Friday, 30 January 2015

Review: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

IKEA catalogue book cover of Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
I feel like I might actually be the last person to review this, but we'll just refer to it as a delightfully retro review and leave it at that.

Plot summary: It's a classic old-fashioned haunted house story - set in a big box Swedish furniture superstore. Designed like a retail catalogue, Horrorstor offers a creepy read with mass appeal-perfect for Halloween tables! Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring wardrobes, shattered Bracken glassware, and vandalized Liripip sofabeds-clearly, someone or something is up to no good. 

To unravel the mystery, five young employees volunteer for a long dusk-til-dawn shift-and they encounter horrors that defy imagination. Along the way, author Grady Hendrix infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new 21st century economy. A traditional haunted house story in a contemporary setting (and full of contemporary fears), Horrorstor comes conveniently packaged in the form of a retail catalogue, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other, more sinister accessories.

Why yes, this book does look like an IKEA catalogue. That's not the selling point of this book at all.

It's actually pretty well done. I had several relatives reach for it when I left it on the coffee table, thinking it was an actual catalogue. It's only when you turn it over and see the zombies peering out from the photoframes or open it and notice the diagrams of torture implements, that you realise all may not be what it seems.

The theme continues throughout. On the front and back inside covers there are maps and layouts of the store, and there are those blue and white diagrams of various types of furniture. Some rather niche furniture. The story itself is told in standard, prose paragraphs - which sounds obvious but I wasn't sure how the text was going to be presented before I actually opened the book.

The thing is, how many of us would have bought Horrorstör if it didn't look so unusual? It's very well designed, but what's the story like?

Well, it's fine. It's good, but kind of... shallow. The narrative progresses fairly rapidly, but sometimes it reads more as a list of things that happened. 'Amy did this and then did that and then that thing happened.' It doesn't go in far enough, which prevents it from being scary, I think. The lack of detail meant that I read it quite cheerfully alone at 1am in a dim room. Some of the events are fairly dark and quite gruesome, but there's not much emotion - the characters don't feel scared, so the reader doesn't either.

The concept of the story (not the design) is quite interesting. I won't give it away because it's vaguely spoilery, but it's not something I've seen done often. Again though, it really did need more detail and emotion to work properly. I also totally missed the 'sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new 21st century economy' referred to in the blurb, but I strongly suspect that may be a slightly ambitious wish on the part of the publisher.

I did like this book, but it does feel very gimmicky. Don't get me wrong, it's a very well-done gimmick, but I just don't feel that the story can stand on its own feet. I mean, there was no earthly reason it had to be set in a psuedo-IKEA store - it would have worked just as well anyway. The layout and design are very memorable but the content and the story are actually just mediocre.

Read a more positive review of Horrorstör at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm.
 

2 comments:

  1. This seems to continue the general Quirk trend - great packaging, mediocre writing. I really like how Horrorstör is shaped, and that probably adds a lot to the reading experience, but I need strong writing to go along with that. Great review (:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks - I was mildly worried about this review as Horrorstor seems to be universally loved.

      You have a point about Quirk though as it does seem to be a trend. I just wish they could balance out design AND content.

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