Pairs Well With: a cheap red wine blend. Not because it’s lacking in class (twist-off caps are much easier to manage than corks, am I right?), but because it fits with the aesthetic of ORSK. Pour it into a glass, and what do you see? Wine. Deep red and fancy. Just like in the catalogs. But when you smell it and taste it, and when you finally pucker at the unnatural saccharine symphony, you know: this is cheap. Just like the furniture at ORSK. Just like the work culture at ORSK. Just like everything at ORSK. ORSK. ORSK. ORSK.
Author: Grady Hendrix (audiobook narrated by Tai Sammons and Bronson Pinchot)
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Whiskey shots
Synopsis: Welcome to ORSK! Your forever home. Whether entering our store to shop our extensive line of quality storage and home furnishing solutions, or to join the ORSK family and begin your forever career in sales—our employees never want to leave—there’s always something new and fulfilling at ORSK. Always.
And for despondent floor worker Amy, the “always” is a nightmare come true. Or, at least it was. With graffiti popping up all over the place, carved into the walls by unseen hands, and with various furniture items being vandalized, the deputy store manager, Basil, has recruited Amy and another store employee to do an overnight stakeout and catch the vandals. With a team of corporate evaluators coming in the morning, they have to find the perpetrators.
But what if the perpetrators are trying to find them?
As more and more instances of horrific, unexplainable phenomena take place in the dark building, Amy’s fear of being alone quickly turns into a nightmare that they aren’t alone.
Because here at ORSK, you’re never alone. You’re family.
Now Available at ORSK.
Overall Impression: This was a ton of fun to listen to (I partook in the audiobook version), and I can honestly say I wasn’t bored once during the 9 hour reading of this story. The plot was tight, the main character was likeable and believably flawed, and the side characters were interesting, for the most part (more on that below). The horror aspects of this novel were great. It felt simultaneously like a love letter to haunted house and ghost stories, while also being a not-so-subtle dig at corporate America. It never preached, but it got its point across, succinctly.
If I were to recommend a format for readers to engage with, it would have to be the audiobook version. The intros to the chapters are silky and nauseating and I loved every second of them. Complete with angelic harp music, I can imagine these sections lack some of the intrigue and power in the written form. The narrator for the main text did an amazing job as well.
The Cheers: Getting back to focusing on the story, I have to say that Horrorstör was one of the most fun and fully realized horror stories I’ve read that have been published in the last decade. Where Brom’s Slewfoot was horrific in a folktale sense, Horrorstör was horrific in a classic ghost story way; leaving room for comedic relief and ponderous looks at how history is perpetuated even in our modern day.
Amy was an incredible Final Girl. She was snarky and railing, but like the original bad boy James Dean, she’s a rebel without a cause. She possesses believable flaws and over the course of the story, she works hard to overcome them. Sometimes. Other times, she’s forced to change or suffer mind-warping consequences.
Basil and Ruth-Anne were believable and amazing, each morphing over the course of the story to become heroes in their own rights.
And finally, the villains. The faceless ghosts. The maniacal zealot possessing the body of an unfortunate transient. The transforming labyrinth of ORSK itself. The chair *shudder*. These beings were creepy and malevolent, and by keeping them mostly in the dark (literally), Hendrix did something very smart. He increased the unease, and played to the most basic of human fears: “What’s out there in the dark? What’s watching me? What’s coming for me?” It was fun and got under my skin, and that’s a feat most horror stories nowadays don’t try to create.
The Hangover: I will say that the archvillain, the Warden, was a little boring. He was so over the top that it was a little eye-roll-worthy. One monologue is justifiable. Two is quickly irritating. And more than that? Sighs, sighs, and more sighs. It loses its power quickly and reduces the villain from a threatening force to a motionless pillar that won’t shut up. Come to think of it, maybe the Warden is a metaphor for social media?
The two other side characters are very forgettable (honestly, if their names weren’t brought up again and again, I’d have forgotten they were in the book), and really only served to bring equipment into the store and make corporeal the haunts that were flitting in and out in the corners of the story. After that? We don’t really see them again. And that’s okay because they didn’t have personalities to begin with.
Corking the Bottle: Horrorstör is a fun, well-paced story with body horror, mind-twisting ghosts, and a looming sense of hopelessness that only corporate America could bring. The main character is fun and readers will love cheering her on, just as much as being surprised at how their opinions of perceived villains changes.
And again, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version.