This square, chunky book features the Swedish design elements we know so well, where pieces of furniture have unpronounceable names and the product is really a lifestyle, not just individual items to buy. Glancing at Horrorstör quickly, you’ll see a floor map of the showroom, a guide to ordering and assembly, and even a job announcement… only the tiniest bit ominous, perhaps:
It’s Not Just a Job.
It’s the Rest of Your Life.
Welcome to Horrorstör, and the world of Orsk. Orsk is a US-based company acknowledged to be a cheap knock-off version of Ikea. At Orsk, you can buy a Brooka sofa or a Liripip wardrobe, enjoy meatballs in the cafe and let the children play, then stroll through the market floor, picking up a cart full of impulse buys before finally hitting the registers. The whole point of Orsk is to immerse the consumer, to make the process slightly disorienting, to ensure that no one just comes in and buys a chair, but rather, walks through the entire showroom viewing all the various lifestyles available for purchase.
Main character Amy is a floor partner, showing up each day to her low-paying hourly job, resentfully not quite buying the corporate-speak that is the foundation of the Orsk experience. In her early 20s, Amy is a bit of a mess, with no career plan, no drive, and no money to fall back on. She needs Orsk, even if she doesn’t want to. Her manager, Basil, is the embodiment of everything she hates. He’s drunk the Kool-Aid, and spouts inspirational drivel like “Way to live the ethos, man!”
On the verge of being fired, Amy is instead offered one last chance to prove she has what it takes: Basil needs her to stay at night after closing, along with him and one other Orsk employee. Weird things have been happening overnight in the store — stray acts of vandalism, damaged products — and no one can figure out how. The trio plan to spend the night in the empty Orsk establishment, patrolling the floors and keeping an eye out, with the goal of catching someone in the act and becoming company heroes — and maybe even getting a shot at the next step up the corporate ladder.
Joined by two other Orsk partners, Matt and Trinity, who sneak in to shoot a Ghost Hunters-style video, the night gets off to a bumpy start as Amy spots creepy graffiti in the women’s room and later encounters a rat. And that’s only the beginning. An ill-advised seance unleashes a true influx of terror, and the nightmare begins, full of creeps and horrors galore, and threatening not just the employees’ jobs but also their sanity and even their lives.
A scream ripped through the dark. Ruth Anne’s scream.
This place is tricking you, she reminded herself. That’s what it does does.
Orsk is all about scripted disorientation.
It wants you to surrender to a programmed experience.
Horrorstör starts off as satire, but about midway shifts into truly scary horror. Suddenly, the featured products in the “catalog” shift: No longer just couches and seating units, the products are suddenly reconfigured Orsk items that double as torture devices. Orsk is built on the remains of a horrifying prison run by a deranged warden, and as the penitents come out of the walls to ensnare new prisoners for reform, Amy and the rest are in a fight for survival.
It’s an odd tonal shift, but somehow it works. I’m not sure that I’ll ever look at an Ikea store the same way again. If you enjoy your horror stories with a touch of sarcasm and snark, check out Horrorstör — althought I’d recommend reading it during daylight hours, with a teddy bear to hug and a fully charged cell phone nearby, just in case.
Author: Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: September 23, 2014
Length: 256 pages
Source: Review copy courtesy of Quirk Books