Have you ever been in Walmart and thought, “this store is evil?” You are probably thinking about the corporate greed that drives mass chain retail stores like that one and many others, or about the young workers overseas who are getting paid less than your child’s allowance to make the goods so that you can get them cheaply. And of course all of these things are true, even though those kinds of stores spend their time and energy trying to make you think otherwise. But imagine if the store itself actually was evil.
Bentley Little delves into exactly this scenario with The Store. He sets up a small town where everyone knows everyone else, and where nothing of any real interest ever happens… until The Store arrives, gives jobs to the community, and begins to literally take over the town. At first it’s seen as a positive, and indeed, to many people it remains that way, but that’s because The Store is brainwashing them, and a whole lot more.
Bill Davis feels like he’s the only one to recognize The Store’s undue influence over the vast majority of the small town in Juniper, Arizona, and as the book progresses we as readers start to realize that he’s right. The Store hasn’t just showed up out of nowhere, but it feels that way, and as he digs deeper into its history and finds out more than he ever wanted to know, The Store fights back. It’s this personification of the store as an entity that sets this book apart from all the others that deal with corporate greed. At least then there’s a solid reasoning and motivation for individuals. None of that exists here.
The book is a thrill ride of horrific proportions. Every time you think the worst has happened, it descends into a new type of horror, and while readers identify with Bill, it becomes very difficult to maintain support for him in the face of everything that happens to him and because of him. In order to fight the monster, Bill must become a monster, but can he find himself again before it’s too late?
I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the nuances of horror, but I strongly warn against those who are faint of heart. Bentley Little pulls no punches, preferring instead to lay it all out in the pursuit of showing you both sides of this horrendous war between Bill Davis and The Store. I keep hoping he will write a sequel to this book because he sets it up beautifully at the end. There are so many comparisons you can draw between what goes on in mass retailers and the world of The Store, but also so many subtle differences. It is one of the best books I’ve read in the past 20 years.
I give the novel FIVE stars.