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