Tlotlo Tsamaase’s 5 Favorite Horror Novels

by Tlotlo Tsamaase

Mage of Fools by Eugen Bacon

This novel is an amazing sci-fi, dystopia, and eco-fiction rollercoaster into a folkloric narrative dripping with beautiful lyricism. Conceptually and well executed, Mage of Fools’ summary serves it justly: A sun that has killed all the able men, and a woman, Jasmin, who has come into possession of her husband’s secret story machine that tells of a better world. The worldbuilding is immersive and refreshing and brings something new to dystopia genres.

Out by Natsuo Kirino

One night, after working the graveyard shift at a bento factory in Tokyo, a young mother, devastated by her husband’s relentless drinking sprees and reckless money-spending habits, murders her husband. Distraught, she calls on her coworker, who devises a plan to hide the body. Pulled into this crime scene are two other women, each motivated by their low economic status and vices. Kirino’s pages unravel with raw and unflinching storytelling techniques that dissect and psychoanalyze poverty, patriarchy, ageism, and the crippling effects of conforming to beauty standards. Alongside the gruesome detail of the violent scenes, Kirino explores the thought processes behind each character’s motivations, including that of a former Yakuza member who is framed for the murder and begins to hunt the women down.

A Kind of Madness by Uche Okonkwo

I quickly swallowed this short story collection. I was simply taken away by how expertly Okonkwo told most of these stories from the young characters’ perspective; the pages gleam with beautiful female friendships, bullying, family tensions, wisdom, youth, nostalgia, bitterness, and humor through the incisive eye of cultural analysis. The horror is slight, and the circumstances the characters find themselves in are heartbreaking. I am particularly fond of a story that authentically depicts how chronically ill people are treated by family, friends, and society within an African setting, which was told in such a meditative manner.

Blood Cruise by Mats Strandberg

I was lucky to chance upon this copy on the desk of a relative and was astounded by the narration. Told from several points of view, we follow several characters amongst 1200 passengers who board a 24-hour cruise to Finland. One of these characters is a strange mother-and-son pair; the young boy appears to be an innocent 5-year-old, but something is amiss when he tackles a grown man in a creepy scene. Over the ensuing hours, a disease seems to spread through the cruise. This novel reads like the film Blood Sky, but rather than vampires stuck on a plane, they’re stuck on a ship, and everyone is slowly converting into a vampire, getting attacked by one—it’s a very bloody cruise.

Lost Ark Dreaming  by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

I swallowed this in one sitting. This reminded me of the 2019 Spanish film The Platform, a mix of dystopia, African politics, eco-fiction, and thrilling scenes that dissect classism, sexism, and sheer levels of horror that aspects of society will go to survive climate devastation. It’s interspersed with folkloric poetry. Society exists in five towers submerged off the coast of West Africa, wherein hierarchy splits them across the towers, from the Uppers that host the elite to the Midders and Lowers that reside below the Uppers and the sea level. Fast-paced and beautifully rendered novella!