A five-star concept with five-star execution…for the first third of the novel. The later stages are bogged down by their own conceit and fail to pack the punch that the opening chapters do.
The design and concept of this book are flawless. The cover looks exactly like a faux-kea catalogue, and the chapter design presents as a catalogue, complete with product descriptions, that get increasingly bleaker as the story progresses.
The opening chapters perfectly encapsulate the soul-crushing reality of retail life; a theme that develops throughout the narrative. The characters are trapped in the treadmill of retail capitalism, all of them trying to stay afloat in their own way, and get out at the same time. The first few hours the characters spend alone in the deserted Orsk had some genuinely spine-chilling moments. The skewing of their reality was beautifully written and felt absolutely believable. As the plot became more convoluted in later chapters however it lost a lot of the tension which had built up so beautifully up until then.
The characters were interesting, however, I felt that they were under-developed. Our protagonist is Amy, and her story arc was the strongest, and yet felt somehow unsatisfactory as we got to the end. The pacing was a little off in the heavy horror parts, as Amy seemed to come to terms with her mental torture a little too quickly and easily. The remaining secondary characters were rather two dimensional, and the antagonist wasn’t as threatening or as scary as he should have been.
This book had loads of potential, and I think with a slight re-write to keep the pace and satire of the opening this could have been a five-star book. It was fun to read but just didn’t deliver on the promise of its opening. For the concept alone it is definitely worth picking up, and despite its weak ending I thoroughly enjoyed it.