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Night Work

Thomas Glavinic

Average Review Rating Average Rating 5/10 (2 Reviews)
Book Details

Publisher : Canongate Books

Published : 2008

Copyright : Thomas Glavinic 2006

ISBN-10 : PB 1-84767-051-2
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-84767-051-9

Publisher's Write-Up

There's nothing moving outside. No cars. No buses. No people. No birds. Nothing. No one. Anywhere. An ordinary man wakes up on an ordinary day to find that he's the only living creature in the entire city. The radio and TV are suddenly filled with white noise, there's no newspaper, the Internet is down and no one's answering the phone. Jonas is the last living being on the planet. What happened? How? Why? And why is he still here?

Thriller and philosophical investigation wrapped up in an intensely compelling, eerie mystery, Night Work is compulsive and exhilarating -but don't read it when you're all alone...

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Farhan (100509) Rating (1/10)
Review by Jessica (250109) Rating (9/10)

Review by Farhan
Rating 1/10
What a piece of junk this novel turned out to be. A total waste of the time I spent reading it, or trying to stay awake while labouring through one mind-numbingly boring page after the other.

Glavinic takes an interesting premise: a man wakes up to find himself utterly alone in the city of Vienna, with all the people, and even animals, having disappeared. Now, given the premise, Glavinic could have come up with various routes to writing his story: he could have explained it all invoking extraterrestrial invasion, thereby taking the sci-fi route; he could have used a powerful wizard’s spell which banished all humanity to oblivion – the fantastical route; or he could have taken the existential/ philosophical route and refrained from providing an explanation altogether, using the setting to write the story of the last man on earth, baffled at first, then determined to live out his life, a life spent exploring, travelling, searching for other survivors as well as clues to the great mystery of the disappearance of humanity without a trace.

But Glavinic takes none of the above routes. In fact, he doesn’t take any route at all; his story remains rooted in the same place, spinning its wheels. His dumb lone survivor simply goes around the city, driving aimlessly, setting up video cameras day in and day out, inexplicably recording and re-recording deserted streets and buildings. He tapes himself while sleeping, night after night, again inexplicably. He spends time moving the furniture from the house he grew up in to his present place. One would imagine that a lone survivor would stock up on perishables, travel far and wide in search of other people, maybe set sail across the oceans to discover if other countries had any survivors, get into institutions that have in-house 24-hour cameras and try to play back the past day’s tape to see if they had any clue to how the people disappeared. But nothing happens, the whole book goes by, and absolutely nothing happens. The character of this novel is so unimaginative and stupid and dull that we just fervently hope for him to commit suicide soon so that the book would mercifully come to an end.

I am sorry I ever ordered this book. Publishers Weekly praised this book! Yes, quite inexplicably again - a rare and monumental error on their part.
Farhan (10th May 2009)

Review by Jessica
Rating 9/10
Jonas awakes one fateful day to discover his copy of Kurier absent from its usual place on the doormat. He turns on the radio - there is no sound forthcoming just "white noise". Outside no birds sing their usual chorus nesting high in the trees and even the TV cannot find any stations.

Panic-stricken Jonas dials the number of his partner Marie. It rings out but no-one picks up, not even her voice mail. He frantically tries to call her sister she is visiting in the north of England. Again, it rings out and again nobody answers. What is happening? Is he going mad? Where has everyone disappeared to? He decides to check the internet connection but keeps getting the same message again and again "his page cannot be displayed".

Terrifyingly it dawns on Jonas he is the last living being on the planet. Trips to the outside world prove that this is conclusive - birds are gone along with people, dogs, cats everything. Supermarkets are empty, aisles now deserted. Cafés absent of their regular customers. Has Jonas fallen into some horrible time lapse? Is this all a nightmare? Will he wake up soon? On impulse Jonas decides to raid a shop and remove some cameras which he sets up in the bedrooms where he sleeps. One day while playing back the video he sees his other self, whom he names "the Sleeper", walking out of bed and pointing to the camera as if his unconscious side knows he is being filmed. Things start to become menacingly surreal for Jonas who discovers a knife stuck into the concrete wall. How did it get there? Is “the Sleeper” responsible? So begins a game between himself and his other side.

Jonas decides to track down Marie. This is perhaps the saddest part of the book for me because he knows that she will never be "alive" again. We read about how he travels to her sister's in search of her but finds her phone which he has been ringing for days and weeks and months on end. Even though the battery is flat, Jonas knows there will be all his messages left there, untouched. Unread by another.

Insomnia started to take over the more I read. I felt almost as helpless as Jonas. In a way the world he discovers is much more of a curse than a blessing. Readers will understand this better when we learn that poor Jonas has a bad tooth and without a dentist to hand, he suffers in agonizing pain.

This superb novel is very much about the philosophical side of things more than anything else. Instead of zombies, monsters and madmen - we simply have the terrifying reality that all existence has gone from the world. Perhaps it is even more of a scary thing when Jonas needs someone to talk to about his nightly routines hence the title Night Work. If this is how it feels to be the last person on earth then I think most of us should be thankful this is only a story.

A few questions still lingered in my mind after I turned the last page. It says on the blurb what happened and why is Jonas still here? That question was not really answered as best as it could have been and I would have liked more of an explanation. Also the ending wasn't quite what I had in mind. It still left so much unsaid and I wasn't sure what really happened at the very end. While readers are left to make their own minds up somewhat they should enjoy this book never-the-less. Glavinic is a clever writer with much wit and edginess. I'm glad to have come across this gem and recommend it to others to read it.
Jessica (25th January 2009)

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