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.
I can’t really think of a more appropriate way to start the Bout of Books 11 read-a-thon than to post a couple of reviews? I’m a bit behind, so please bear with me.
Stenson’s Fiend is about a guy Chase. He’s a junkie living in what’s basically a slum on the outskirts of the Twin Cities. His parents are from the burbs and haven’t really been equipped to help him in years. He and his best friend Typewriter have been binging and going on serious benders since Chase’s girlfriend dumped him and he fell off the wagon.
In the midst of a week long meth binge, the two see a little girl outside. She seems happy and is giggling. Then, the little girl rips out a dog’s throat, spots them, and heads towards the house. The two freak out. The little girl is breaking in and they want to believe it’s all just a halluciation. It’s worse. The world is ending.
Zombies have taken over. Only Chase, Typewriter, and a handful of junkies are left to try and survive.
Stenson is very dependent on his reader’s knowledge of the Twin Cities. He often mentions locations by name rather than giving in depth descripitions. This is a double edged sword. As a resident of the Cities, it was interesting to be able to know exactly where they were supposed to be. However, it also made descriptions stand out when they weren’t quite right. Additionally, Stenson describes locations that are wrong. Frogtown isn’t all rambler housing and isn’t as big as Stenson describes. West Seventh is a bit run down but isn’t junkie city, at least not as close to Grand Avenue as he mentions. The Groveland Tap isn’t really the kind of place that a lot of meth heads gravitate to. I’d also think that if I were a non-resident of the cities, I would have been a bit lost in the locations. It would have distracted me or been confusing.
I liked a lot of the supporting characters, especially Typewriter. The side characters are very well fleshed out. They’re sympathetic and believable. I thought that Stenson does a good job showing how they’re both kind of normal but also incapable or dealing with the things in their life that cause them stress or lead to chaos. They were well balanced.
Chase, the narrator, was a bit disappointing. He was pretty insightful when it came to his friends, but the narration doesn’t really show a lot about Chase’s past or his development. It’s clear and believable when showing how he can be abusive, manipulative, or running on survival mode. There are some moments of vulnerability, where Chase says things that hint at his past and who he feels he once was, but those moments didn’t resonate with me, largely because we don’t see who he thinks he was.
There were tons of zombies though. They were flesh worn and giggled. Pretty creepy. In the first twenty pages or so alone there are three attacks. Very fun.
I did like the ending quite a bit. It was fitting, but that’s all I’ll say.
I enjoyed the book. I just wish there had been a bit more to some of the characters. Also the location thing I think is going to screw some folks up. 3/5.
I got this book for free for an honest review off of bloggingforbooks.com
Title: Let Me In/Let the Right One In
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Publication Date: 2004
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Linqvist’s Let Me In is a roller coaster ride of a story. It follows Oskar, a twelve year old, who is terribly bullied and who feels wholly inadequate. When Oskar comes home after a beating he goes to the woods to unwind. There he meets Eli, a young girl with a strangely adult way of behaving. Oskar falls in love for the first time, but Eli has a secret, and a series of brutal murders is putting a damper on everything.
The first thing that struck me about this book was how relatable a subject Oskar was. Lindqvist managed to write a novel about a boy that was both reflective of the character’s age, social status, and general experiences that also didn’t read like it was written by a twelve year old. This can be a tough thing to pull off, especially when trying to narrate the character’s thoughts. Not only are writers often adults long since distanced from pre-adolescence, but conveying those thoughts in a way that is true, but also does not lost sight of the audience is a very precarious balancing act.
The quick transition in which Eli becomes a common figure in Oskar’s life was also well done. Though it was fast in scope of time, it didn’t feel unnaturally fast for their relationship to develop the way it did.
When the murders start happening, a rash of characters are introduced. Admittedly, it was pretty head spinning. It wasn’t always clear who was speaking or what relationships the speaker had to the other characters. It took a while to really see all of the connections between the characters and their stories.
However, the intricate ways that the stories tied together was impressive.
I think what I enjoyed most was that instead of gathering suspense (in a more traditional horror story way) to keep the reader going, the intensity built on the relationships of the characters. I’m admittedly a huge chicken about horror stories. They’ll keep me up all night jumping at imagined creaks and groans. Lindqvist, however, didn’t go for the typically terrifying horror story feel. It was a much more approachable, though no less intense, type of horror story; it focused far more on the terror of the transformation and infection than on the monster story that usually reigns.
I was, however, a bit bewildered at some of the way sex and sexuality was used in this novel. While it wasn’t the main focus, per se, the use of gender identity and homosexuality in the novel was very clearly present. I don’t mind any of these as a plot point, but it seemed that, with a few exceptions, the topics were present without actually motivating very much.
In later parts of the book gender identity and sexual orientation during adolescence is brought up as a topic. Lindqvist, in fact, spends a lot of time detailing a situation that would be confusing for any person, but especially so for a twelve year old. It was a bit surprising to me that the situation was left as it was. There was quite a bit of discussion between two of the characters and Oskar’s inner turmoil about sexuality was shown, but it didn’t really seem to affect the relationships Oskar was having with the other characters.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think for many people, sexuality and gender are things that, for the most part, just are. It’s confusing for a time, but many people can come to accept that gender and sexuality aren’t always as clear cut as they might be.
It seemed, though, that Lindqvist spent a great deal of time outlining these as well as a number of horribly abusive tales that were related to the subjects without really making a clear point about them. It seemed like he wanted to, but that it just didn’t appear.
Maybe it’s just me. That’s always a very real possibility.
Overall, a great read. It’s fast paced and outstandingly detailed.