Cannonball Read III, Book 4: My Work Is Not Yet Done by Thomas Ligotti

My Work Is Not Yet Done is a horror novel for people who think they don't like horror novels. Thomas Ligotti, one of the lesser-known masters of modern weird fiction, tells a story of corporate horror that will ring plausible, if not true, to anyone who has ever held a job. It's a remarkable work of fiction that only stumbles when the supernatural elements completely overtake reality in the final section. Frank Dominio is a lower-level manager at a large corporation. Every week, he meets with six equal managers and one supervisor to discuss what is happening in their departments. Frank feels completely removed from the group, referring the others as the seven dwarfs (complete with a Doc) or the seven swine (complete with disgusting, gluttonous consumption of coffee and water). Convinced he will lose his job, Frank develops a new product proposal to demonstrate his value to the team. He is frozen out immediately.

He convinces himself there is a grand conspiracy against him. When he loses his job a few weeks later for bizarre incidents (he's accused of theft for having a book of stamps in his desk and other like minor offenses), Frank decides to do the only natural thing: kill the seven swine. He loads up on knives, guns, and ammo, withdraws his life savings from the bank, and black outs for an hour after printing out his confession.

My Work Is Not Yet Done is broken into three distinct sections. The first is all about the office and his decision to take revenge. The second is how he unravels the mystery of the missing hour while taking revenge. The third is...interesting. Different. Unpredictable. Let's just say Margaret Atwood would be envious of how ably Ligotti uses micromanaging and destructive corporate culture to speculate on the future downfall of humanity.

The prose is an interesting mix of Lovecraft's eye for memorable (but strange) detail, King's straightforward first person narrators, and Woolf's stream of consciousness story development. Everything is explained in just a strange enough angle to be startling, but flows out in frank internal discourse that connects not by plot points but emotion and memory. The second section sees the narrator shift from first person limited to third person omniscient while he comments on his ability to do so. It's modernism meets pulp fiction and the techniques from both are employed at exactly the right moments to create the strongest impression.

The weakness of the book, sadly, is the last section. It's a bit too esoteric and removed from the previous narrative. The original publication of Ligotti's novel included a subtitle, Three Tales of Corporate Horror, that has not been printed on either the hard cover or paperback editions widely available in stores. Perhaps had I known the intention to create a trio of related--but not directly connected--stories, I would have better appreciated the last section. As it stands, it is quite literally a series of brief expositions, detailing the nightmarish falls of corporations at the hands of unseen owners. I immediately understood it was supposed to read like a white paper, but the conceit doesn't hold up in comparison to what came before. It lacks the crisp detail and alarming narration of the rest of the book.

For the strength of imagination and inventive narrative style, My Work Is Not Yet Done is definitely a successful novel. Ligotti's work here is disturbing, but not without merit. It is satirical without reading as self-important and bizarre without being unbelievable.