Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Work Is Not Yet Done (2002) by Thomas Ligotti

My Work Is Not Yet Done (2002) by Thomas Ligotti, containing the short novel My Work Is Not Yet Done and the short stories "I Have A Special Plan For This World" and "The Nightmare Network.": Frank Dominio hates his job as a mid-level project manager in a nameless city. And he's going to get screwed over by his immediate superior and his fellow managers. And then he's going to get revenge.

Supernatural revenge. Crazy, weird supernatural revenge in which the punishment fits the crime, sort of. Because nothing here works all that well in the realm of wish-fulfillment fantasy -- it's not Falling Down or 9 to 5 or The Office. It's existentially bleak horror comedy from Thomas Ligotti, the king of existentially bleak horror comedy.

As almost always, Ligotti can be droll and blackly humourous without detracting from the abysmal horror of the work. My Work Is Not Yet Done and the two short stories in this volume all imagine a workplace environment of utter, soul-crushing horror. Which is to say, the workplace a lot of people spend a lot of their lives within. 

My Work Is Not Yet Done's protagonist, narrating in first-person, isn't necessarily a sympathetic figure. But sympathy isn't necessary because he's fascinating, flawed, fractured, and more than a little self-loathing. And his adventures in revenge take him further and further into a world of absolute Night. 

Ligotti's stories don't take place in a meaningless universe, in general -- they take place in a universe in which human beings are meaningless except insofar as they entertain the vast bleak powers of that universe. There's a reason Ligotti's stories return again and again to sinister puppets and marionettes (and there's one here too).

Ligotti's style -- droll, incantatory, spotted with repeated phrases that become almost meaningless placeholders at times (to bleak effect) -- is in full bloom here, full bloom at night. He's not a popular writer, but those who like him, like him a lot. And the writers he cites as his main influences -- H.P. Lovecraft, Franz Kafka, and Nabokov -- can be seen in his own work, transmuted by his own peculiar sensibilities. He's one of a handful of the greatest horror writers of the last 50 years. Highly recommended.

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