“Stranger Things” proved to be the surprise hit of 2016 – a nostalgia fueled coming-of-age adventure with narrative DNA that can be traced to the likes of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Gary Gygax, Stephen King, and quite a few others. While the core tale of season one came to a satisfying conclusion, by the season’s end, there were more than a few threads left hanging. Of course, a sophomore effort felt very much like a foregone conclusion. With Netflix set to return to Hawkins, Indiana on October 27 – just in time for Halloween – we have a pretty good idea of what to expect with season two, and which appears to be “more” and “bigger.” We may have to wait a bit longer for “Stranger Things” to officially arrive, but thankfully there are plenty of ways to get our fix for otherwordly terrors, adolescent hijinx, shady conspiracies, and nostalgia-driven thrills. In fact, the novels below should be enough to either whet your appetite for season two of “Stranger Things” or give you plenty to do once the final credits roll.
Summer of Night centers on a group of five adolescent boys in the town of Elm Haven, Illinois in 1960. As the summer begins, the boys are slowly drawn into a preternatural mystery surrounding a soon to be abandoned school building.
Have you ever wondered what adulthood would be like for all those infamous kid detectives – think the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Famous Five, the Scooby Doo crew, etc.? It’s a question Edgar Cantero answers in raucous fashion with Meddling Kids. With sly nods to those kid detective tropes and a healthy dose of Lovecraftian horror, Cantero imagines a group of precocious sleuths returning to the scene of their final case as adults to truly unravel a mystery that never quite released its hold on any of them.
H. P. Lovecraft
Speaking of Lovecraftian, if that Comic-Con trailer is any indication for the otherworldly horrors conjured by H.P. Lovecraft, they will have a much larger – quite likely literally – presence in “Stranger Things” season two. This collection features sixteen of H.P. Lovecraft’s most haunting and horrifying tales. It’s a perfect introduction to perhaps the most influential horror writer of the twentieth century and one who looms large over “Stranger Things.”
On the topic of writers who loom large over “Stranger Things,” what would this list be without Stephen King? While It was undoubtedly a defining influence on the series, it’s hard to overlook a story that deals with a young girl with psychic abilities – in this case pyrokinesis – on the run from a shady government organization.
Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang
Brian K. Vaughn is one of the most inventive and talented comic book writers working today, and he’s been having a hot streak recently with titles like Saga and Paper Girls. While essentially anything Vaughn has written is well worth a look, Paper Girls holds the most promise for “Stranger Things” fans. The story a group of adolescent paper delivery girls caught up in an otherworldly mystery on Halloween night in 1988 suburbia.
He may have been best known for his mind-bending and deeply influential sci-fi, but Ray Bradbury knew his way around the macabre as well. With The October Country, Bradbury pulled together a series of haunting, eerie, and at times, downright horrifying tales, all told in his extraordinary and descriptive style.
If the Upside Down grabbed your attention in “Stranger Things,” The Hike by Drew Magary should be right up your alley. It centers on Ben, a suburban family man, who goes for a hike in rural Pennsylvania only to discover that he has somehow been transported to a disturbing world, eerily similar to our own but still incredibly and horrifyingly different.
Robert Jackson Bennett
Robert Jackson Bennett treads the byways paved by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and H.P. Lovecraft. His works are atmospheric, haunting, and melancholic – tinged with the weird, the otherworldly, and hints of magical realism. With The Troupe, Bennett builds a coming-of-age tale around a young man named George searching for his father in the strange and beguiling world of a traveling vaudeville troupe – one that is on the run from a horrifying power beyond anything George can imagine.
Weird supernatural events, a small town, a group of eclectic adolescent heroes, the 1980’s – The Boys of Summer has a lot to like for fans of “Stranger Things.” The novel follows a boy named Todd who awakes from a coma to a world that is subtly different from the one he remembers. What follows is an suspenseful adventure that spans some twenty-five years and forever alters the lives of Todd and his friends.
Given Dean Koontz the extraordinary pace that Dean Koontz has released novels – particularly in the early part of his career – it’s not surprising that a few quality thrillers got lost in the shuffle. The Door to December is one such book. Featuring a bizarre murder mystery, a young girl subjected to terrifying experiments, and rising otherworldly horror, fans of “Stranger Things” should feel right at home with The Door to December.