Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Review by Allen
I used to work at a large bookstore and often worked the late shift to accommodate my classes during the day. The store closed at 11pm and the two or three of us who closed usually got out around midnight after finishing our nightly closing duties. In a feat of bad design, the switches for the store’s lights were located in the very back of the store, just outside the cash room in the back office. This meant that I was usually the one to turn off the lights after I finished counting the money. I would gather my things, flip the switch, and make my way through the dark store to meet my coworkers gathered at the front door. Maybe I’ve watched too many horror movies or read too many horror novels, but the store always seemed incredibly menacing on that trek through the shadowy aisles and past dark alcoves. My heart always beat a little faster and my imagination made shapes out of the shadows. I told myself I was being silly, but I always walked a little faster.
Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör taps into that feeling of unease and offers a fun variant of the haunted house genre. Set in a giant Ikea-inspired store, the novel follows a group of employees staying after hours in an attempt to figure out who or what has been causing disturbances in the night. The characters may seem a little stereotypical, but they will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has worked retail: there’s Basil, the overachieving manager; Ruth Anne, the lifelong employee; Trinity and Matt, two slacker employees; and Amy, who views her job as a dead end, but doesn’t have the motivation to move on. Basil, Ruth Anne, and Amy patrol the store and find Trinity & Matt who are convinced that the store is haunted and hope to film a paranormal investigation which they plan to sell to a television network. Without giving too much away, the group stumbles upon a non-paranormal culprit of the vandalism, but awaken something much darker when Matt and Trinity convince the team to try a séance.
Horrorstör is a quick read that builds with some genuinely spooky moments before becoming an all-out roller coaster ride after the séance. I couldn’t help but picture our local Ikea store while reading which added to the tension. The ultimate explanation of the haunting may feel a little cliché to anyone who enjoys the genre, but I found a lot to like in this book. The scares are intense and, at times, disturbing, and there are a lot of interesting allusions to the day-to-day horrors of working retail.
The book is designed very much like an Ikea catalog, which I thought was a clever presentation. Each chapter begins with a diagram of a piece of sleek, Swedish-looking furniture, and scraps of the employee handbook and employee performance reviews are scattered throughout. As the terror mounts, the furniture design gets more and more disturbing. It’s a creative choice that really adds an extra fun element to the book.
Horrorstör does have a few violent moments and some adult language, so I wouldn’t recommend it to young teens. Older teens will find a lot to relate to in the character of Amy, especially if they have worked retail in any capacity.
Also, a television adaption of Horrorstör is in the works, produced by Fox (Andreeva 2015). I’m interested to see how the creators will stretch this relatively quick novel into a series, but in the right hands I have no doubt it will be a fun and thrilling show. I’ll be tuning in.
Want to check this book out? Get it at your local library here!
Andreeva, Nellie. 2015. “Fox Nabs ‘Horrorstör Dramedy From Josh Schwartz, Gail Berman & Charlie Kaufman As Put Pilot.” Deadline.com Link here
There are a lot of a books about death. They tend to be sad, even tragic, and discuss the subject at hand with great emotion and sobriety. How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg (Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley) is not that kind of boring drivel. Instead, it casually tackles the deaths of 19 very famous, very dead individuals. And since most of the people mentioned in this book died before the age of modern medicine (like Cleopatra, King Henry VIII, Napoleon), Bragg discusses all the things that contributed to their death. Yes, true, King Tut died of malaria, but there were way more problems that could have killed him had he managed to get some Mosquirix. People died extremely young back then.
In addition to the gory details leading up to and including death, Bragg includes interesting tidbits of information related to the person at hand. For instance, did you know that fans of Galileo took 5 bits of his body from his person when he was being moved to a larger tomb? Want to know which bits? You’ll have to read the book! (It’s on page 64).
Now, one of the most important parts of a nonfiction book is whether or not it cites its sources. After all, the information we’re learning we are assuming is true, and they have to have heard it was true from somewhere.
Well, Never, you fear, despite the book’s informal tone, there’s pages of source credits. And if you want to check up on the facts, they are conveniently categorized by person who died. What’s that? What source name most amused me? I would have to say “The History of Beethoven’s Skull Fragments” by Meredith William. Now that’s a thesis paper for the books. In addition to an extensive source list, there’s also a “Further Reading and Surfing” section that gives books, articles, and websites for you to peruse if you are interested in learning about any of these famous historical figures.
Overall, this is an amazingly fun and interesting read. And you can tell your parents that you’re expanding your horizons and reading nonfiction. Historical nonfiction at that! Bragg writes very conversationally and it sounds more like someone talking to you than reading a history textbook. It’s also friendly to the casual reader, as each death description is generally only 10 pages long, and the book does not have to be read sequentially or even in its entirety.
And the best part about this book? We have it at your local library! Click on the book below and it’ll take you to our catalog where you can put it on hold! Don’t have a library card? It’s super easy to get, you just need your legal guardian with a photo ID and proof of Texas residence. Bring those three things to our library and we can get you an awesome library card.
So what’s the worst/best death you’ve ever heard of? (Credibility points if you cite a source!) Tell us in the comments below!
Jenkin, Stephen. Credible Hulk. Digital image. Twitter. TheClassicLibrary, 26 June 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
Sustermans, Giusto. Portrait of Galileo Galilei. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
Williamstown, Gilbert Stuart. Portrait of George Washington. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.