“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
If you read this blog enough, you’ll probably realize I’m not much of a horror fan. Oh, I like scary movies well enough, but I don’t read much in the genre. Thus, as I sit here, I feel slightly ill-prepared for putting together some thoughts on this book. As a matter of fact, that’s more or less how I feel putting together a piece of Ikea furniture: not quite sure I understand all the pieces, but still sure I can make it through to the end.
In Horrorstör, Grady Hendrix and his Quirk conspirators have made a book which not only resembles an Ikea catalog, but they have given readers a story dominated by that same unsettled feeling. In some ways, this was great, setting up an air of fun, slightly scary tension. Underneath that, however, I kept looking for a substance within the plot and characters that just wasn’t there.
The gimmicky part of this book is that it looks and feels like an Ikea catalog. The glossy front cover, the colors and font (this might be the only book I’ve ever read in blue text), even the fake order form all contribute to the illusion. Hendrix takes it beyond simple window dressing, though, as his story is set in the fictional Orsk store, a self-acknowledged Ikea knockoff. There’s an opportunity here to satirize big-box store employment culture, and Hendrix does make overtures in that direction, but it comes up well short of a real commentary. This is especially disappointing because the parallel between retail drudgery and the sadistic prison which haunts the store is so obvious. Perhaps the author thought it too conspicuous to address, but by not discussing the similarities directly the narrative loses punch. Indeed, this could have been a way to deepen the character of Josiah Worth, warden of the mysterious Beehive prison, whose presence in the story is entirely too fleeting.
Ultimately, what I wanted from this book was just more. There was once a strange penitentiary where the Orsk store now stands, and it is the source of the hauntings, but the author doesn’t give his readers enough detail. Even when some of the characters find their way inside the prison, the reader never really gets a sense of the place. Likewise, there is the occasional attempt to round out both the spectral and material characters, but just not enough to really care about them or their fates. This lack leaves the book feeling overly light and unfinished.
“We know the personal details of some professional ministers and preachers and revivalists with an interest in success. We can follow the writings of theologians and denominational leaders, often with an axe to grind. Of what Tyndale called the ‘little flock’ we learn only when quarrels break out, just as hospitals everywhere record only the sick. Yet the extraordinary success story of the printing and selling of the Bible in America, which begins with Isaiah Thomas, must also be that of hidden coral, the private and unsung effect in so many souls of ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ “