Saturday, December 19, 2020

Book Reviews: My Work Is Not Yet Done

My Work Is Not Yet Done
by Thomas Ligotti
I hadn't read anything by this Detroit born author though I heard good things about him. So I decided to read the 2002 titular short story/novella. It also comes packaged with two other short stories. This is probably a horror story but that's just an easy surface description. This is weird fiction. This work owes some debts to people like Poe, Dunsany, and Lovecraft but is not a pastiche or homage. 
Ligotti is a singular voice. I will read the story again to fully understand events and their meaning. The writing is very atmospheric. There is a very dream like aspect to the descriptions. Even before the obvious supernatural elements intrude upon the reader, the reader might wonder about what is real and what is in the protagonist's head.
The protagonist, one Frank Dominio, opens the story by saying he has always been afraid. This turns out to be integral to the story because Frank is a very unreliable narrator, whether from fear or other failings. Frank is not entirely a schmuck but he's close. I think that many people may recognize themselves and/or their co-workers in Ligotti's description of Frank and his work associates.
In my own experiences, I didn't immediately realize that in work environments, rivals and enemies don't often reveal their hand and attack you openly and honestly. Some do, but that is rare. More often it's the "accidental" exclusion from business lunches or after hours conclaves, supposed jokes that are always at your expense, the damming with faint praise, a grudging meets expectations review, or an assignment to a task or path that gets little respect and no upper management visibility that limit someone's rise on the corporate totem pole.

Frank is a junior manager at an unnamed corporation who has experienced all those things. By Frank's own admission however, he's not interested in the fast track. Frank accepts mediocrity as long as he has a job. Nonetheless every company has office politics, something for which Frank has no talent. 
Frank is convinced the other seven junior managers in his department and Richard, the department boss, are conspiring against him. Maybe it's Richard continuing to mispronounce Frank's name. Maybe it's another manager changing a meeting time and not telling Frank. Maybe it's someone else taking credit for Frank's work or yet another manager accusing him of stealing her postage stamps. 
Over time, Frank's status within his department craters. Richard's contempt for him increases. Eventually Frank is assigned to a different project on which someone else receives the credit. Frank is then demoted, humiliated, and eventually fired. Frank is shocked. As Frank prepares to go out in a blaze of glory, taking his erstwhile co-workers with him, he discovers that somehow he has gained abilities which he doesn't understand but that are essential to his revenge plans. But nothing comes without a cost.
If you are looking for an intriguing mix of workplace politics, satire, dreamy wordplay, and occasional sharp horror, you might want to read this. It's written in first person. Not everything is explained, which was a nice departure from the norm.
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