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Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised at this book. I had thought it was pseudo horror, something about how crippling and chained modern corporate life makes us feel on a daily basis, about the human condition and how we’ve become enslaved to commercialism. It was that, and more too. Somehow I had it in my mind that it was like a pretend ghost story, something that would eventually reveal itself to contain anything but a ‘real’ ghost. The entire presentation of the novel seemed to collude to that façade – it was designed like an IKEA catalogue, complete with product listings armed with Scandinavian names. How’d something this clever be *horrific*? The author was surely going for a playful, cheeky feel with a generous sprinkling of gimmicky metaphors for life.

But as the story went deeper and deeper (heh), the story got darker and darker. Horrorstor reminded me about a short I once read: of Pooh violently knocking Tigger across the room, growling viciously as he warns the tiger never to help himself to Pooh’s honeypots ever again. It’s not the violence that’s scary, but the violation of the serene mental image we all associate with friendly Pooh. I was caught off guard with the picture of the first torture device given the IKEA product marketing treatment. My mind felt a disconnect when a character did something, uhm, interesting to his throat, against the backdrop of a fun, harmless-looking faux-catalogue I held in my hands.

Something to be experienced than described, clearly (at least not by me).

The writing was simple and punchy, and the story moves at a quick clip. I enjoyed how Hendrix dissects the IKEA-like company’s business model, and the programming that went behind the design, and the observations about the people who visit and buy from the stores. The prose never felt clumsy like the Cassandra Clare/Veronica Roth variety.

Taken as a whole, it’s a pretty uncomplicated horror story, wrapped in a pretty interesting package. Plenty fun, and an novel concept. Gave an extra star simply because it caught me off guard at how dark the book actually was.

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