We’d like to start this post by saying that it was in no way sponsored by Netflix, the Duffer brothers, Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, or the 1980s.
Like many other offices around the world, we simply have some mega fans of Stranger Things
If you have been living under a rock since mid-July, you may not have heard of the eight-episode Netflix original science-fiction horror series Stranger Things
If you’ve heard of the show and have been wondering what all the fuss is about, we suggest you run not walk to your closest Netflix subscription and watch the full series. We’ll see you in eight hours, when your life will be inexplicably richer.
instantly lends itself well to booklovers: each episode is referred to as a chapter, with chapter titles such as ‘The Weirdo on Maple Street’ and ‘The Flea and the Acrobat’ that pique curiosity straight away.
(There’s also a chapter/episode title that just so happens to be the exact name of a Stephen King novella, and there's another inspired by the King short story The House on Maple Street
, but we’ll get to that later.)
Fans of 1980s horror and science-fiction books and films will agree with us when we say that the series is basically a love letter to all things genre from three decades ago. If you don’t believe us, watch this video
, which shows many of the 1980s references side-by-side with footage from Stranger Things
. This video does contain spoilers, so proceed with caution.
From scenes shot to effectively mirror their 1980s influencers to the synth-based soundtrack that practically screams ‘don’t switch off the lights’, Stranger Things
is a genre-lover’s dream, and when the credits appeared after the final episode we wondered what would fill the Stranger Things
-shaped hole in our lives.
The answer was, naturally, a book. But not just any book. It had to evoke the same sense of small-town creepiness that Stranger Things
captured so perfectly. It had to make us think twice about turning off the lights, but not in a cheap scares way. It had to be intelligent and witty and genuinely unsettling.
We’re working our way through the following list of ten books because we think they share many similar elements and themes with Stranger Things
, and we promise it’s not just a list of 1980s Stephen King! If you liked Stranger Things
, hopefully you’ll enjoy these books as well.
It by Stephen King
‘The Loser’s Club’: a bunch of kids take on the ultimate King monster. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing…
This would definitely be the most Stranger Things
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
It is the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. Strange and horrifying events begin to overtake everyday life, spreading terror through the once-peaceful town. Determined to exorcize this ancient plague, Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a war of blood against an arcane abomination who owns the night. Oh yeah. This one is good.
The Body, a novella in Different Seasons by Stephen King
In 1960s America, four young boys go on a journey to search for the body of a boy killed by a train. As they travel, they discover how cruel the world can be, but also how wondrous. ‘The Body’ is the name of one of the Stranger Things
episodes, and if this one novella isn’t enough to convince you to pick up the full book, Different Seasons
also contains the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
. Yes, *that* Shawshank Redemption.
The Terror by Dan Simmons
Inspired by the true story of two ice ships that disappeared in the Arctic Circle during an 1845 expedition, The Terror
is a slow-burn horror novel with a fantastic and terrifying monster slowly stalking the characters. It’s been described as a masterfully chilling and blood-freezing work, and perfectly captures the terror of a character losing all hope that they will ever escape from the nightmare they are living.
Firestarter by Stephen King
A man and a woman are subjects of a top-secret government experiment designed to produce extraordinary psychic powers. Then, they are married and have a child. A daughter… The daughter, whose name isn’t a number, shows signs of a wild force growing within her, and despite the best efforts of her parents to get her to act normal, the government finds out and wants its brainchild back. The government chasing a girl with supernatural powers? That rings a bell…
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The girl is Melanie, and she is referred to by Dr Caldwell as ‘our little genius’. Immediately the parallels between Dr Caldwell and Dr Brenner and between Melanie and Eleven are obvious, and while the ‘gifts’ in The Girl with All the Gifts
differ from Eleven’s gifts in Stranger Things
Melanie and Eleven’s plights share much in common. Government officials are afraid of both girls, and joy and terror comes from finding out why.
A Dark Matter by Peter Straub
Imagine that the kids from Stranger Things
have grown up and are looking back at the weirdness that touched their lives as children. A Dark Matter
follows the story of one man who wants to uncover the mysterious details surrounding an event that happened forty years earlier. The novel unfolds through the individual stories of those involved in the event. Now, how much would you like to see a novel like this from the perspectives of Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Will, and Eleven?
The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
We’ve listed books written by King and Straub independently, so we thought it only fair to list the book they wrote together. On a brisk autumn day, twelve year-old boy Jack Sawyer stands on the shores of the grey Atlantic. He has been chosen to make a journey back across America and into another realm. Jack’s quest to save his dying mother is full of loyalty, terror, and mystery, and we felt this was a way to experience a world like the Upside Down.
The Ruins by Scott Smith
Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine. Creepy, intelligent plants; dark places filled with mystery; teenagers who should know better… this book has all that and more.
Severed by Scott Snyder
This one is a graphic novel set in the Depression era. Twelve year-old Jack Garron runs away from home to find his biological father, and along the way he meets up with a travelling salesman whose smile is fake. Beneath the smile hides his real teeth… jagged spikes that he uses to eat people. A boy, a girl, and a cannibalistic monster. What more could you possibly want?
Throw on a synth soundtrack, get comfortable, and prepare to be lost in a world of unspeakable horror and terror. Happy reading!