel and Shyla’s direct talks in the room and the stories Angels tells about what happened in that room. The stories revolve around drug abuse, death, sexual assault and, in particular, “deep” and “wide” vaginas. All the stories differ, but they have an overarching plot that comes together in the end ─ where Angel really goes “deep” and “wide” with Shyla.
Disgusting, violent and sad, all at the same time.
#6 Self-Plug: Night Demon by Stephen Wolberius
Who’d have thought a reader of extreme horror books would put some of that extremeness into his own writing? Night Demon is Gothic horror with modern prose but also includes scenes and elements from extreme horror ─ like the vivid description of directed, bisected and torn apart bodies, gruelling pain and agony and all other manner of extreme horror. Here is the blurb:
Lilian, a thirteen-year-old factory worker in an industrialising town plagued by a serial killer, can see an invisible affliction within other people. When her search for her missing best friend ends with a confrontation with a demon — and learning that the affliction turns humans into demons — another demon named Lucian saves her life and promises answers. Her first clue is that demons are responsible for the many murders. Unfortunately, Lilian’s new lead has problems of his own — Demon Hunters, who claim Lucian is the serial killer and who see Lilian as an accessory.
Can her ability to communicate with these creatures be used to solve the crimes? Or will her connection to the Netherworld prove to be her own undoing…
Why the Lower Ratings on Extreme Horror Books?
Like with Splatterpunk Books, it’s rare to find extreme horror books with stellar ratings. Most float between 2 and 3.5 stars on aggregators like Goodreads. This is due to the extreme niche nature of the subgenre. People look for mainstream horror and don’t realise that “extreme” means something totally other than what they’re used to. This leads to lower ratings in general for extreme horror books. Another phenomenon that pressed down on ratings is “hate reads.” People know they’ll hate the book; they’ve seen the hype and know why they’ll hate it, but they still hate it out of a morbid curiosity. Instead of reckoning with themselves that they knew they wouldn’t like it, they lambast the book and author with a bad review.