Workplace Sci-Fi and Horror Novels

Have you ever felt a pit in your stomach or a creeping sense of dread as you approached your place of work? The workplace is a ripe setting for fiction for many reasons, but also simply because many of us spend a lot of time in ours. Depending on what you do, the workplace can also be full of dread, complex bureaucracy and, well, horror. Here are five cathartic and darkly delightful workplace horror and sci-fi novels.

Told in sparse, foreboding interview transcriptions, The Employees follows a human and android space crew as they collect and observe mysterious objects from an unnamed planet. Dread builds as this richly poetic novel explores human-machine antagonism and how the complexities of humanity can cut against the logic of empty productivity.

The Factory takes place in a fictional “company town” where all social and economic life revolves around a mysterious industrial factory. Three unrelated characters have different roles at the factory: studying moss, shredding paper and proofreading apparently nonsensical documents. Like Oyamada’s other work, The Factory’s characters are charmingly alien and the novel is full of unexpected humor.

In a dystopian twist on The Jungle, Tender is the Flesh is set in a world where a new virus made eating animal flesh deadly; instead, humans are bred as protein. The story follows an employee of a company that oversees various stages of meat processing, eventually developing an attachment to a human bred for meat. Despite the scandalous premise, this is an insightful and subtle book from award-winning Argentine author Agustina Bazterrica. Not recommended for the squeamish.

This sci-fi body horror novel gestures towards science’s racist history. In Lakewood, a young Black woman drops out of college and moves back home to care for her ill mother, eventually taking a job as a participant in a mysterious study called the Lakewood Project. Isolated from friends and family by an ironclad NDA, the protagonist and other non-white participants are subjected to a series of experiments that have increasingly troubling effects on their bodies at the hands of an all-white research staff.

Beloved horror author Grady Hendrix is behind the delightfully campy Horrorstör, where retail employees at a Scandinavian furniture superstore discover that their workplace is haunted by ghosts from a prison that once stood at the store's site. This one is really fun to flip through, as the book is designed as a furniture catalog, and also contains some unexpectedly satisfying insights about the nature of work and the faux-philosophical consumerism peddled by megabrands.

What is the scariest job you’ve had? Are there any other workplace horror or sci-fi novels that we should read?