By Grady Hendrix, narrated Tai Sammons and Bronson Pinchot
Length: 6 hours, 16 minutes
Does anyone else out there have an aversion to IKEA? Like, someone suggests we pop over there real quick, maybe bribes you with coffee and cinnamon rolls, and then BAM. The whole Saturday has mysteriously disappeared? Wait, what just happened to me this past weekend?
Horrorstör is one part Office Space, and one part haunted house story. Thankfully, the haunted house in Horrorstör is essentially an IKEA.
I’m thoroughly enjoying Grady Hendrix’s Great Stephen King reread over at Tor.com (please note the presence tense, and my faith it’ll one day continue), and thought his White Street Society short stories exquisite dark humor, so when I heard he had a novel set in a Haunted IKEA (or, more accurately: ORSK, an IKEA competitor), I knew I had to check it out.
I’ve been to IKEA way more times than I’d like, and while I don’t have the Chuck Palahniuk/Fight Club aversion to it that some do, it does feel a bit like a gauntlet at times — winding around those labyrinthine aisles. Hendrix does a solid job of bringing us in from the street level with Amy, a young woman just barely getting by, and coming to the horrific realization that she really has no plan on where her life is going. But there’s been a lot of weirdness happening at ORSK, and when Amy’s offered a late night shift by her boss Basil along with three other employees, she really can’t turn it down. Things go downhill fast from there, in something of a creepy yet kind of hysterical way. There’s a nasty little seance scene that felt like something straight out of a Sam Raimi film, and I couldn’t stop laughing while listening to it.
But about two-thirds through the book, the story less somwhat less funny and more straight-up horror, and my interest waned a bit, and the ending seemed a bit sudden. Still, Hendrix does a good job with next-door characters that seem like they could’ve walked out of a Stephen King novel. Amy is easy for just about anyone who has been hard up for cash to relate to, but Basil — the African American store manager whose name evokes Basil Rathbone and who is evangelical about all the corporate propaganda — is particularly strong. Hendrix knows his horror tropes, and does a good job subverting them.
Tai Sammons does the heavy lifting narration-wise in Horrorstör. She’s got a solid, no frills everywoman narration that nails the protagonist pretty well, and gets by okay with the rest of the cast. Bronson Pinchot is essentially reading the chapter headers, and you can tell he’s having a blast. Together, they’re a winning combination.
I could be convinced to head back to Horrorstör one day, mostly for the first half and the solid narration. It left me a little cold in places, but generally I imagine I’ll have a lot more fun whenever I go back to IKEA thanks to Hendrix’s book.
Also, the coffee and cinnamon rolls.