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Book Review – The Store

October 19, 2014

Synopsis: A giant discount retail store (called The Store) moves into a small town and takes over.

Unsettling more for its depiction of corporate fascism and groupthink than its supernatural aspects (which are downplayed and undercooked). The author has a tendency to drop in information that should be a major character motivator or seems to be a major plot point and then never come back to it again. For example, an early viewpoint character is killed offscreen and not only do the other characters not comment on it but it is barely mentioned again.

Also, there are some odd sexual politics shoehorned in that seem to be more the beliefs of the author than any of the characters For example, one of the female characters laments the current (1998) state of feminism, thinking “Today many of the feminists were as bad as the old male chauvinists had been” and that “feminists were advocating restrictions and censorship, trying to inhibit freedom rather than expand it,” and this ends up having no bearing whatsoever, character-wise, plot-wise, or theme-wise, on any other aspect of the book. This is not about my feelings on feminism (which I support) but rather that whatever a character believes should be supported and reinforced by the text. Characters are not mouthpieces for the author.

In another example of the sexual politics, a scene of a widow interested in buying a vibrator is meant to portray the way The Store infects the town with an insidious debauchery (which is never really brought up again). I understand that horror often uses sex as a shorthand for taboo (and this book breaks the ultimate taboo), but I struggle to see how a lonely woman wanting a moment of pleasure could be considered evil.

All in all, I think this book pulled too many punches. There are multiple instances in which the author could have expanded to show the truly horrible and deranged way The Store is changing the town and the townspeople, but in each case we just get a brief interlude with no followup. Instead, we get A LOT about the political machinations of The Store, which, in my mind, should’ve been the setup for the real horror. Don’t get me wrong, the way The Store swallows the town is genuinely disconcerting. I was just hoping it would become terrifying.

All in all, a decent page turner with some interesting thoughts about the intersection between consumer culture and totalitarianism, but I was left feeling like it was more of a sketch than a fully realized fable

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