9 spine-chilling horror novels from East Asian authors
by Hrydika Nagar
Halloween is upon us, and if you enjoy spooky books but find your stack lacking diverse reads, don’t worry, help is here. Here is a curated list of 9 translated horror novels from East-Asia to fuel your nightmares. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but solely a tiny collection among the many worthy horror titles from East Asian authors.
And so, in no particular order, we have:
Ring, Kōji Suzuki
It would only be fair to start the list with Ring – its Japanese movie adaption, followed by the Hollywood adaptation, are huge favorites among horror fans. A journalist, Asakawa, is intrigued by the recent and sudden deaths of four teenagers and a frightening videotape that ensures the viewers die within seven days of watching. Suzuki blends supernatural and thriller elements with a menacing writing style. Worth checking out regardless of your take on the movies.
The Hole, Hye-Young Pyun
Winner of the Shirley Jackson award, this unnerving novel from South Korea follows Oghi, who is recovering from a brutal car accident that killed his wife, and his mother-in-law (who is his caretaker) as she herself grieves the death of her daughter. A story that taps into the trepidation of isolation, confinement and neglect: something that might be all too familiar during quarantine.
The Graveyard Apartment, Mariko Koike
A young family has seemingly found their dream apartment, only it faces a crematorium and cemetery. Many unexplainable and eerie occurrences later, the other residents of the building move out and only the family remain. A sense of dread and ominousness follow the reader as the novel progresses, perfect for those who seek a tense atmospheric horror without gruesomeness and gore.
Audition, Ryu Murakami
Ryu Murakami is a must-read author for people getting started with Japanese horror. Set in Japan in the 90s, Audition follows our skeevy protagonist Aoyama, who is looking to remarry after the death of his wife. His best friend, Yoshikawa, suggests they hold fake film auditions to find him a match and Aoyama agrees. The commentary on modern dating and Japanese culture is deviously complimented by the extremely gory yet unforgettable story.
Another, Yukito Ayatsuji
A slow burn horror with a classic, well-written plot – a curse is looming over a middle school. To say anything more about this novel would only ruin the experience. Just know this, it’s strange, it’s mysterious, and it will leave you enchanted. (Also adapted into a Manga, however the storyline differs from the novel.)
Now You're One of Us, Asa Nonami
Fans of Rebecca and Rosemary’s Baby, this novel is for you. A Japanese gothic tale that follows a new bride as she tries to assimilate in her husband’s huge family. Excluding ghosts, curses, and other traditional horror elements, Nonami takes the readers on an unsettling journey using her dynamic characters and tense, atmospheric writing.
The Good Son, You-Jeong Jeong
Raved on by A. J. Flynn, The Good Son is an in-depth character analysis of a psychopathic killer. A ‘whydunnit’, if you will. After discovering his mother’s body in their house, Yu-jin registers that he has no recollection of the previous night. A haunting and gripping mystery that unfolds between the mother and son, this psychological horror is an international bestseller for a reason.
Battle Royale, Koshun Takimi
Takimi’s dystopian horror has a compelling premise; a class of high school students are taken to a deserted island where, as part of a totalitarian government program, they are provided weapons and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left. Vividly violent, this “Lord of the Flies for the 21st century” portrays the evilness of human nature and raw survivalist psychology.
This novel consists of a collection of six connected chapters about a pair of teenagers fascinated by murders. They will go to any lengths to investigate and understand the psyche of the serial killers. Otsuichi is recognized for dark, twisted body horror – this collection delivers precisely that, combined with compelling characters.