Wednesday, 22 June 2016

HORRORSTÖR by BY GRADY HENDRIX - REVIEW

Grady Hendrix, Making people scared of IKEA since 2014.


Horrorstör is an enigma, no where does it say that a horror novel set in a rip-off IKEA store would work, it shouldn't work, but this novel undeniably does, while simultaneously making you laugh your butt off at the retail business AND scaring the bejesus out of you.

I went into Horrorstör expecting something quirky (gotta live up to your name Quirk Books), mildly spooky but overall just a fun and interesting read. I had just finished reading Dracula, the quintessential horror novel, and felt a bit deflated. The ending felt dull to me, and lacked the horror of the first third of the book. I don't often read horror novels but decided 'f**k it, lets go on a binge'. I picked up Horrorstör because:

1. It hadn't been spoiled to me
2. It was highly popular a little while back on Book-Tube
3. It felt like a good 'light' push further into the horror genre.

How wrong I was.

Horrorstör starts off as you would expect, Amy (our protagonist) laments the life of a retail worker in Orsk, the delightful rip-off of IKEA, hiding from her boss Basil and generally messing around. When Amy is asked by Basil, along with retail angel Ruth-Anne, to man the store with him overnight due to various weird instances in the store (broken escalators, mysterious texts for help, furniture covered in foul-smelling stains), we begin to delve into the 'horror' part of Horrorstör.

I won't go into details as what made this book so striking to me was the lack of information I had about it. The novel took an entirely different spin to what I had expected. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, pick up Horrorstör expecting some light ghost action; the rattling of chains, some smashed glasses here and there. Horrorstör is genuinely horrifying and at points pretty disturbing. I applaud Hendrix on his ability to make me not want to step into the showrooms at IKEA anymore for fear of the lovely antagonist Warden North capturing me for 'treatment'.

Ah yes, Warden North, how do I sum up my reaction to him?

"NOPE NOPE, NOPETY NOPE SCREW THAT"

Warden North's appearance in the novel immediately puts an end to the previous retail-disdain related comedy and plunges it right into horror. There is no going back at this point, as a reader you are descended into the disgusting horrors of ORSK and the macabre potential of flat-pack furniture.

There were a few instances in this book where, once I'd finished a sentence went 'huh', turned to my mum and said: 'this book is getting really messed up'. I'm not particularly squeamish so the 'gore' aspect of this wasn't what bothered me as such, but the actual existence of this gore and it's disturbing manner that shocked me. This novel is a great example of a book going from 0-60 in a second; when things get creepy, gory and weird, they get really creepy, gory and weird. Like I said, I never expected anything but some light poltergeist action so this book took me very much by surprise. While I'm not squeamish, I don't do well with disturbing imagery, so often I'll either avoid or really steel myself up for things I know will be disturbing. There's a particular scene involving Warden North that I found so disturbing that, lucky me, I ended up having a nightmare about it. Being one of those unlucky f**kers who has intensely real feeling dreams you can imagine my extreme horror when I saw Warden North standing in my bedroom doorway sneering at me.

I'm currently still a bit spooked out by this nightmare and I don't know if I'll ever view IKEA with the same again. That being said, I highly recommend this book. It's fun, it's different, it completely subverts the traditions of the horror genre and makes something that fits with a contemporary audience. The writing style isn't that of Stoker or other traditional and 'literary' horror texts, it's inherently modern and does have some flaws (i.e some characterisation isn't as strong as others, but it's not an issue as such as the text is from Amy's POV), but to me cements itself as an example of modern horror and how much the genre has changed. It's a great reworking of the ghost story and remarks a bit upon the fears of modern life and work, all while taking the piss out of IKEA.

Rating: ★★★★★

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