Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Genre: Adult horror
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release date: September 23 2014
Source: Purchased at Comic Con
The nitty-gritty: A clever and wry look at the big-box retail business, an unexpectedly graphic horror story, all wrapped up in a truly brilliant book design.
FRÅNJK: Dining is not about the table and chairs. It’s about the conversations and companions that you invite into your home, making memories that will sparkle tonight and last forever. FRÅNJK is the frame—your life is the picture.
(available in Night Birch and Beaver Oak)
I was very excited to find this book at the Quirk booth at San Diego Comic Con in July, especially since it’s not out until later this month. I happy purchased a copy, thinking I’d eventually get around to reading it. But I found myself in a frustrating reading slump this past week, while trying to get through the massive page count of The Mirror Empire, so rather than continue to struggle, I decided it was time for something fun and light (which by the way, are two words that cannot be applied to The Mirror Empire!) I rarely do that—stop reading a book in the middle—because what usually happens is that I never go back to it. (Although I will be finishing it this weekend.)
But I’m so glad I picked up Horrorstör, Grady Hendrix’s first traditionally published novel (I believe). It was just what I needed to clear my head, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how good this was. As you might be able to tell from the cover, Horrorstör is a spoof on IKEA, and takes place in a big-box store called Orsk, which claims to have “below-IKEA prices.” Now, like many people, I have a long and complicated relationship with IKEA. My house is only five minutes away from an IKEA. At one point, it was furnished entirely with their build-it-yourself furniture, and it’s only been in the past few years, as my kids have grown out of their destructive phase, that my husband and I have spent real money on real furniture, although I’ll admit I do still have a few IKEA pieces scattered here and there. (Oh hell, I’m working at an IKEA desk, for crying out loud!)
I say “complicated relationship” because as anyone who has ever attempted to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture knows, it’s not as easy as they make it seem. What the author has done with his book is taken the idea of retail marketing, blown it out of proportion, and turned it into a top-notch horror story. It’s such a brilliant idea, I don’t know why it hasn’t been done before. And serious kudos to the design team at Quirk Books! The book not only looks like an IKEA catalog and follows a similar format, but it’s the same trim size as well. Fake ads for Orsk products begin each chapter, and the highlighted item actually plays a part in the story. (Brilliant!) But as the story progresses, these ads begin to turn sinister, and the reader can’t help but start to feel uncomfortable when faced with something like this:
But this isn’t just a gimmick: there is an actual story in Horrorstör. Amy is a disgruntled employee at Orsk who wants a transfer to another store. Her boss, overachiever Basil the deputy store manager, has it in for her and is always trying to tell her how to be better at her just-above-minimum-wage job. After some very disturbing vandalism is discovered on a Brooka sofa one morning before the store opens, Basil decides to take control of the situation and recruit Amy and model employee Ruth Anne to work a night shift with him in order to catch the culprit in the act. Offering them “double overtime,” Amy quickly agrees, knowing the extra money is just what she needs in order to pay her rent.
The evening starts innocently enough, as the three take turns patrolling the vast showroom floor of Orsk, but things soon turn weird. Amy and Ruth Anne stumble upon two fellow co-workers named Trinity and Matt (making out in a Müskk bed) who have broken into the store. Trinity is certain that Orsk is haunted, and she and Matt are determined to start their own cable ghost-hunting show by catching some real paranormal activity on film.
As the night wears on, strange things begin to happen. Amy discovers some odd graffiti in the women’s room, graffiti that wasn’t there only minutes earlier. Matt’s camera suddenly shows a different part of the store than the one he’s pointing the camera at. And they discover a homeless man who’s been camping out in Orsk and who turns out to be a catalyst for much of the horror that follows. When Trinity decides to hold a séance to call forth the spirits, things quickly begin to go downhill, and they begin to wonder if they’ll even survive until dawn.
Hendrix does a great job of slowly ramping up the tension, as Amy, Ruth Anne, Trinity, Basil and Matt discover that something terrible is going on in Orsk. I was expecting the story to mostly be a comedy, but there were some truly terrifying moments with plenty of graphic violence thrown in for good measure. The author’s explanation for the ghostly presence is a good one, although I did wish he’d gone into more detail about the origins of the evil (my only criticism of the book). Check out the back cover, which gives you a glimpse of the bad things to come:
As I mentioned before, the packaging design of Horrorstör is simply ingenious. Every inch of the book stays in character, and it even manages to poke fun at itself. The flap copy reads:
“A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör is designed to retain its luster and natural appearance for a lifetime of use. Pleasingly proportioned with generous French flaps and a softcover binding, Horrorstör delivers the psychological terror you need in the elegant package you deserve.”
Hendrix clearly has his own IKEA experiences to pull from. At several points during the story, the characters get lost in Orsk’s maze-like floor plan, which was both funny and terrifying. This combination of horror and humor was part of what worked so well with the book.
I was a little worried about how Hendrix was going to wrap things up, but I shouldn’t have been. Although the ending was way over the top, somehow it managed to work, and even the characters, who you might expect to be cookie-cutter horror types, show some real grit and emotion at the end. After reading Horrorstör, I can tell you that I will never look at IKEA the same way again. Highly recommended!
Horrorstör is available on September 23rd! Find the book here: