Book synopsis: In a small Arizona town, a man counts his blessings: a loving wife, two teenage daughters, and a job that allows him to work at home. Then “The Store” announces plans to open a local outlet, which will surely finish off the small downtown shops. His concerns grow when “The Store’s” builders ignore all the town’s zoning laws during its construction. Then dead animals are found on “The Store’s” grounds. Inside, customers are hounded by obnoxious sales people, and strange products appear on the shelves. Before long the town’s remaining small shop owners disappear, and “The Store” spreads its influence to the city council and the police force, taking over the town! It’s up to one man to confront “The Store’s” mysterious owner and to save his community, his family, and his life!
I came to this book for the praise Stephen King reaps on Bentley Little. The Store is apparently his magnum opus.
I found it……a mixed bag. The characterization is pretty good, and the small town feels straight out of a King novel (making it no surprise that King has praised his work). And there are some scenes that are fairly unsettling.
But, there’s no mistaking what Little is doing here: criticizing the corporate ambivalence (or outright hostility) to their destructive practices in small towns across America. “The Store”, the entity within the book, is a thinly veiled avatar for Wal-mart and other big box stores. Incentivized by small town governments to build in their communities, the stores out-price local businesses, which then close down. The personal feel of shopping local is also removed, as employees are now just place-fillers in a corporate facade that removes whatever humanity can exist within capitalism.
That’s, ultimately, the horror of this book. And it’s effective, even if it’s a bit heavy-handed.
But I couldn’t help being a little underwhelmed by the whole thing. It was good….but it wasn’t particularly enjoyable. I kept waiting for something more supernatural, even though I knew there wasn’t going to be anything more sinister than just normal, every day inhuman capitalism.
Don’t get me wrong: we’re all a bit benumbed by the boring dystopia in which we’ve found ourselves, and it can be cathartic to have it thrown in our faces. But we’ve come a long way since 1998, when this book was first published. The horror of our day-t0-day lives has surpassed the slow, creeping unease presented here. If only our worst reality was the bleak despair left behind by corporate domination. I’d almost welcome that over what I normally see in my news feed.
I give it 3.5 stars.