Book name: My Work is Not Yet Done
Author: Thomas Ligotti
Publisher: Mythos Books
Format: ebook, print
Publication Date: 2002
Star Rating: 4/5
I loved Thomas Ligotti's anthology of short stories Teatro Grottesco, with its wry tone and cheeky details in among the horror, so I was interested to see what he would make of crafting longer fiction and how the unique features of his writing would be sustained beyond short stories in My Work is Not Yet Done.
Frank Dominio is kept busy in his middle-grade admin job not just by the mind-numbing data entry that makes him doubt his reason for living but also by the brutal office politics inflicted upon him by his seven closest colleagues.
As the story begins, what has previously been a random series of nastiness coalesces into a more deliberate strategy of undermining his position in the company until it will become terminally compromised.
Determined to be avenged on those who have tormented him, Frank blows what's left of his credit limit on seven guns, a different firearm for each of his colleagues. Before he can see his plan through to its end, however, he is struck down by a passing bus.
This accident leaves him physically paralysed on the cusp of death, yet at the same time he acquires the power to act out his strategy, torturing and killing his coworkers in uniquely imaginative and unpleasant ways.
Plot and characterisation, in particular the appalling behaviour of Frank's colleagues, were carefully layered to the point where the reader felt sufficient sympathy for his situation to accept his actions within the context of the story even though they were quite extreme.
My Work Is Not Yet Done absolutely captured the paranoia and cruelty of an office environment. It featured lots of irony and, because Frank is the sole narrative voice, less upbeat comedy than Teatro Grottesco. I still enjoyed My Work Is Not Yet Done very much, albeit in a different way.
There was still plenty of the trademark Thomas Ligotti turns of phrase, themselves searing commentaries on our selfish world, which always leave me smiling to myself.
His greatest strength, however, is the way in which he makes us pause as we recognise the darkness of humanity, trying to deny its ridiculousness through his biting wit.
Then he quietly points out that mankind is every bit as bad as we imagine, but that there are islands of compassion on which to base hope for the future. In short, the only way to make life bearable is not to take it too seriously.
Thomas Ligotti holds a mirror up to humanity, and if we don't always like what we see, we still have to admit that the bleakness he portrays is an integral part of the false relationships we are forced to construct for economic reasons with those with whom we often have next to nothing in common and who seldom share our best interests.
My Work Is Not Yet Done was a master class in how to construct a character both quietly flawed, and in some frustrating moments contributing to their own downfall, yet at the same time sufficiently sympathetic for the reader to be able to identify with a small man destroyed by those around him in the interest of their own amusement.
The pacing was excellent, and for anyone who has enjoyed Thomas Ligotti's shorter fiction I would heartily recommend this novel. It was still really quite short, but I'd rather that than continue a narrative that works perfectly well in a more concise form.
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