Monday, June 29, 2020

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Cover image for Horrorstör

Reviewed by Christy

    Amy works for a big box furniture store called ORSK that she considers a low-rate IKEA. A college dropout who recently failed the exam to become a floor manager, Amy aimlessly floats through life with no real ambition aside from avoiding her supervisor Basil. Basil takes his position very seriously, which doesn’t often vibe with Amy’s laissez-faire attitude. Every morning when staff members arrive for work, the store looks like it’s been ransacked. Broken tables, shattered glass, and nothing on the security cameras. With corporate men making a scheduled inspection soon, Basil is panicked enough to ask Amy and longtime employee Ruth Anne to work an overnight shift with him to figure out exactly what is going on. Amy, perpetually late on her rent, jumps at the chance for overtime. None of them are prepared for the horrors that await them.

    Having liked every other Hendrix book I’ve read, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this earlier offering. Hendrix seems to have found a groove writing fun, horror set in the 1980s or 1990s. While Horrorstör is contemporary, it still has the same tone of his more recent works. Once again, his characters are relatable and easy to care about. Amy is a jaded early twenty something trying to figure herself out. Ruth Anne is a loyal, sweet worker who doesn’t get the respect she deserves. Basil is a no-nonsense supervisor who truly cares about his employees even if they don’t appreciate it or even realize it.

    The scares throughout the novel don’t just rely on gore, though there is that. There is truly creepy imagery including doors that shouldn’t be there and never ending hallways, to say nothing of the ghosts and torture devices.

    Another fun aspect of Horrorstör is the book’s physical layout. It’s designed to look like a furniture catalog – complete with an order form and item descriptions at the beginning of each chapter. (Further into the book the items get a little more…medieval.) There is also some gentle ribbing of retail culture that includes policy for unruly customers and flyers with corporate catchphrases. (“If you have a question, just ORSK!”) My favorite use of this device is the employee evaluations. In this we see just how much Basil supports and cares for his employees. He requests that Amy be allowed to take the manager exam again, and that Ruth Anne receive a raise to show their appreciation for her fourteen years of service. A small moment, to be sure, but one that is instantly endearing.

I expected to enjoy this book but I was surprised at how much I liked it. It’s not perfect. There are some moments that truly do not make sense. (Using handcuffs during a séance instead of just holding hands, for example. I guess because handcuffs are scarier? I don’t know, it didn’t make sense, and the in-book explanation wasn’t believable to me.) Regardless, I have yet to have a bad time with any Hendrix novel, and I will continue to hunt down his older work until his next release.

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