My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix is a smart, sexy horror parable about the soul crushing -and occasionally supernatural– nature of working for a ‘big box’ store. Our protagonist Amy hates her job and hates her boss and his ‘go team’ attitude. The company she works for, Orsk, is a knock-off of a more popular pseudo-European home and office retail store and every day is an exercise in mental torture for her. When things begin to transform into a horrific parody of real life, Amy is faced with the absurdity that is her life and must confront her own true nature and what she considers her purpose in life.
The author walks a fine line between feeling like he has “Something to Say” and saying it. The saving grace is that he says it well. The tone is both satirical and critical, but it never feels overly mean-spirited or bitter. Sardonic might be the best description and his prose conveys some of the existential ennui that employees at big box stores, especially those that boast an overbearing corporate culture, must feel. Grady Hendrix takes the feeling of being tied to a job one might not like and transforms that into horror.
The book is a quick, enjoyable read and the various illustrations show that the author has a firm grasp of (and knack for) the unique motivational and marketing doublespeak that many companies use to refer to their corporate culture or their products. It’s both tongue-in-cheek and witty. At times I wonder if perhaps too much effort and time was put into these humorous interludes in the novel; some of the chapters felt lean in places and I would have liked more of the story, even at the risk of losing the amusing images and other visual additions. My only real criticism was not really with the author, his style or even his story per se: I was simply expecting the reveal to be something more nefarious and orchestrated and instead found the evil and horror to be more incidental than anything else. I suppose this was the better choice, inferring ignorance instead of malevolence, but so much of the book seemed aimed at grinding at corporate homogeneity that not pursuing that more rabidly seemed a lost opportunity.
Regardless, this was a marvelous novel, nicely paced with the right amount of humor, horror and suspense. It also makes for an excellent conversation piece, especially if you and your friends revile the culture of empty consumerism many see present today in America. I say find a small indie book store and buy it there to complete the counter-culture trifecta. In the spirit of the novel, let me give my last comment in the form of an advertisement from Orsk.
HORRORSTÖR – Sink down into your most idyllic seating environment and enjoy the well-paced and subtly-biting undertones of this light and airy literary indulgence.