Book Review: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Quirk (September 23, 2014)
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Horrorstör scratched a really great itch. When it comes to the Horror genre, I’m an unabashed fan of ghost stories and books about hauntings. Thing is, because so many of them follow the same formula and use the same familiar tropes, it’s really hard find something that truly stands out. I was therefore quite excited about this novel, which is a memorable and real quirky take on your classic haunted house story.
Protagonist Amy is a disgruntled employee of furniture superstore Orsk, which is essentially a clever parody of our real world IKEA (the author has nailed it all down, everything from the proprietary magic tool to the delicious meatballs in the cafeteria). There’s something strange about this particular Orsk store though. Every morning store partners arrive at work to find damaged and vandalized goods, not to mention the creepy “HELP” messages that randomly shows up on everyone’s cellphones.
To get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all, store manager Basil recruits Amy and fellow employee Ruth Anne for an overnight shift. Expecting to find some innocuous and mundane reason for all the strange things going on, they are totally unprepared for the horrors awaiting them on showroom floor in the dead of night.
I really enjoyed this book, and its story is one that will stay with me for a very long time. After all, how often does one come across a haunted house story that takes place in a big box chain store? Old mansions are typically your go-to settings for these kinds of stories, but before I read this book it has never really occurred to me how creepy a place like your local Best Buy or Home Depot can be after store hours when all the customers have gone home and the lights go off. I certainly wouldn’t want to be locked inside all alone.
And while I’ve had experience in retail, they were all gigs in small businesses or independently owned establishments. I have never worked in a big box chain store so I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure (or misfortune, depending on your outlook) of experiencing that kind of unique environment or culture. Still, I don’t think you have to have worked in that capacity to recognize some of the “retail-speak” that gets poked fun at a lot in this novel (“It’s not just a job, it’s the rest of your life”, “communicate knowledge to visitors with maximum sales competence”, “contribute to an environment where Orsk culture is a strong and living reality” and other such gems), some of which are just downright hilarious especially through Amy’s jaded eye.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the core selling points of the physical copy of Horrorstör – the fact that it comes published in the shape and size of a glossy mail order catalog, along with product illustrations and descriptions, “coupons”, order forms and other such documents. Sound like a gimmick? Yeah, probably. But hey, it works. I give this packaging decision 10/10 for presentation and creativity.
Because of how the book looks, along with its spoofy nature, I admit I went into this thinking it would be more humor than horror. My mistake. This is a horror novel through and through. Yes, the story has its lighthearted bits and funny laugh-out-loud moments, but things quickly turn grim and spooky once the plot gets moving. There were parts that seriously gave me the heebie-jeebies and freaked me the hell out. And I confess, I loved being caught off guard like this.
What more can I say, but Horrorstör is a great addition which would add a little fun and eccentricity to any Horror lover’s library. I also think it would make a rather unique gift, especially if the recipient knows nothing about the book beforehand. The whole IKEA catalog look of it will no doubt lead many to believe it’s a joke/humor book, but what a surprise they’ll get when they crack open the cover and give it a read. Definitely a novel that will give you more than you bargained for.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Quirk Books!