Work Sucks

My Work Is Not Yet Done: Three Tales of Corporate Horror by Thomas Ligotti containing “My Work Is Not Yet Done”, “I Have a Special Plan for the World”, and “The Nightmare Network” (2007): Frank Dominio is a team supervisor at a corporation called New Product. On his own initiative, he comes up with, well, a new product, and briefly presents his idea to his fellow supervisors and their boss, Richard (nicknamed “The Doctor” for initially unknown-to-Frank reasons).

And here Frank’s troubles begin in the lengthy titular novella.

Thomas Ligotti gets to be described as a unique voice in horror because he really is a unique voice in horror. He can be approximated by imagining some bizarre mash-up of two or three or four other writers (for the record, I’d go with Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Clark Ashton Smith, and Roald Dahl) , but there’s no single writer who’s truly like him. He’s an American original, writer of some of the bleakest, bleakly funniest horror stories of the past thirty years.

His take on corporate horror is singular and tricky. The novella initially seems to exist in the realm of the workplace revenge fantasy, something we’ve all seen. But the means of Frank’s revenge are extraordinarily odd, and become odder as that revenge progresses. This is not Office Space With Ghosts.

People who’ve read other Ligotti stories may realize around the halfway mark that “My Work Is Not Yet Done” takes place in the same bleak universe as 1999’s “The Shadow, The Darkness.” One doesn’t need to know this to understand what’s going on, but it does deepen the experience as we plunge into the Magical Nihilism that is Ligotti’s dominant mode of discourse.

But the novella is also horribly funny, as are the two short stories that complete this triptych. Frank Dominio begins the novella with a bleak outlook on humanity in general and his co-workers in particular, and the events of the story show that bleakness to not be enough. The world is much worse than Dominio ever imagined. The revenge scenarios initially carry a certain grotesque zing, but they quickly lose their enjoyability for Frank as he realizes who and what he’s up against — or working for.

Ligotti’s fiction can truly unnerve one (as S.T. Joshi has observed), leading one to question the parameters of one’s own existence, and the meaning of existence itself. But it’s strangely, blackly refreshing because if one rejects the nihilistic cosmos of many of Ligotti’s stories, one finds one’s own cosmos to be that much more welcoming and benign by comparison. Highest recommendation.

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