Book Review #19: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Sunday, 11 January 2015
Please note before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Quirk Books publishing house. I received an electronic advanced readers copy of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion of this title influenced by the fact that I received this publication free of charge. Now on with the review!

Product details:
Publisher: Quirk Books
Format: eBook
Length: 265 pages
Published: 2014
Rating: ☆☆☆
Source: Advanced Copy from NetGalley
Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.
To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.
A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.

First of all I just want to mention that the hype I had heard around this book was massive. I mean how often do you hear about a book about a haunted Ikea? Well similar to Ikea. Welcome to Orsk! A much cheaper version of Ikea in the competition market, but I bet you've never heard of an Ikea haunted by spirits? Yep you heard it right folks. Haunted by spirits. This book for me was something that as soon as I heard about it, I knew I would be buying, so when I saw there was a chance for me to review an uncorrected proof of the book, I jumped at the chance - and I have to say that I wasn't really disappointed with this novel much. It delivered everything I expected from a good old fashioned horror story, except the ending but we'll discuss that later. Lets dive straight in to what I thought about it, and as usual lets start off with the cover.
  • Cover- On a kindle it is quite difficult to just the full extend of the cover of this book, especially in black and white. So I am going to base this part off of the finished copy of Horrorstor. Can I just say that the cover for me is fantastic? I received a finalised copy of this book for Christmas and the first thing my mother said to me when I opened it on Christmas Day was "Why did you want me to buy you an Ikea catalogue?" I simply laughed and explained what it was. But it is true folks, Horrorstor from the design of the book and the cover does remind me a lot of an Ikea catalogue. Can we just praise the publishers for this? Because not only do they go out of there way to make it look like a catalogue on the outside, but they also run this theme throughout the entire novel. Opening the book up you have what seem to be legitimite Orsk order forms, a map of the showroom as well as furniture designs introducing each chapter! What makes it even more special is the fact that each item displayed at the beginning of the chapter is somehow involved in that particular chapter. It reminds me a lot of Daniel Handler's 'Why we broke up' and I loved that fact about it. It really made me feel like the author and the publishers were really trying and I appreciate that a lot with this novel.
  • Plot - So the plot. Something that I was extremely intrigued with. It's not everyday you come across a novel like Horrorstor so eagerly I dived in and I have to say, what I found was quite impressive. From the beginning of the novel we are introduced to Amy, our lead protagonist and to the store of Orsk. Amy is your average character, trying to get by in the world, or atleast trying to get by enough to pay her rent. Orsk as explained earlier is a rip-off of Ikea, or a cheaper version as Hendrix likes to describe it. Before going any further I'm going to insert the first paragraph or two for you because trust me, if you read this and don't want to jump straight into this novel then there must be something wrong with you because in my opinion it is fantastic.
"It was dawn, and the zombies were stumbling through the parking lot, streaming toward the massive beige box at the far end. Later they'd be resurrected by megadoses of Starbucks, but for now they were the barely living dead. Their causes of death differed: hangovers, nightmares, strung out from epic online gaming sessions, circadian rhythms broken by late night TV, children who couldn't stop crying, neighbors partying till 4 a.m., broken hearts, unpaid bills, roads not taken, sick dogs, deployed daughters, ailing parents, midnight ice cream binges. But every morning, five days a week (seven during the holidays), they dragged themselves here, to the one thing in their lives that never changed, the one thing they could count on come rain, or shine, or dead pets, or divorce: work."
  • Now for anyone that has ever worked in retail, you have to admit, that depiction is pretty darn accurate. And such vivid imagery in the writing! It is beautiful! As soon as I read that paragraph I knew that I was going to be continuing on with this story. So as the novel progresses you are introduced to a selection of characters that I'll talk about in a bit, and you soon learn that strange occurrences have been happening in the store, so Amy and two other of our cast stay after hours and scope about to see what has been happening. The plot goes on to be extremely intense, from creepy seances to possible murders this book gets creepier and creepier as it goes along. It definitely made me sit there and appreciate the work that Grady Hendrix put into this, because my goodness it really did have an impact on me. I'm not usually one for overly creepy books, because often they don't actually do much for me, but Grady Hendrix congratulations on that because boy were some of those scenes intense. However, like I mentioned earlier on, there were a couple of things towards the end of the novel that I felt could have been done a little bit better. I felt that the last 25% of the novel, after the full impact of the seance, that the scenes started to chop a little bit. By that I mean that obviously we are slowly coming to the end of the novel, which is fine but I found that Grady Hendrix was just throwing bits in as extra dramatics. Theres a scene where two of our main characters are running towards the exit of the store after just escaping a dramatic scene to then be swept away from the exit and being forced to go the long way around to be shoved into another dramatic scene. I mean I understand why it was done, to show that there is no easy way about but you only had like another 20 pages left of novel, I would have really liked to have seen some sort of big finale, which unfortunately wasn't really the finale I was hoping for. Shame.
  • Characters - So the characters. Amy as mentioned before is our main protagonist and I have to say that she was probably the most relatable character in the entire novel. She felt whole heartedly fleshed out, had a great deal of character development as the novel progresses, and allowed her full range of emotions to be understood by the reader. She was really expressive and this shone through really well in Hendrix' writing. Our other characters out of the trio are Basil the 'stick to the rules' manager and Ruth Anne, a character who at the beginning of the novel I really could not stand. Ruth Anne for me was my second favourite character in the novel. Now I know that contradicts a lot with my previous statement, but I love her simply for how much development she went through in this novel. Hendrix introduces her to us as this timid character who is afraid of almost anything, always sticks by the rules and doesn't really have much of an adventurous spirit. However by the end of the novel, my goodness. There's that last scene with her where she's got her fingers against her eye sockets. That was such a graphic image for me, and it was a real shame to have to see her go. By the end of the novel she was such an iconic character for me that I really hoped she was getting out alive. Basil on the other hand was a character that although did develop through this novel I felt had to in order for his character become more lifelike. At the beginning of the novel he is very much described as your typical manager that everyone loves to hates because of how much they love the company. People who have worked in retail will know this all to well. You know that guy, they're the one you purposely try to avoid as you walk through the door, much how Amy does with Basil. But yes as I mentioned I feel his development had to be there otherwise he would have been quite a simplistic character whom I would have felt had no need to be in the story besides just 'being there.' There were other characters in this novel as well, Matt and Trinity, but I feel that they needed some more development even though they were seen as kind of background characters - I would have liked to know a bit more about them than what we got. 
  • The entity of this novel I am going to treat as a separate point because I couldn't quite make up my mind about how I felt about him. By the entity I am referring to Warden Josiah Worth. During the seance scene when he possessed Carl (a homeless character), he seemed so creepy and determined and his story was set to why the store was haunted, but towards the end of the novel he just kind of seemed a bit 'meh.' Like I found the rats more haunting than he was towards the end, and his demise? Yeah it wasn't really one I was a fan of. I was expecting some sort of big showdown and grand finale as I expected earlier and what I got in return was kind of mediocre for my tastes.
So overall what did I think? Well as a whole I think this novel was a good 3 out of 5 stars. It was fast paced, intense, had gripping and relatable characters and overall was a really good story. Yes I had gripes with the ending in regards to the 'big finale' but that is something that is possibly just an issue for me. However I am actually going to give Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix a 4 star classification and that extra star is purely down to the presentation of this novel. I think if it had just been a standard paperback it wouldn't have had as much as an effect on me, but because the author and the publishers went to the extend of turning the book into an actual catalogue and adding all of these extra features, that although useless in reality, really provide that extra bit of the 'wow' factor to this novel. I congratulate you in that retrospect.

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