5.28.2014

Review: My Work Is Not Yet Done by Thomas Ligotti

Title: My Work Is Not Yet Done
Author: Thomas Ligotti
Publication Date: June 1st, 2002
Publisher: Mythos Books
Genre: Horror
Pages: 200
Award: Bram Stoker Award (2002)
International Horror Guild Award (2002)
Source: Rented from local library
Rating:

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
When junior manager Frank Dominio is suddenly demoted and then sacked it seems there was more than a grain of truth to his persecution fantasies. But as he prepares to even the score with those responsible for his demise, he unwittingly finds an ally in a dark and malevolent force that grants him supernatural powers. Frank takes his revenge in the most ghastly ways imaginable - but there will be a terrible price to pay once his work is done.
Destined to be a cult classic, this tale of corporate horror and demonic retribution will strike a chord with anyone who has ever been disgruntled at work.
A | B&N | Gr




Thomas Ligotti (born July 9, 1953) is a contemporary American horror author and reclusive literary cult figure. His writings, while unique in style, have been noted as major continuations of several literary genres – most prominently Lovecraftian horror – and have overall been described as works of "philosophical horror", often written as philosophical novels with a "darker" undertone which is similar to gothic fiction. 

The Washington Post called him "the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction"; another critic declared "It's a skilled writer indeed who can suggest a horror so shocking that one is grateful it was kept offstage.”



By the time I first picked up a book by Thomas Ligotti, I had already heard his name a dozen times in horror circles and conversations with friends.  While searching for works by other authors, I must have run my finger across the spines of his books countless times without ever realizing what I was passing by.  After finally reading a few of his novels and short stories, I have found that he really does earn his place as one of Horror’s best kept (pseudo)secrets.  Any readers of Lovecraft will be able to pick out his threads of influence in Ligotti’s writing, but his style of dark, cosmic, philosophical horror is all his own. 

Obscurity in a writer you enjoy is always a two edged sword.  It is nice to have that feeling of intimate kinship, knowing you’re the only person in the room that has read something.  On the other hand, you will find yourself trekking to every used bookstore in town, searching fruitlessly for the next read (before you break down and buy the e-book).   My search led me to my local library, where I finally found what must be the only surviving copy of a book by Ligotti in town: “My Work Is Not Yet Done.”  There were plenty of other books of his that I found myself more drawn to from the cursory research I had already done, but after a day of impotent questing I was happy to have at least found something.

My Work Is Not Yet Done is a compilation of novellas following a common theme of demonic and otherworldly encounters in an office setting.  Think of Office Space meets American Psycho if Christian Bale’s character happened to have an encounter with a malevolent deity.  The title work, My Work Is Not Yet Done takes up the majority of the two-hundred or so pages, and as such claims much of the focus.  It is written in first person narrative form (for the most part) and reads with a voice like an edgy crime novel.  From the themes to the philosophies epitomized by the characters, all the way down to the language and setting, darkness is king.

Ligotti does a fine job at addressing the every-day horrors of corporate life by showing the decay and malignancy caused by spending one’s life toiling for a job that not only fails to satisfy but seems to suck away everything that makes you human.   The celebration of mediocrity and the bottom line that is today’s cube farm, takes on its own persona in these tales.  The real-life horrors of the work place conjured up by Ligotti are almost scary enough until the disgruntled and revenge-bound protagonist happens upon (or is set upon by) other-worldly and demonic powers.  These powers allow for some of the most interesting and inventive tableaus in horror.  The abilities gained by the main are endless in scope and are only limited by the twisted imagination of their wielder.  The protagonist’s thirst for revenge and the completion of his “work” is so great that he ignores clues as to the limitations of his power knowing that some sort of grim finality awaits him upon completion of his vengeance.  

In I Have a Special Plan for This World and The Nightmare Network, the vein of corporate nihilism continues in a much less conventional manner.  The first deals with a company whose supervisors meet their end in various and unsavory ways in a city with an inexplicable yellow fog that seems to grow thicker as the body count rises.  The Second is a collection of what appears to be correspondence from a company that makes dreams and implants thoughts, ultimately with dramatic consequences.  While the second two stories are much shorter and less character or plot-based, the dark themes and office-centered bloodbaths continue in just as unsettling a fashion as in the title story.

I would recommend this book to any fan of dark horror or even dark fiction.  Ligotti has a way of incorporating black comedy into his horror in a deliciously twisted way.  While the second two stories seemed almost like extras compared to the first, the innovation and inventiveness of his storytelling and prose more than make up for what I would consider stories that are just too short.  While I wouldn’t be happy with artificial lengthening, a few more chapters in each story would have been nice.  Overall, I enjoyed this book enough that after renting it from the library, I bought a copy for my collection to re-read at my leisure.