There’s nothing wrong with a soft and cozy story set in a safe town with every modern amenity and where no one almost gets mauled by a bear. But there’s also just something so thrilling about reading through the experiences of characters battling it out in the wilderness, where the sense of the unknown is palpable and highly threatening, that the fear breaks through even the safety and comfort of your favorite reading spot. So, whether you’re obsessed with shows like Yellowjackets (guilty!) or just looking to add a little something wild to your list, here are eight survival thrillers sure to jump-start your summer of suspense.
8 Survival Thrillers That’ll Leave You Breathless
To say Wini has been having a rough time would be an understatement. Her fifteen-year marriage is over, her brother has died, and her job is actively crushing her soul. So, when her friends offer to take her away for a little peace and quiet in the wilderness, who is she to say no? Well, maybe she should have because the women end up trapped, only to be saved by some not-so-good Samaritans. Fast-paced and full of drama, THE RIVER AT NIGHT is sure to make you feel like you’re careening down white-water rapids.
A “raw, relentless, and heart-poundingly real” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) thriller set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, The River at Night charts the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident.
Winifred Allen needs a vacation.
Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.
What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.
With intimately observed characters and visceral prose, The River at Night “will leave you gasping, your heart racing, eyes peering over your shoulder to see what follows from behind” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author). This is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.
Sometimes, we are brought together by the strangest twists of fate. After a decade away, Cassie Peters returns to her old job in Yosemite Search and Rescue, haunted by an old case. There, she meets the observant Petal and recent college grad Jada, both of whom have their own reasons for being out there. What secrets might these three be keeping, and how will they withstand all that Yosemite has to throw at them? Out just in time for summer, HAVE YOU SEEN HER is a character-driven thriller you don’t want to miss.
A thrilling and timely novel about three women with dark secrets whose lives intersect in the picturesque and perilous Yosemite National Park from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the “propulsive” (Laura Dave, author of The Last Thing He Told Me) Please Join Us.
Equipped with a burner phone and a new job, Cassie Peters has left her hectic and secretive life in New York City for the refuge of her hometown of Mammoth Lakes, California. There, she begins working again with Yosemite Search and Rescue, where a case she worked a decade ago continues to haunt her.
She quickly falls into old patterns, joining a group of fellow seasonal workers and young adventurers who have made Yosemite their home during the summer. There, she meets Petal, a young woman living in a trailer with her much older wife, keeping a detailed diary of the goings on of the park, and Jada, a recent college graduate on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, documenting their journey on Instagram.
When these three women cross paths, Cassie’s past catches up with her, and the shocking consequences ripple out far beyond what any could have imagined in this unputdownable thriller from an author who “never fails to impress” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author).
For fans of the niche thriller subgenre of getting trapped after a plane crash in the middle of the ocean, I have good news and bad news. The good news is DROWNING presents a fascinating and unique take on the story that will leave you feeling breathless. The bad news is that the breathlessness is very real—this novel could make you feel claustrophobic anywhere, even in an open field. The story follows 12 passengers trapped in a sealed plane that has sunk to the bottom of the ocean, trying to escape as air is running out fast. Will they reach safety or are they in for a watery grave? Coming out in late May, this book is a thriller you won’t be able to put down (just maybe don’t read it on a plane!).
Flight attendant turned New York Times bestselling author T. J. Newman—whose first book Falling was an instant #1 national bestseller and the biggest thriller debut of 2021—returns for her second book, an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a commercial jetliner that crashes into the ocean, and sinks to the bottom with passengers trapped inside, and the extraordinary rescue operation to save them.
Six minutes after takeoff, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, an engine explodes and the plane is flooded. Those still alive are forced to close the doors—but it’s too late. The plane sinks to the bottom with twelve passengers trapped inside.
More than two hundred feet below the surface, engineer Will Kent and his eleven-year-old daughter Shannon are waist-deep in water and fighting for their lives.
Their only chance at survival is an elite rescue team on the surface led by professional diver Chris Kent—Shannon’s mother and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife—who must work together with Will to find a way to save their daughter and rescue the passengers from the sealed airplane, which is now teetering on the edge of an undersea cliff.
There’s not much time.
There’s even less air.
With devastating emotional power and heart-stopping suspense, Drowning is an unforgettable thriller about a family’s desperate fight to save themselves and the people trapped with them—against impossible odds.
If you were ever in the scouts, or any other kids’ outdoor group, then you’ll know that camping is a pretty standard and usually safe affair. It just so happens that the troop under scoutmaster Tim Riggs is about to have the worst camping trip ever. After setting up camp in the Canadian wilderness, their trip is interrupted by a thin and unnaturally hungry visitor, bringing with him a bioengineered threat that spells their doom. THE TROOP is as harrowing as it gets—mysterious viruses, strained group dynamics, having to survive both the wild and their fellow scouts. A perfect read for anyone who has ever had to suffer through a disastrous camping trip.
“The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.” —Stephen King
This “grim microcosm of terror and desperation haunting” (Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author) follows a scout troop on a terrifying fight for survival when they come across a mysterious—and deadly—stranger in the Canadian wilderness.
Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. A horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival with no escape from the elements, the infected…or one another.
Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity…and terror hungers for more.
Antarctica is not most people’s first choice for vacation, or the top of anyone’s list of hospitable places to wait out an emergency. But the characters of COLD PEOPLE don’t get much of a choice when they are forced to the literal ends of the earth after an all-powerful force takes over the rest of the world. They’re faced with battling against the extreme elements to recultivate a human society, but it’s not just the freezing temperatures that has these characters’ blood running cold. Dark, desperate, and downright chill, this is the perfect novel for someone who likes disaster movies mixed with survival stories.
From the brilliant, bestselling author of Child 44 comes a suspenseful and fast-paced novel about an Antarctic colony of global apocalypse survivors seeking to reinvent civilization under the most extreme conditions imaginable.
The world has fallen. Without warning, a mysterious and omnipotent force has claimed the planet for their own. There are no negotiations, no demands, no reasons given for their actions. All they have is a message: humanity has thirty days to reach the one place on Earth where they will be allowed to exist…Antarctica.
Cold People follows the perilous journeys of a handful of those who endure the frantic exodus to the most extreme environment on the planet. But their goal is not merely to survive the present. Because as they cling to life on the ice, the remnants of their past swept away, they must also confront the urgent challenge: can they change and evolve rapidly enough to ensure humanity’s future? Can they build a new society in the sub-zero cold?
Original and imaginative, as profoundly intimate as it is grand in scope, Cold People is a masterful and unforgettable epic.
What’s worse than being trapped with a group of paranoid, hungry, and scared people? Doing it back in the nineteenth century without the advent of modern technology. Tamsen Donner is about to find out just how bad that can get as she, her family, and a handful of others take off on the soon-to-be-infamous Donner Party journey out west. But as the caravan pushes through unsettled terrain, harsh weather, and unforeseen tragedies, Tamsen starts to suspect there might be something supernatural set against them, and evil never plays fair. A dark historical take on man versus nature, THE HUNGER will sate your appetite for a twisted thriller.
While this book is not one of Stephen King’s better-known works, I personally think THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON is due for a comeback and a little extra love. Nine-year-old Trisha ends up getting lost during a mountain hike after her mother and brother get into a huge fight. Armed with nothing but a Walkman and the determination to get home, she soon realizes that something has been stalking her, an entity she refers to as the God of the Lost, who is determined to keep her trapped forever. Endearing, hopeful, and a nail-biter right up to the end, this is a must-read for King fans and anyone who ever thought about wandering off-trail.
For a lot of the books on this list, the biggest enemy is really the fear of being on your own in the deep and unknowable wilderness. In Jeff VanderMeer’s intense and often brain-breaking ANNIHILATION, the wilderness really is deep and unknowable because it is constantly full of nightmare creatures morphed by interacting with some unknown element. I mean, when you enter the woods in real life, you don’t worry about a giant bear that can mimic human screams ripping you in two or suddenly evolving into a river dolphin. But for the biologist embarking on an expedition into Area X, that’s the least of her worries, given that the three other members of her team have secrets, ones that could threaten her mission to find her husband still trapped in this strange and hostile land.
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