Eric’s Book Report: Horrorstör (2014)

A Haunted Big-Box furniture retail outlet, some assembly required.

★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Written by Grady Hendrix

Never build anything on top of an old asylum. Or a prison. Or a graveyard. You’re just asking for it. Even something as banal and commercial as an IKEA rip-off big box store is not immune to the depredations of a haunting from such a foolish building site. In Grady Hendrix’s 2014 novel Horrorstör, the knock-off chain store ORSK in Cuyahoga, Ohio, occupies a site previously housing a sadistic prison, and wouldn’t you know it, you’ve got ghosts.

Fangoria! Woo!
Grady Hendrix

Amy is a worn-down ORSK employee, going through her daily barely working routine as a sales “partner” on the showroom floor, a maze of merchandise, full of fake-Scandinavian build-it-yourself furniture and houseware. She avoids her by-the-book floor manager, Basil, who will find ways in the ORSK training manual to correct her poor attitude (though he secretly believes she is management material.) But, she can’t avoid him for the whole shift, and eventually, he drags Amy and her colleague, the charming and earnest near-spinster Ruth-Anne into a conference room, where they expect to be fired.

But rather than firing them, Basil offers them additional overtime pay to work through the night to investigate vandalism, including broken shelving, and a poop-smeared “Brooka” sofa, and catch the vandals before the upper management arrives in the morning. Grateful to keep their jobs, Amy and Ruth Anne agree to patrol the shop floor with Basil, where their initial forays into the store that evening uncover two of their colleagues hiding in the store.

The ghost-hunter wannabe Trinity suspects that the vandalism is paranormal in nature, and is bound and determined to reveal the ghost for her video blog, and she believes this is going to be her big break. She has recruited Matt, her skeptical video producer partner who is a non-believer, but is smitten with Trinity, and will do anything that will bring her closer to him. Basil, of course sees this all as nonsense, but strange things begin happening in the department store.

They encounter a homeless man, Carl, who has been hiding in the store. He seems benign enough, but Basil is certain that they’ve caught the vandal. At the same time, there are enough mysterious events occurring that don’t measure up to the work of a mere transient. Basil goes to call the cops, and with the manager absent, this encourages Trinity to start a seance. She wants to see ghosts, and won’t be denied. And that was a huge mistake.

The ghost of the cruel Warden Worth, the former jailer of the prison is made manifest, and portals to the underworld appear. Time and perception begin to warp, and of course, the team is split up, and the employees are forced into a struggle to survive the night, as the hauntings amplify with each passing hour.

Grady Hendrix has a wonderful breezy writing style that easily draws you in to the story. I think, if you were looking for a comparable feel, his style reminds me of Dean Koontz and his novel Odd Thomas.  This is most certainly a horror tale, but the horror is not visceral or mean in any way. He has crafted a sly critique of American consumer culture, in a way that George Romero did. He nails the workplace environment, and the characters roles in the story and their jobs at the store nicely intermesh. He deftly weaves in light humor and creates indelible characters that are easy to root for, even if their decisions are decidedly cringe-worthy.

This store is a prison, and this time it’s the employees trapped in the dungeon made of flat pallettes of unassembled furniture. If you have ever been to IKEA, he hits every recognizable aspect, right down to the meatballs and the assembly tools. The reputation of some of the flimsy construction of the products becomes key at one point in the story, and anyone who has had to assemble some of the Scandinavian modern housewares can attest… these things can be flimsy! As he also made known with his more recent release We Sold Our Souls, Hendrix clearly understands the branding and the typologies necessary to put you right in the environment.

I listened to this in audiobook form, with the dual narrators of Bronson Pinchot (yes, Balki from Perfect Strangers) and Tai Sammons. Pinchot opens each chapter, reading from the ORSK catalog, with each description of these faux-Swedish named fixtures getting more malign and bizarre as the book progresses. Sammons reads the primary narration with a relaxed earthy drawl that warms up the characters quite well, and I really like her portrayal of Ruth-Anne… though on occasion she will slide that accent over to another character. (Amy to Ruth-Anne, usually) The audiobook is not a long listen, lasting a little over six hours. Good for a long road trip.

  • Paperback
  • 240 Pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Publishing
  • ISBN-13:9781594745263

Horrorstör is available in paperback from Amazon, Powell’s, and Barnes and Noble. The audiobook is available for download from Audible. I would consider this book acceptable for young adult reading and listening.

For the first time that I can recall, the book has a video trailer that goes with it! Also not surprisingly, this book is going to be picked up by Fox to be made into a TV show, but as of yet, no casting announcements have been made. Here is the book trailer:

Categories: Books, TVTags: , , , , ,

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