Nino Cipri’s 2021 Defekt is the second volume in their LitenVerse series.
Derek lives for work. What could be grander than waking up each morning in his repurposed shipping container, lavishly furnished with damaged-and-returned LitenVärld products, at the back of the LitenVärld parking lot, knowing that he will spend the whole day attending to customers’ needs? Unfortunately, his fellow employees do not share Derek’s sense of purpose. More work for Derek!
All good things come to an end.
When Derek starts coughing up blood at work, co-worker Jules, one of the few co-workers whom Derek considers friendly, insists that Derek take a sick day. Derek is very reluctant to take time off, having never done so before. Ultimately, he gives in, using a full shift’s work of his accumulated sick time. Derek’s first sick leave transforms his life.
When Derek returns to work, his boss Tricia seems upset that Derek has deviated slightly from his record of unceasing labour. She is adamant that Derek lie about the reason for missing a day of work. Why this matters to Tricia is unclear.
In Derek’s absence, a wormhole opened in the store, as sometimes happens, and because Derek was not present to be dispatched into the wormhole, Jules was sent into it, accompanied by Ava. Jules never returned from their foray into sister universes. Reagan from Resource Management makes a rare appearance at the branch to offer Derek a very special opportunity; he can compensate the company for his sick-leave lapse by carrying out a special nighttime inventory.
Derek will not have to do this alone, although no doubt he would be willing if asked. He is assisted by Dex, Darkness, Delilah, and Dirk. All look surprisingly like Derek. This is because Derek is not really a LitenVärld employee. He’s really more of a LitenVärld product, albeit for in-store use only. This explains many minor mysteries, such as why Derek’s memories only begin when he started working at LitenVärld.
Taking inventory is only part of the assignment. From time to time, defective goods slip into the company’s product stream. Other companies might have to worry about chips and scuff. LitenVärld’s defective goods — Defekta — tend to the animated and conscious. And in some cases, bloodthirsty. It is the team’s duty to hunt down and eliminate all such Defekta.
Even when Defekta are fellow team members. Or perhaps, especially when Defekta are fellow team members.
This book is of course intended as a hilarious take that to late capitalism. It turns out to be pretty hard to come up with a parody that’s worse than the reality, even when the parody draws, as this example does, on cosmic horror. For example, take sick leave: Derek is entitled to one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked, up to a maximum of forty hours in a single year. Derek has worked for months and accumulated a shift-and-a-half’s worth of paid sick leave. Sounds horribly one sided, but it’s a better deal than Ontario employers are required to offer their employees.
Derek’s assignment probably counts as constructive dismissal, in that assigning someone to an hazardous assignment could be construed as creating a hostile workplace. If it does not, what happens when Derek realizes that he does not have to slavishly obey the corporation certainly does.
Constructive dismissal can be difficult to prove in Ontario … although I’d like to think if someone were hunted like an animal by their superior, the odds of a successful legal challenge could approach fifty-fifty. Though it’s hard to say what would happen under our current provincial government.
Despite Ava’s rather negative views of Derek, up close he’s an endearing woobie. Once he realizes that what have seemed to be his own choices (work! work! work!) were imposed on him, he has to decide how to run his own life. He tackles this project with a whole lot of energy, but perhaps little in the way of organization. The reader will root for him.
Except for the corporate dystopia, cosmic horror, and employee-hunting, Defekt is great fun. As far as I know, there are no plans to continue the series. However … since there were no plans for Finna to be part of a series in the first place, readers can live in hope of a third volume.