13 Days of Halloween: The scariest novel

For sheer literary merit and respectability, Frankenstein has cast a shadow over all horror novels published over the two subsequent centuries. Picking Mary Shelley's 1818 classic seems like an easy out, though, which ignores more recent landmarks of the genre like Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. The new century has already seen some excellent horror novels, including Dan Simmons' huge, Victorian-era chillers, The Terror and Drood; Scott Smith's disturbing vacation-from-Hell The Ruins (hey, anyone see the movie?) and China Mieville's genre-busting Perdido Street Station.

Still, evaluating the scariest of everything for the 13 Days of Halloween series has reminded me of the subjectivity of fear-based entertainment and the fact that the most lingering scares date back to youth. For the novel that scared me most, I have to back to vintage Stephen King, who penned several heart-stopping books before I was old enough to drive. Salem's Lot and The Stand would be satisfying choices, not to mention his "Monkey's Paw" homage Pet Sematery). His novel that scared me most, though, wasn't even a novel.

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