Quirk Books, 2014
The Ikea-esque furniture store of Orsk is prison enough already to Amy, one of its burnout hourly employees, but when her supervisor talks her into taking part in an off-the-books overnight shift to investigate strange happenings and vandalism, they realize that the store has been a prison for lost souls far longer that it's been a cheap furniture retail outlet full of relentlessly cheerful scripted disorientation.
The ghost story elements are pretty traditional and don't mesh quite perfectly with the very quirky forestory concept. Once in love with the artful oddness of the opening chapters, it's easy to be a little disappointed to find that oddness somewhat crowded out by the more expected terrors later on. The mentions of Ikea existing in the same universe as Orsk also feel a little off, undercutting the specific knockoff quality of Orsk, which is shown well enough that it doesn't need to be told.
The ghost story horror is perfectly competent, if not as special as the Orsk experience itself. There are some very scary moments, Amy's personal demons connect well with the external danger, and the bonding of the mismatched not-quite-friends band of coworkers is effective and well-paced.
The real magic though, comes from the setup of this almost but not quite normal staging ground. Chapters are separated by catalogue pages full of the hyper-cheerful Orsk ad copy which can only descend to sinister places, and in the text itself, Hendrix has a stunning knack for making the essentials of each character, place and concept instantly and succinctly knowable, often with laugh-out-loud cleverness.
The natural sense of unease found in places that sell through deliberate disorientation is portrayed and harnessed perfectly when Orsk begins to play its first tricks on the mind. The workplace clashes of personalities, priorities, and level of company Kool-Aid drinking will put anyone who's ever worked retail right into the story and make it personal, and Amy and the supervisor, Basil, are both surprisingly nuanced characters for a story with such a prominent gimmick. Horrorstör is, fairly literally, a horror story to get lost in.
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