Rekindling the Reading Flame: A Journey Through HORROSTÖR and Rediscovering the Joy of Books by Ashley Johnson

I would like to welcome guest author Ashley Johnson to the Basement of the Bizarre!

As a young kid growing up, I remember the excitement that would constantly buzz around the arrival of the Scholastic book fair. Students would cram into a space far too small for even children, and we would pour over the newest young adult novels or thumb through collections of comic books. I remember family members leaving the house at three in the morning to wait in line for the newest release of the Harry Potter series just so that I could receive a copy of it on day one and be finished reading it by day two. I would wriggle myself into a nest on the couch and dive into the worlds created by countless authors over the years, indulging in my love for reading. Years have come and gone now, though, and life has gone by. My career began to develop, and the distractions of adulthood ultimately led to far fewer books being read over time. I often struggle to find the joy or desire to pick up a book, let alone get past the first thirty pages. On my bedside table, bookshelf, living room coffee table, and even in closets, I have scattered books; some gifted, some thrifted, some purchased years ago, all waiting for me to find the peace of mind to pick them up and begin reading again.

Two weeks ago, I wandered through a brand-new bookstore that had just opened the month before. Perhaps it was a curiosity to just check it out? Or maybe it was the desire to jump back on the horse and lose myself in a new world. Either way, I found myself wandering the aisles looking for something that jumped out of me.

That is when I found HORROSTÖR by Grady Hendrix. Sitting on an end cap to an aisle the book looked more like a popular furniture store catalog than a novel. While I grabbed for it one of the associates passed me by and said only one sentence “That’s our store manager’s favorite book by her favorite author”. Intrigued I started flipping through the pages and unlike other chapter books I’ve read before, the pages were filled with intriguing layouts, furniture descriptions and imaginary maps of mazes to a fictional superstore located in Cleveland Ohio.

Welcome to the world of ORSK; America’s newest furniture superstore and direct competitor to none other than the supergiant Ikea. Every day customers walk upstairs on the showroom floor following a carefully outlined path that takes them past vast displays of Liripip wardrobes and Kjerring bookshelves. A café serves delicious meals to weary shoppers, and downstairs guests help themselves to row after row of flat packed furniture boxes on the shop floor.

Recently at ORSK, there has been a series of odd occurrences. In the middle of the night, objects were found smashed on the floor, and curtains were torn from the simulated windows in a living room display. A Brooka sofa was found soiled, reeking an unknown foul odor that made staffs’ stomachs turn. What could be causing all these disturbances, though? Is a group of miscreants breaking in overnight? Or perhaps a customer with a bad experience is trying to return to store management and hiding in a piece of furniture until the last employee signs off, only to venture out in the evening and make a mess of the place. Or is it something much more sinister, beyond what any human could imagine… A group of employees are voluntold to spend the night in a sort of half-assed night watch and are tasked with the seemingly impossible. Discover what is going on at ORSK when the lights go out. Quickly the team finds out their problems are much more than what they bargained for.

Author Hendrix has a unique way of blending multiple elements drawing on comedy to set the scene, but
quickly delves into horror with a thick sarcastic undertone that pokes fun at modern consumerism. The daily monotony of our everyday lives; wake up, go to work, go home to sleep, wash, rinse, repeat is well outlined here with the main characters as they embark on a journey to break free of themselves and this new prison that contains them.

HORROSTÖR is the first book that I have completed front to back in almost two years. Something grabbed my attention and made me want to flip to the next page before I could finish the one I was on. Each chapter is named after one of the many furniture pieces found within ORSK’s walls and is integral to the following pages. While all individually flawed, the characters play off against each other in a harmonic dance that almost deems them worthy of the horrors they will face together. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking for a change of pace with their reading style. Several moments within the story left me craving more and reaching out to the darkest shadows within Orsk’s walls to fill the void left behind in my heart, leaving myself, like its inhabitants, another slave to the mindless tortures within.

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