On a dark night, three people come together to discover who has been vandalising their store: reluctant but cash-strapped Amy, pleasant but lonely Ruth Anne and manager Basil, whose corporate hard-on is probably the most terrifying thing in this book. The store they work at is Orsk, a wannabe Ikea chain of cheap DIY furniture stores (Ikea is acknowledged as the superior brand here but really, for all intents and purposes, Orsk IS Ikea). It doesn’t take long for things to go awry: a mysterious man is spotted randomly appearing and disappearing from view, the cameras pick up things that cannot be seen with the naked eye, mysterious graffiti has been scrawled on the bathroom walls and, worst of all, even its employees keep getting lost within the cavernous maze of the store.
It’s, perhaps, a tad ironic that Horrorstör falls into the same traps as Ikea: it’s flimsy and not all that original but the marketing is amazing. And it is: the pseudo-Ikea catalogue is a lot of fun to read because it’s all so recognisable (as is Basil’s management speak, which will be eerily familiar to anyone who’s ever worked in retail). The products often have names like ‘Rimmeyob’ or ‘Arsle’. The layout of the store, designed to trap people into spending more than they planned, is used here to great effect: even the seasoned employees find themselves trapped within its mazelike structure. Unfortunately, the novel rings pretty hollow aside from this gimmick.
I don’t read a lot of horror novels so I don’t have a lot to go on, but from what I can tell quite a few of the elements used here have been used many times over, and while I had fun reading it it’s hardy the most original take. The character development leaves a lot to be desired and while this isn’t the sort of book where you’d expect to see a lot of depth, it does leave something to be desired; they are all of them like cardboard cutouts, and I don’t think that was deliberate.
As many others on this site have pointed out, Horrorstör is a mediocre book with really great packaging. And I mean great: the concept behind it is fun, and it looks amazing. The execution could have been so much better, though. I had fun reading this as a sort of in-between (it’s been a while since I finished a book within one day) but at the end of the day it doesn’t leave you much more satisfied than the average Ikea visit will: it’s never as great as you think it is.