Have you ever noticed how many horror novels include some kind of scary fungus? Between rotting mansions, toxic mold and parasite-controlled zombies, there’s something for every mushroom-loving horror fan out there. Read on for a few of our favorite fungus-based horror novels.
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
10-year-old Melanie doesn’t know why she needs armed escorts for her lessons in an underground bunker, or why they transport her in a wheelchair with guns aimed at her. All she knows is that she loves school, and she adores her teacher Miss Justineau. Melanie also knows there’s a world outside her classroom and the cells she and the other children live in, but she doesn’t know everyone thinks she’ll never get to see it.
The Girl With All the Gifts is perfect for anyone who loves The Last of Us’ brand of fungus-based zombies. M.R. Carey turns the genre on its head, with an unexpected, precocious narrator and genuinely inventive world-building.
Leech by Hiron Ennes
Thanks to the Interprovincial Medical Institute, human bodies controlled by aliens merge their knowledge to solve medical problems as a collective hive mind. When one of these doctors dies in a remote, snow-covered chateau, another arrives to determine the cause of death. After pulling a worm from behind their predecessor’s eye, they realize they’re dealing with no simple pathogen but a competitor for supremacy.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Noemi is a young socialite in 1950s Mexico City, happy to flirt and dance her way through life. Things get serious, however, when she’s summoned to the mountains to check in on her ailing cousin who recently married a reclusive and wealthy Englishman. When she arrives, she’s isolated from her cousin, instead roaming the halls of the manor when she isn’t having intense nightmares. The longer she stays, the more likely it is that Noemi will never leave the house behind.
Mexican Gothic has everything you could want in a gothic novel updated for twenty-first-century readers: a creepy estate with a malicious vibe, complete isolation from society and strange, hallucinatory dreams. It’s a dark, atmospheric read perfect for the Halloween season.
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
When retired soldier Alex Easton hears of their childhood friend Madeline’s impending death, they rush to the Usher home in rural Ruravia. There they find a horrifying landscape of fungal growth and possessed wildlife surrounding a sinister, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices, while her brother Roderick suffers from a mysterious nervous condition. Together with a British mycologist and an American doctor, Alex embarks on a desperate quest to uncover the enigmatic secrets of the House of Usher before it engulfs them all in madness.
A retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher, What Moves the Dead is a dark and disturbing quick read. T. Kingfisher’s prose gets under your skin, and it’s easy to almost smell the rot and decay she describes in this fungus-based horror.
The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed
In a post-climate disaster Alberta, a woman infected with a mysterious, mind-altering parasite faces a life-changing decision. Should she leave her struggling community behind for an opportunity far from home, or stay and help rebuild? As she grapples with her choice, she seizes a chance to secure her family’s future through a perilous mission. But how can she trust those around her when she can’t trust her own infected mind?
The Annual Migration of Clouds features another mind-altering and truly terrifying fungus. Premee Mohamed paints a dark picture of what climate change may bring, while still portraying a powerful human determination to survive.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
Vern — 15, abused and pregnant — escapes the cultish Cainland to give birth to twins in the woods. There she’ll raise the boys away from the influence of the outside world. Something strange and powerful is happening to Vern too. Afraid to leave her children alone, Vern takes her small family out of the woods for the first time. They begin a long journey toward the only haven she knows. But Cainland’s influence is far-reaching, and before long Vern must confront their evil.
Sorrowland is thought-provoking and ambitious, focusing on the exploitation of Black bodies throughout history. Rivers Solomon’s writing is dark but impactful, engaging with gender, disability, race and queerness.
The Marigold by Andrew F. Sullivan
In a near-future Toronto marked by environmental turmoil and uncontrolled development, a mysterious lifeform grows beneath the city’s surface, corroding it from within. Public health inspector Cathy Jin investigates the toxic mold, while Sam “Soda” Dalipagic stumbles upon some dangerous information. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Henrietta Brakes goes underground in search of a friend taken by a subterranean creature. All the while, a struggling developer named Stanley Marigold must tap into dark forces if he’s ever going to complete his luxury tower project.
With a web of interconnected characters and plotlines, The Marigold is a blend of body horror, urban dystopia, and eco-fiction. Andrew F. Sullivan created a monstrous, city-destroying fungus and a disaster of humanity’s own making.
After reading these fungus-based horror novels, there’s no chance you’ll look at mushrooms in the same way. You can get each of them from your local independent bookstore or Bookshop.org. Which of these terrifying tales will you check out first? Let us know below!
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