Monday, January 12, 2015

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Spoiler-free summary:
Amy works at Orsk, a flimsy IKEA knockoff located in Cleveland, Ohio. She hates it there - her fellow employees are pretentious, the customers are sheep, and someone keeps smearing uh... something on the displays. She thinks she's bound to be fired at any moment. One night, her boss calls her in to his office and asks if she'll patrol on the night shift - just to keep an eye out for the mysterious body fluid bandit. Laid out like an IKEA catalog, Horrorstör tells the story of her chilling night in the labyrinthine store.
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This was a fun, fast read. It was kind of tongue-in-cheek - I found myself asking: do the horrors of retail outweigh the horror of the paranormal? I felt like it fell apart at the end - I was really getting into it there for a while! It just wasn't scary after they ventured into the bowels of the store. I read a few reviews that suggested this would have been better adapted as a film, and I have to agree. There were parts that I felt were intended to make you jump and reading just didn't have the desired effect. It was creepy and yucky, but the action just felt like a list of things that happened with very little suspense involved. With that being said, the first half, before anyone really knows what's happening (before the whole haunted prison schtick), was suspenseful and great. Despite the shoddy horror in the end, I still enjoyed the plot and liked seeing Amy's reactions, so all it not lost.

I was especially amused that the Orsk store was in Cleveland. I work in Cleveland, and I almost live there, and I definitely get the foreboding, spooky vibe. Imagine my horror when I learned, via an unfounded rumor on Facebook, that IKEA was considering a Cleveland store! It was too perfect. Even though I desperately want an IKEA here more than I've ever wanted anything, I still experienced a fleeting panic before I remembered that there probably is no giant haunted prison to build on top of.

On top of the horror and mystery, there is a thin layer of workplace dissatisfaction. It’s honest and brutal. It I love Amy’s skepticism and general disdain for “drinking the Kool-Aid” (eating the Swedish meatball?). Out of all the characters, she felt the most real. I’m not sure if this is because the other characters were kind of flat, or if they were just too far out of my realm of empathy. I would be friends with Amy. I would not be such easy friends with Basil, her super passionate, assimilated boss.

I've read that some have trouble seeing the blueprints and spec drawings of the furniture on e-ink devices. I would suggest reading this one in physical form, not only to avoid possible image distortion, but because it is a delight to hold. It’s a wide, floppy book with a very glossy cover. I felt like I was really doing something when I held it. It is also self-referential; The cover flap mentioned the generous cover flaps. My copy from the library smelled like someone had used it as an ashtray, which added to the creepiness factor. However, in the end, the pictures, fake coupons and advertisements weren't really needed to enjoy the story. They enhanced it, but knowledge that they existed in some form would have been enough for me to appreciate the effort. I felt that the design and heft of the book itself was more satisfying than the pictures.

3 stars: Puking in the restroom at a big-box store. Someone's in the stall next to you, but they're not saying anything. You become silent friends. Or, so you think. It begins as a low humming - are they singing? But now you're sure of it - they're screaming. Loudly. How can anyone be this loud? You finish your business and trudge out as soon as you can, but, unbeknownst to you, there's a little toilet paper stuck to your shoe.

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