Reviewing: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

TW: body horror, torture, claustrophobia

“It was dawn, and the zombies were stumbling through the parking lot, streaming towards the massive beige box at the far end. Later they’d be resurrected by megadoses of Starbucks, but for now they were barely the living dead.”

Today friends we continue on my quest to read everything Grady Hendrix writes forever (I’ll be reviewing We Sold Our Souls when it comes out, not before because I got turned down for a netgalley arc which I am not bitter about AT ALL and absolutely did not sulk about) and we continue with quite literally the coolest book design I have ever encountered. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and all but what can I say, I judge. This was was judged and found worthy because LOOK AT IT:

Fun fact, the day this arrived I had it on my office at work and someone actually thought it was a furniture catalogue at first. Then they saw the title, and the faces, but it was briefly a book incognito. I’ll include more pictures of how rad this is at the end. Because it’s probably time for me to discuss the content of the book as opposed to its cover.

“The more Amy struggled, the faster she sank. Every month she shuffled around less and less money to cover the same number of bills. The hamster wheel kept spinning and spinning and spinning. Sometimes she wanted to let go and find out exactly how far she’d fall if she just stopped fighting. She didn’t expect life to be fair, but did it have to be so relentless?”

Horrorstor has the most entertaining premise of any horror book I have ever encountered. Orsk furniture store is plagued by nocturnal vandalism and mysterious texts to employees, and a desperate manager organises an overnight vigil in the store to catch the vandals in the act. Amy hates her boss and needs her job, and the overtime being offered is literally impossible to refuse. For Amy, life is going nowhere, college went nowhere, her job is going nowhere, if she doesn’t get this overtime money the only thing going somewhere will be her belongings as she’s kicked out of her home unable to pay the rent. She’s a tremendously sympathetic character whose struggles feel all too real. The characters around her are slowly fleshed out as the story continues and the growing sympathy this engenders just makes what happens all the more horrifying to read.

“They rounded the corner into what should have been Kitchens and found themselves once again facing Home Office.

“Wait, what just happened?” Amy asked.

Matt shook his head. “This doesn’t make any sense.”

“You walked in another circle.”

“Look at the camera.”

Amy looked as Matt pointed the lens down the Bright and Shining Path into Home Office.

The screen was showing Kitchens.”

This book captures the disorientation furniture stores are designed to make us feel in a terrifying new light. The twisting paths that force you to meander past endless potential hiding spots – cupboards and displays, sofas and beds – from behind which an attacker (ghostly or otherwise) could jump, doors that lead to nowhere, an endless labyrinth of shadows. It brings into question how well we really know our coworkers, and how much we’d truly risk to help them. As the night goes on, and normalcy gives way to nightmares, all pretense of subtlety is thrown aside. An example of subtle, psychological horror this book is not. It’s a wild ride that literally uses everything including kitchen sink to get the point across and it’s so much fun. Yes it’s a horror book, but there’s also a table set called the Arsle and a bookshelf called the Smagma so Hendrix is having some fun here.

“Amy, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Basil said. “But something’s really wrong with you. Do you know where we are? What day it is?”

“We’re in the Beehive,” Amy said.

“There is no beehive. You’re not thinking straight.”

“It’s where we get what we deserve.”

Now make no mistake this isn’t all comedy. There are scenes in this that are genuinely unnerving and distressing, and there’s an unsettling air of claustrophobic isolation to the whole thing. Orsk is closing in around them, and they may not notice until it’s too late to escape. There are some pretty graphic scenes of body horror and descriptions of torture herein, so be wary of that going in. It’s not the most graphic horror I’ve ever encountered, but it’s there. Also, in both books I have read by him, Hendrix has managed to include something gross crawling its way out of someone’s mouth and each time it has thoroughly squicked me out.

“Now, let us make the necessary sacrifice for my great work to begin again. Let us use the materials at hand to fling wide the gates and open the door. Come inside my mill,” he said, licking colorless lips with his pale tongue. “Come inside, and let hard work cure the weakness inside your minds.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a jarring mixture of incredibly fun and very, very unnerving. This is a rapidly escalating trip into a retail nightmare world and while the hauntings aren’t subtle in the slightest they don’t pretend to be so – you can just enjoy the ride. Is it the scariest horror book I have ever read? No. Did I thoroughly enjoy reading it? Absolutely. Would I recommend it to horror fans out there? One hundred percent.

Overall rating: 4 books out of 5

Bonus pictures because this thing is GLORIOUS:

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