Horrorstör, by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör Book Cover Horrorstör
Grady Hendrix
Horror, parody
Quirk books
September 23, 2014

First of all: I was actually at an actual IKEA, not once, but twice, while I was reading this thing.  I lived. I got some new shelves. I watched CompanionBot eat cake in their cafeteria.  The horror was pretty muted.

Second: I read this book in the bluefire app on my new note 4. This was a first-time experience for me, and mostly because I wasn't given a kindle copy.  My reading experience may have been negatively impacted by how incredibly hellish it is to try to read things in .acsm format. Sorry. I hate non-adjustable font sizes and having to slide all over the place to get to the text on every single page.  This is an unrelated gripe, but I mention it because it certainly made my reading of a pretty short book a lot slower than it needed to be.

So.  Well, look at that cover. The setting and the parody are not exactly kept secret.  It's gimmicky, which is fun, especially as you progress through the chapters, accompanied by simple illustrations of furniture items, with inspired names and descriptions.  You might not pick up on the entertainment value of some of the names if your knowledge of basic Scandinavian (and even some German) is... not there.  One of the furniture pieces is called Kummerspeck, which is a fantastic German term, meaning basically grief bacon - or "excess weight caused by overeating".  (Now you know. Unless, of course, you knew it already because you are like me and prone to reading lists of cool and strange words.)

We follow Amy, a young woman through her work day at Orsk, where she earns not-enough-to-pay-the-rent, and has no intention to stay.  Not that she intends to go back to college, either. Really, she's not motivated to do much at all, aside from getting her rent paid so she won't be kicked out by housemates whose patience has run out.   Her manager is an entirely different kind of person - he cares.  He cares about his responsibilities, about the security guidelines, the personnel guidelines and instructions he knows by heart and quotes happily.  His job matters to him,  and he can't lose it, and that's why he has to take care of the emerging problems in the store before his superiors can find out about them and blame him.   Of course, he picks Amy to stay after hours to take care of things, and she agrees, because it means a bigger paycheck.

Along with a few other characters, they find out Orsk contains a lot more than affordable, practical furniture in pretty showroom arrangements.

The story is nothing very exceptional - it falls a bit flat,  which is not really helped by the genuinely funny chapter illustrations - they just make it even more noticeable that the story itself doesn't have the same entertainment value.   It's not exactly bad, certainly not bad enough to make this a less perfect gift for a reader with unresolved IKEA issues - but it really does depend entirely upon its gimmick.

Thus - I would not recommend this as a horror.  Or even as parody/comedy.  This has a very specific audience, and that is the audience who knows what it's like to spend a neverending evening on the floor, assembling shelves or wardrobes out of insanity-inducing flat packages, gradually starting to sweat, as they realise they have to go back to the warehouse and get another THING. 

A physical copy of this is probably quite excellent as a gift for that person.  Or even for a very enthusiastic graphic designer who might geek out over the conceptiness.

Status update: November Slowember

Ha, yeah.  Reading time suffers during NaNoWriMo.  I just have ten thousand words left, though, so I’ll get back on my fat robot track soonish!

Are you putting together a christmas wish list with books on it?  I have wished for a newly published  history book about leprosy in Norway,  and… the most recent volume of Locke and Key.   I’m considering wishing for a year’s subscription to an online dictionary/thesaurus service, too, because that’s… that’s what interests me. Um. And socks.

(No, seriously, I need socks…!)

What am I neglecting to read because of writing a stupid thing, you ask?  Robert McCammon’s Swan song, which has taken me ages partly because I read The stand earlier this year and the first third just felt very same-ish.   I’ve got the audio copy of Westerfeld’s Afterworlds,  which is very cute, and I’ll probably plow through it at high speed once I can focus again.   On my  phone I’m reading Horrorstör,  and trying out the Scribd app with Seanan McGuire’s Velveteen.     It’s more than I usually read at once; I’ve been very scatterbrainy lately.  Pancakes!

One-eyed Jack, by Elizabeth Bear

One-eyed Jack Book Cover One-eyed Jack
Promethean cycle #5 (loosely connected, fine as stand-alone)
Elizabeth Bear
Urban fantasy
Prime Books
June 22nd 2014

"All stories are true. Some are more true than others."

There is a certain phenomenon mostly associated with TV movies, I think - you know, where you're flicking through channels, come across something that just started and you decide to give it a few minutes, and it turns out to be this enormously comforting/cosy/special/strange experience.  See all those adjectives? I mean all of them.  I have TV memories like that, a lot of them.  The one where Ted Danson's dad is a more wonderful kind of insane than expected, the one where... well, most of my readily available examples feature Ted Danson, so I should stop listing them before I embarrass myself.  But that's a special type of film, the one that sneaks up on you unplanned and gives you all that niceness.  And you can get that from books, too.  That's what it was like for me to start reading Elizabeth Bear's One-eyed Jack.

I just didn't have a lot of specific expectations, going in. I was vaguely curious about the author, and thought an urban fantasy sounded okay for the evening, and then for the first few pages I really expected to be pretty bored, because there wasn't much going on, nothing pulling in any direction at all.  Just places, names, atmosphere, enough atmosphere to make me feel like I was breathing dry desert air, which is pretty far from the moist-cold stuff I was actually inhaling from weather that's in that awkward place between rain and snow.

The word I'm looking for is immersive.    The next words are Elvis Presley is a present-day vampire?!

You see.  This is that kind of book.

There are a lot of cameos here, probably a lot more than I was able to catch, as it involves bits of American (and possibly British) pop culture history I'm not intimate with. (Some reviews suggest the show The men from U.N.C.L.E. as a thing relevant to this book, and I've never heard of it.)  Fortunately, the novel is completely readable even without being able to identify every suspected secretly-a-reference-to-something character. I could compare it to actually walking around in Las Vegas, unable to recognise most of the imitation performers except all the Elvises. Elvi. Something.   Because this book is all about Las Vegas.

(Las Vegas wears an eyepatch and doc martens.)

It's not immediately apparent what's actually going on.  Halfway through the book I still don't really know if there's a specific question for the rest of the story to answer. Unless I squint hard at it - then I start seeing the outline of a "this should keep you reading"-shaped thing, but the fact that I would have kept reading anyway, just to spend time in there, says a lot about the book - I'm almost always more attracted to plot than anything else in a story.

I might have lost a little interest towards the end, but not enough to skip my wikipedia browsing trip on Hoover Dam,  Doc Holliday (he must have figured in some of my old Lucky Luke-albums, right?), and... other topics.  Like the Elvis discography.  Yes.

Who's this for?  Anyone who recognised what I meant when I talked about the unexpected joy of Ted Danson movies.  (I never thought I'd have reason to type his name so many times when not actually writing about him at all.)   Or Las Vegas aficionados, I suppose.

Who should stay clear? Don't read this if you need a clear narrative that is going places fast.  And if references to history and pop culture frustrate you when you're not familiar with them, you'll obviously only enjoy this if you possess a matching mental catalogue of facts.



Are you on Riffle books?  Do you look into and try out other book communities than ones you’re already using? I have a hard time imagining a better option than Goodreads, but Riffle looks really pretty, and I swoon at the simplicity of it.  I’ll toy with it for a bit, I think! Though I know from experience I don’t have the energy to update two active book logging things at the same time, so that’s prooooobably not going to happen.

I’ve typed 20 000 words for NaNoWriMo and am not actually behind schedule, it just feels like I am, because I keep accidentally exposing myself to crazies who do 10k-in-a-day things. I hate that I’m so aware of it, because what other people do in their own private text documents has absolutely no impact on what goes on in mine, I just get the creeping feeling that being ten thousand words ahead of schedule is the expected norm.   I have an astonishing ability to create stress out of nothing.  I’m going to go make a calming piece of owl shaped french toast.

Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest

Maplecroft Book Cover Maplecroft
The Borden Dispatches #1
Cherie Priest
Fantasy, Horror
Roc Trade
2nd September 2014

I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the description. The story about Lizzie Borden (and her axe) merged with, oh, Lovecraftian horrors? Sold!   Despite not being terribly fond of my previous encounter with the author (I thought Boneshaker had a cool cover, but was... evidently very forgettable, because I can't remember anything of it).

And despite this: I really do not enjoy reading H.P. Lovecraft's own works.  I've been through some of it and hope never to trick myself into trying to read more of it. Not for the content, just, well, my life is probably not long enough to cope with that level of flowery prose.

So it's strange, and delightful, how much I enjoy stories inspired by Lovecraft.  Some of my favourites are Charles Stross' The Laundry novels,  where magic is sort of a branch of applied mathematics and unfortunate programmers may end up summoning terrible things entirely by accident.   That's not the case at Maplecroft, which is the house where Lizzie Borden and her poorly sister reside, somewhat sequestered from the rest of the town of Fall River,  as the general public is not quite convinced that Lizzie was truly innocent of brutally murdering her parents with an axe, a couple of years earlier.

And, well, she wasn't. Except they were really not her parents, at the time. Things had progressed much too far already.   The bloated,  shark-white skin,   the unblinking eyes...

Maplecroft is a house full of secrets, though most of them are hidden in the basement,  along with a huge laboratory.   Lizzie is the one doing most of the research, in her somewhat inexpert way,  though her sister is the quite brilliant marine biology enthusiast who thinks and writes like a proper scientist - under a proper scientist's name, of course. A man's name.

The two of them are not enough, though.  They can't learn enough about the threat the town is facing,  only just enough to be terrified.

The story is told from various view points, journals, letters, articles and telegrams,  and the style of prose does a good job of setting the mood.  (And that mood is, mostly, slowly descending into madness.) Some might accuse it of being long-winded, but I think it works very well.  (And I don't have infinite patience for long-windedness, as already stated.)    Towards the end there is a breakthrough I did not expect, by which I don't mean it comes out of the blue,  it's just a way of thinking of the fish people trope I haven't really seen before, and I like it a lot.

Would recommend as a fun horror read to the kind of people who are apt to describe horror as fun.  Or any of those people in your life who talk about tentacles more than they should.

Scribd and stuff

Yeah, quiet week on this blog. Sorry about that! I’ve had two trips to IKEA (for shelves! to put books on!) and produced about 14 000 words in my NaNoWriMo document – which is a clumsy cyberpunky tale, this year – and, oh, I watched Interstellar, which was really shiny.  (I also finished all seven seasons of TNG:Voyager, about which I have opinions, but I’ll keep them to myself.)

Oh, and I’m doing this free test month subscription to Scribd.  Tentatively, because I don’t really like to read on glowing screens, BUT I’m, um, expecting to become the kind of individual who owns a phablet sometime in the next couple of weeks.  That’s mainly because I do illustration things and I like to always have some kind of drawing tool with me, but, well, with a screen that big with that kind of resolution, I probably will have a go at reading a book on it.  While I wait, in tears, for the kindle voyage to become available for international orders.

am a gadget nut. I guess.  It’d be a little weird if I wasn’t and still had a thing for robots.  The robot designs are by the way the coolest things in Interstellar.   Now you know!   And that was a massive digression. I was going to talk about what a huge selection of e-books and audiobooks Scribd has, and offers decently cheap access to.  I’ve added a whole bunch of titles to my library on there, from old growing-up favourites like S.E. Hinton’s Runble Fish to more recent, interesting-looking things, by authors like Chuck Wendig and Wesley Chu.   A pile of non-fiction is on there, too.   For a happy booksy experience they’ve even put together little themed collections, so you get a tidy lump of suggestions if you’re looking for “Epic fantasy series-starters” or “Colonizing space” and whatnot.    I like it.  I hope an app-running device with e-ink will make an appearance some day to make this kind of thing even more appealing.   Because, well, despite the gadgetry, I just don’t see myself abandoning my kindle for it.  (Maybe the audible membership, eventually.)

Do you read on regular glowy tablets and/or phones?  Doesn’t it hurt your eyes? Is that just a complaint made by old near-sighted farts?