Due brings readers into this experience with eerie, beautiful prose that gives the novel a shimmer of the otherworldly. There is a moment when Hilton sees a woman hovering in the “murky phosphorescent gray-green mist” coming off a swimming pool only to discover, when he looks closer, that it is Nana. Is it a ghost? A memory? Or simply refracted light in fog? Thanks to the constant blurring of reality and hallucination, nightmare and memory, the reader becomes as unsettled as Hilton.

Daryl Gregory’s startling literary horror novel, REVELATOR (Knopf, 333 pp., $27), begins as Stella Wallace returns to the backwoods of Tennessee to live with her grandmother Motty. Stella and Motty’s kinship is instantly recognizable: They have an inherited condition that colors their white skin with splotches of red. But the women are special in other ways. They were born part of a line of Revelators, women who communicate with the God in the Mountain, a monstrous being who lives in a cave near the family’s cabin.

Stella communes with the God, taking on his thoughts and relating his messages to a growing group of followers. But such divine communion demands a steep price. The messages live inside her long after she’s left the cave, inhabiting her mind and body, even creating stigmata. In one scene Stella, laid out on a slab of rock, is offered up to a monster: The God “slipped down toward her through the dark — a limb, flat as the foreleg of a praying mantis. Its torso became visible, a pale mass gleaming like mother-of-pearl. Half a dozen limbs fanned out behind it, gripping the rock.” Stella’s reaction isn’t terror, but closer to falling in love: “She’d never seen anything so beautiful.” And indeed, “Revelator” is a thing of beauty, brutal in the vein of Cormac McCarthy, a novel in the Southern Gothic tradition that is fresh and deeply disturbing.

In Stephen Graham Jones’s MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW (Saga/Simon & Schuster, 398 pp., $26.99), Jennifer “Jade” Daniels is the ultimate “horror chick,” a 17-year-old slasher film obsessive who dyes her hair blue, works as a summer janitor at her high school and struggles to break free from her abusive father. Jade sees the world as a horror film, wearing “slasher goggles” that color and distort her vision. When Jade meets Letha Mondragon, a rich girl from a gated community across the lake, it’s only natural that she casts her as the Final Girl in the slasher film of her life.

Jade, “the death metal girl, the D&D girl, the devilchild, practically was the walking, talking cover for ‘Sleepaway Camp II.’” She’s pure candy for fans of the genre. But Jade is also a deeply damaged young woman. She struggles to communicate and lies to herself and others, all while trying to come to terms with a traumatic past. Though she does ultimately find a way to the truth, for much of the novel she is a distant, perplexing character, one whose contradictions put her at a remove from everyone, including the reader. While this may be the point — someone like Jade isn’t ever going to be relatable — it makes for a frustrating protagonist.

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