Bentley Little is a top craftsman of the horror tale in long form. He has the ability, more unusual than you might think, to imagine 300 to 400 pages' worth of horrific incidents that add up to a long-lasting and powerfully unsettling mood. In The Store Little examines the steadily expanding influence, over all of us, of chain stores. Listen to what one character says: "A lot of these loonies ... are so worried about the federal government, and I never saw a government agency that worked worth a damn. These guys're so afraid of Big Brother and creeping totalitarianism, but our government's always seemed to me to be full of inept bunglers, not brilliant organized master planners. Hell, they couldn't even pull off a third-rate burglary. It's the corporations we have to worry about, I think. They're the ones with the money. They're the ones who can afford to hire the best and the brightest, to competently carry out their plans."
The Store builds paranoia by starting with simple descriptions of the picturesque landscape and the deceptively banal Western town that is Juniper, Arizona. Then The Store arrives. The Store razes a lovely hill to build its huge parking lot. The Store offers well-paying jobs and an astonishing variety of consumer goods. The pattern of delight and worry in the citizens, as The Store spreads its tentacles into local concerns, is believable--disturbingly so. The Store seems like any other of the familiar chains that reproduce like rabbits, invade communities, wipe out small businesses, and turn unique localities into a generic America that looks just the same from Alaska to Florida.
But what exactly goes on, when Samantha and Shannon meet with their boss in the basement of The Store? And who are the Night Managers?
This is dystopia in microcosm. This is horror fiction at its subversive best. --Fiona Webster