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The Top 10 Reads for Stranger Things Fans

Posted on 28th June 2019 by Mark Skinner

As the third season of Stranger Things hits our screens on Thursday 4 July, we celebrate the pop-culture packed, retro thrill ride with some similarly creepy and pulse pounding speculative fiction. From monsters lurking in the woods of New York to cabins invaded by harbingers of the apocalypse, these are books to binge-read into the early hours.

With its intricately plotted imaginative world of sinister laboratories, telekinetic teenagers and chillingly rendered alternate dimensions, Stranger Things has become one of the cult phenomena of the television streaming age. The 1980s-set sci-fi horror series was initially rejected by countless cable networks, who questioned the wisdom of anchoring an adult series around a group of children, before being picked up by Netflix and transformed into the thrilling, smart and funny show that millions have come to adore. Season Three airs on Thursday 4 July and promises more unmissable television to binge-watch through the night.  

Uncanny goings on in the Indiana town of Hawkins, combine with the hunt for a missing twelve year old, to unveil the horrific parallel world of the Upside Down. The town’s residents, child and adult alike, are drawn in to an ever more disturbing mystery centred on a nearby government laboratory and its supernatural extra-curricular activities. Featuring such luminaries of 80s cinema as Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, and boasting innumerable tongue-in-cheek references to pop culture of the period, Stranger Things has cannily developed another layer of fandom steeped in nostalgia for the era of Ghostbusters, Goonies and E.T. 

Also, and perhaps somewhat unusually for a hit TV show, the novelisations and graphic novels that have spun off in its genre-busting wake are top notch literary productions. The two extant novels fill in crucial backstory for fans at the same time as providing compelling standalone page turners for the general reader, whilst the spectacular graphic novel is a visual feast that relates the storyline of Season One in a singularly appropriate medium. Added to the fiction on offer are various guides to the production (both official and unofficial) and even a version of Monopoly set in Hawkins, which substitutes the community chest for walkie-talkie cards and hideouts for hotels. 

But why draw the line at the Duffer Brothers seminal show and its assorted literary by-products when there is a welter of publishing out there that harnesses the same terrifying rollercoaster vibe? Combining the immediacy of a Hollywood teen horror flick with the whip-smart prose of the finest thriller writer, we highlight below a list of titles rich in dark fantasy and horror, teen street-smarts and knowing pastiche. 

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From the mercurial pen of Marisha Pessl comes a typically polished high concept thriller that will entrance readers of her acclaimed Night Film. A group of friends face an unbearable choice that will see one of them killed – and the others guilty of their murder. Pulsating with jeopardy and finely drawn characters, Neverworld Wake is a chilling literary thrill-ride.
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Swathed in the forbidding arboreal murk of the New York woodlands, Herman’s spine-tingling tale pits resourceful teens against a shadowy beast and a sinister small town called Four Paths. Redolent of the finest American folk horror, The Devouring Gray will continue to haunt your dreams long after the last page has been turned.
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Much more in tune with the gothic sensibility of Grimm than the wholesome sentimentality of Disney, The Hazel Wood posits links between the dark fairy tales of our protagonist’s grandmother and our own equally perilous world. Darkly atmospheric and insidiously creepy, this is Young Adult fantasy of the highest calibre.
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Wanderers takes the reader on a journey through a crippled America, where an army of sleepwalkers may hold the key to a mysterious epidemic that is claiming the lives of millions. Wendig’s writing is astonishingly consistent throughout the novel’s 800 pages, with the humanity he brings to his huge cast complementing the disturbing twists and turns of the narrative in the most rewarding fashion.
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An exercise in extreme narrative tension, The Cabin at the End of the World throws a quartet of highly disquieting strangers into the harmonious world of young Wen and her two fathers, and forces them to make a horrifying choice. Brittle, taut and claustrophobic, Tremblay’s pitch perfect prose serves up one of the most distinctive horror novels in years.
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A true one-off, The Kingdom is a gripping fantasy thriller that blends Disney-esque fairytale, android scif-fi and courtroom drama to wonderfully disorientating effect. Beneath the flash and sparkle, though, lies a subtle treatise on political and moral corruption.
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The master craftsman spins an eerie tale of state sponsored research units and kids with supernatural abilities. Themes of revenge and betrayed childhood innocence hover ominously over a complex narrative about incarcerated youths with uncanny powers, as King proves his awesome storytelling mettle once again.
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With its retro VHS pastiche cover and myriad references to 80s pop culture, My Best Friend’s Exorcism may be built for fans of Stranger Things, but it is a wildly entertaining ride in its own right. A high school drama of adolescent angst that just happens to feature the devil as a prominent character, Hendrix’s relentlessly quirky gem is a sure-fire cult success.
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The 1980s may be intrinsic to the appeal of the TV phenomenon but, for this prequel, Gwenda Bond takes us back to 1969 and a lab test freighted with consequence for the future both of our world and the Upside Down. As lithe, playful and creepy as its source material, Suspicious Minds is a brilliantly entertaining read.
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After Terry Ives’ backstory was related compellingly in Suspicious Minds, Darkness on the Edge of Town explores the tortured past of Chief Jim Hopper, and the tumultuous events of a New York summer in 1977. Another terrifically realised literary spin-off from the Neflix behemoth, Stranger Things.
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This graphic novel version of the first season of the hit Netflix show renders all of Will Byers’ terrifying encounters in the Upside Down in vibrant, kinetic art work from a team of great comic book illustrators. The perfect companion for any Stranger Things super-fan.
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Avert the Upside Down whilst searching for Will in this exquisitely customised version of monopoly for the legion of Stranger Things fans. Everybody’s favourite board game has never been so chilling!
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A match made in the Upside Down. The legendary roleplaying game gets the Stranger Things treatment with this spectacular starter set, clad in pitch-perfect retro packaging.
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Know your Ghostbusters from your Goonies? Massive fan of Stranger Things? If you answered yes to both these questions then you need to own this 80s-tastic version of the iconic trivia board game. Nostalgic brain-teasing of the highest order.
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