By Grady Hendrix
Available now from Quirk
Welcome to Orsk, an obvious Ikea knockoff. There is one path through the store, a bunch of disaffected employees, and a few employees who really buy into the store and its policies. One of the locations in Cleveland has been suffering from nightly break-ins and damage, so the manager decides to stay behind with a couple of employees to catch the culprit.
HORRORSTÖR is a haunted-house story with a little satire of minimum wage work for greedy corporations. I really enjoyed the slow build in the first half, with small things going wrong like a camera showing something different than what a person sees or walking in a circle in a place with one path. The shifting geography reminded me of HOUSE OF LEAVES in a good way, although
HORRORSTÖR is a much less ambitious novel.
HORRORSTÖR is sized like an Ikea catalog (down to the thickness), and each chapter is named after a piece of furniture and started with a drawing of that item. As the novel continues, the furniture gets more sinister. I liked the idea of this signpost, but thought the change from benign to cruel furniture was very abrupt. Honestly, the whole second half is much quicker than the first. The denouement and set up of the next novel, PLANET BABY, happened so quickly I felt like I had to have missed something.
But HORRORSTÖR is an effective bit of horror populated by fairly likeable characters. Horror has a tendency to star jerks, so that you enjoy it more when they die off. It seemed like HORRORSTÖR might go that way, but even the by-the-book manager becomes more friendly and appreciated by the other characters as the story goes on. Protagonist Amy is a once-promising student whose life plans went awry. I'm sure many readers can identify with her.
HORRORSTÖR never quite uses its premise to its full extent, but it has a great atmosphere and a chilling ending. I really enjoyed how well-constructed it was (like a good piece of furniture). Little things from the beginning, like the tools the employees carry and which shelves have weaknesses and mysterious phone calls, come back to be important. Grady Hendrix definitely thought the story out.