I’m the kind of person who picks up books based entirely on the cover. If the back cover pitch does it for me, I will buy it without reading a word, based entirely on how much I like the cover art and blurb. I like to think Publishers have a certain faith in their ability to convey books to us through font and art, and I trust that if they make a cover I really dig then the book will be a-okay by me.
This hasn’t always been true, and Horrorstr is unfortunately one of those cases.
It is worth noting that I have about 4 years worth of Ikea catalogues sitting in my coffeetable undershelf, the Ikea app on my phone, and that I describe going to Ikea as a pilgrimage. I remember the first time I intercepted an Ikea catalogue at my parent’s house and discovered that I could fulfill all my fantasies about growing up and living in the big city by just really committing myself to designing the ideal Ikea-furnished apartment. I’ve been really good at not succumbing to branding for most of my life, but Ikea just gets me, man. Hook, line, and sinker, put me on the floor with the big blue bag, give me the Swedish meatballs, take my credit card and let me die in on a piece of furniture I cannot pronounce the name of. Ikea is my Disneyland.
Horrorstor is about an American rip off of Ikea called Orsk. Ikea exists in this world, and Orsk is acknowledged as inferior, but still tries to model itself entirely off of Ikea. I get the feeling it was originally a straight up Ikea until the author thought better of the legalities. Cynical sales associate Amy gets sucked into a supernatural plot involving ghosts when she and her fellow employees stay the night to try and discover why weird stuff is happening to the furniture showroom every night. Hijinks ensue, a seance is performed, and hell is unleashed, literally.
Now, you’d think an Ikea is ripe for horror related satire, but there isn’t a lot to work with in Grady Hendrix’s story. It’s a ghost story, and not a very frightening one. Hendrix just lacks the writing skill to make it scary, and the depth to give the metaphors of consumer relationships and Millenial angst real weight. He either doesn’t connect the material very well or is too on the nose; his scary scenes are either too typical or not psychological. There’s horror to be mined here, but this book just isn’t up to the challenge.
It is, however, delightfully designed to look like an Ikea catalogue, and sprinkled with drawings of furniture, torture devices, and other fun goodies. If it wasn’t such a well designed package, it would be much less compelling and I never would have bought it, let alone finished it. I kept hoping for a pay-off but it didn’t really deliver. It’s not that it failed, it’s that it was perfectly serviceable; kind of like most of the stuff you buy at Ikea. The story is a 2 star, but the package puts it up to a 3 star, because it at least does deliver the goods.