A few weeks ago, I received a copy of Horrorstor in the mail from Quirk Books. Since we’re about to enter into October, I thought it would be a fun way to start the month.
The premise of the book is intriguing. Orsk, Ikea’s cheaper more American cousin, is a soul-sucking place to work. After being forced to leave college for financial reasons, Amy started to work at Orsk and is constantly feeling pressured from her boss, Basil. She’s pretty sure she’s about to get fired. When Basil asks Amy and another employee in for a meeting, Amy know’s she’s going to be fired. But, instead, Basil says that they need her to work overnight, to discover who is causing terrible damage to the merchandise in the middle of the night. It isn’t going to be an easy night. It’s even more difficult when the damage seems to have a supernatural source.
Check out the book trailer:
The idea of a ghost story in a big box store is interesting. It was what drew me in when asked if I’d like to review it. The book itself is only about 250 pages and looks just like an Ikea (well, Ikea knock-off) catalogue.
The cast of characters is interesting in composition. Amy and Basil have similar backgrounds, but very different reactions to the circumstances they’ve faced. Amy is more determined to trudge along until something better comes up, whereas Basil has made every attempt to excel. They’re joined by Ruth Anne, a 14 year veteran of the Orsk franchises. The side characters feature much less of a role and are much less developed. They largely serve to force Amy to interact with the supernatural.
It’s not long into the evening that the crew starts to realize things are not normal. When one of the characters mentions that Orsk is built atop a former prison known for torture and cruel punishments, we know things are about to get hinky.
The story is set up to be a horror story with a critique of both working conditions, generally, and the nature of big box stores. Some of this is done much more successfully than others. The most disappointing aspect of the novel is the introduction of the aforementioned prison as a source of evil. While I understand the desire to pinpoint a source of the ghostly activity, a source itself was unnecessary and limited some of the interest in Orsk itself as a haunted place.
The main villain was a bit disappointing. His back story didn’t really explain why he was how/who he was and why he’d stick around.
Amy and Basil are both in fairly relatable situations. Amy grows from a person who runs away from problems to one who runs back to help. This growth, though, felt a bit strange. We don’t actually see Amy running from much, except responsibility at work. Basil shows much more complexity. He’s set up as the annoying boss who’s drinking the corporate kool-aid. We discover that, in Basil’s case, there’s a clear motivation for his behavior and an internal desire that is more complicated than Amy. This was interesting because Amy is the main character.
It was a fun read regardless. There were more than a few gruesome moments and it was action-packed.
Title: The Falling Woman*
Author: Pat Murphy
Publication Date: 1986
Overview: When Diane’s father passes away, she reaches out to her estranged mother, Elizabeth, a renowned archaeologist on a dig in Mexico. Diane arrives at camp unannounced and not having seen her mother for over 15 years. Elizabeth is less than thrilled. The longer Diane stays, the more she worries that Elizabeth may be as crazy as her father claimed. Elizabeth walks for hours on end speaking in Mayan to figures only she sees. Maybe it’s the jungle or maybe crazy is catching, but Diane starts to see the ancient Mayans, too
Character Development: It was interesting to see how Elizabeth adapted to Diane’s presence, especially as the end drew closer and the Mayan presences began to threaten her. I thought Elizabeth grew into a more fully fleshed character at that point, willing to be vulnerable. Diane, I thought, was largely static, but showed some strength of character, particularly in the last third of the book.
Plot: The plot was slow-going and was, at times, lost in the descriptions of Mayan history. It wasn’t overwhelming, but Murphy did her homework and it showed, especially when it came to the calendar. The plot picked up a lot about two-thirds of the way through and the Mayans were an interesting and compelling presence. It was a bit sad to see the mother-daughter interplays and parallels.
The story did lean a bit on on the heavy-handed side with it’s lectures on cultural relativism (note: not moral relativism, per se). Murphy lightened up on it after a while, but it was present.
Book Depository Link: ??
*There is a scheduled reprint upcoming and the review copy was obtained via Netgalley.com prior to its release.
As some of you may know, it’s autism awareness month. This is a very special issue to me; my older brother, G, has very severe autism and my childhood took place in an environment where that was not an unusual or strange thing.
I understand more than most what a mixed blessing a family member with disability can be, particularly when that disability is mental. There are frustrations and anger, but also love and compassion. This is why it irks me when I see most portrayals of mental disability in literature, especially SF/F.
Literature often does not portray mental disability well. Whether out of ignorance or inability to show the complex family and social dynamics, literature (as well as many other storytelling medium) fall far short of the mark. I often find that, in fiction, persons with disability are used more as a plot device than as a character with purpose and emotion. This is not something done maliciously or out of some anger towards those with disability, but perhaps it happens because we take people for granted–people of all shapes, sizes, and ability.
I’ve put below some of my favorite representations of autism and disability below. I’d love to hear yours.
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
A Song of Fire and Ice, George R.R. Martin (This is not for Hodor’s protrayal, which I find largely disappointing, but for his relationship with his grandmother, who loves and accepts him for who he is despite her frustrations.)
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer