Factor Reviews: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

I don’t believe I have ever read anything quite like Horrorstör in my life. A comedy horror story set in a Cleveland, Ohio, outlet of Ikea knockoff Orsk, the book is your classic haunted house story, but set in a big box retail store.

The book itself is a thing of beautiful genius. Designed to look like the glossy catalogue of the Swedish flatpack giants both inside and out, each chapter is introduced with a new piece of Orsk furniture, starting with products you might actually find yourself tempted to buy, and scaling up to twisted horror versions of familiar home and office furniture as the story becomes more dark. It’s both masterful and hilarious, and really keeps the feel of the book going.

The story is also really great. It’s pacy, fun and fantastically written, meaning you’ll probably find yourself reading it in a single sitting, and then keeping the book forever because it’s so awesome to look at. The characters are well developed without being needlessly deep, and feel utterly and completely like the people you’ll find at your local Orsk equivalent.

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There are the familiar horror tropes, and creepy haunted house elements, but presented against such a new background that they feel incredibly fresh.

Horrorstör also has the vibe of deep knowledge about flat pack furniture retailers. Either author Grady Hendrix used to work for Ikea or has spent a shocking amount of time there talking to staff, because he captures the vibe of the place perfectly. From the befuddling layout to the company ethos, this is a place that will be utterly familiar to anyone who has set foot in an Ikea.

If you are a horror fan – particularly if Evil Dead is more your thing than Saw – you’ll love this book. It’s unique, hilarious and wonderfully presented. It also would be a brilliant choice if you’ve started your Christmas shopping: for a fun, compelling and unexpected gift, we cannot recommend it enough.
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Factor Reviews: Roboteer by Alex Lamb

So often when you read a new hard SF book by a previously unpublished author it’s a disappointment, with predictable tropes and corny dialogue. Alex Lamb bucks this trend as hard as is physically possible. Roboteer is not just a brilliant first novel, it’s a brilliant novel full stop.

Set in the future when colonisation has occurred but the human race is clinging on and fighting amongst itself, the book stars Will, a man bred to interface with robots to ensure his home world of Galatea can survive the onslaught from its Earth-based enemies.

In this epic plot we encounter a dizzying array of worlds and environments, with Lamb beautifully depicting their appearance and mood. Every region encountered has its own unique sense, and you get a clear idea of how humanity’s fraught history has allowed each place to come to be.

The characters are excellently realised, with the neurodiverse, genetically enhanced Galateans in particular offering a wonderful variety of deeply explored personalities. No character feels underdeveloped, which is a particularly impressive feat given that some could have easily been made weak stereotypes.

There is also the matter of the space battles. They are truly awesome. Lamb is one of the best writers of combat I’ve ever encountered, depicting dogfights, mad scrambles for survival and moments of chilling tension wonderfully. If Roboteer is ever made into a movie, I expect his deftly written battle sequences to be faithfully recreated.

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Throughout the story, the book poses genuinely searching moral conundrums about the future of the human race, but in a way that adds to the mood and flow, rather than hitting you round the head with morality.

Simply put, Lamb is a brilliant writer: the dialogue and battles are excellently constructed, the book’s pace is spot on and there is never a sense that you know what is about to happen. It’s quite honestly an utter joy to read.

The world is also so brilliantly realised, rooted in logic and science. It’s fantastical without feeling absurd, and genuinely feels like a realistic portrayal of humanity’s future – should certain chains of events occur – albeit one that is fresh and devoid of the usual predictable notions.

Publisher Gollancz has already confirmed that Lamb will be publishing a sequel, and I’m delighted to hear it. This book doesn’t just deserve to be given a sequel; it deserves to be made into a cult classic. Expect far more to come from this brilliant new SF writer.

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