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Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber

Our Lady of Darkness (1977)

by Fritz Leiber

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4101540,284 (3.9)61
Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) may be best known as a fantasy writer, but he published widely and successfully in the horror and science fiction fields. His fiction won the Hugo, Nebula, Derleth, Gandalf, Lovecraft, and World Fantasy Awards, and he was honored with the Life Achievement Lovecraft Award and the Grand Master Nebula Award. One of his best novels is the classic dark fantasy Our Lady of Darkness (1978 winner of the World Fantasy Award. Our Lady of Darkness introduces San Francisco horror writer Franz Westen. While studying his beloved city through binoculars from his apartment window, he is astonished to see a mysterious figure waving at him from a hilltop two miles away. He walks to Corona Heights and looks back at his building, to discover the figure waving at him from his apartment window--and to find himself caught in a century-spanning curse that may have destroyed Clark Ashton Smith and Jack London.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
OUR LADY OF DARKNESS isn't an exciting read. It's a slow burner, a mass of details, all seeming inconsequential at first, that build and grow into something that is ultimately rich and strange and terrifying.

There's a lot going on here, in the range and depth of characters that remind me of some of Raymond Chandler's or Ross MacDonald's lost people in California, in the details of the occult nature of city building, and in the secret pasts of famous genre writers such as Jack London and Clark Ashton Smith among others.

It's all wrapped up in a mystery being solved by a broken man, trying to put a jigsaw of pieces back into some kind of order that might make sense to him.

It's compelling stuff, and the denouement is the stuff of nightmares for bibliophiles.

One of the great works of modern supernatural literature, it deserves to be much better known than it is. ( )
3 vote williemeikle | Dec 22, 2018 |
This book is one of those that I first read in adolescence and liked--but coming back to it decades later, I can only wonder at what I thought I understood about it. Our Lady of Darkness teems with explicit allusions to other fiction and to occult history that I could not have possibly appreciated on my initial read of it. The protagonist is quite autobiographical (a bereaved horror writer named Franz emerging from a long mourning drunk) and the San Francisco setting is in every way integral to the plot.

As a horror novel, it's middling, not especially scary. But the theories of modern occultism initiated by Leiber in this book are important and influential. His notions of megapolisomancy (i.e. thaumaturgical urban psychogeography) and paramentals have persisted beyond this book, and are in fact scarier with each passing decade. Possible effects of the 5G network presently being built out far exceed the direst anticipations of Leiber's chiliastic sorcerer de Castries.

I re-read this book on my way to a conference in Barcelona at which one of the presenters was scheduled to speak on megapolisomancy. That whole conference seemed to be absorbed by the events of the book. At the end, I missed a flight connection, and I was re-routed through Oakland (the airport closest to downtown San Francisco and the landmarks given in the story). I joined up with a fellow passenger in London, where we were briefly stranded by a failed flight connection. He was a Mexican who works on construction in Chicago. His English was almost as bad as my Spanish, and we played chess in lieu of conversation. The synchronicity with events at the climax of the novel was a little disturbing.
5 vote paradoxosalpha | Jul 3, 2018 |
It was confusing from beginning to the end. I really expected alot more then what I got out of the book. The back of the book made it sound really good so I thought I would try it but I made a big mistake. It was really hard to get though. It was the worse book I have ever read. I do not recommend it to anyone. I use to own it but I gave it to my grandmother as a joke I told her that it was really good. She really hated it. She gave it to someone and they didn't like it ether so three people straight did not like this book what does that tell you. ( )
  Sam-Teegarden | Jun 2, 2018 |
Wow I really loved this book I think that it will go down as one of my all time horror favorites. It is a fast read and has a Cthulhu mythos feel to it because the man in the book finds a journal that he believes was written by Clark Ashton Smith, which has been cursed. This is the first book by Fritz Leiber I have read but it will not be the last. ( )
  texvelis | May 2, 2018 |
Franz Westen is a horror/fantasy writer who becomes interested in a book written by (and subsequently the life of) Thibaut de Castries. The book deals with Thibaut's theories of the occult and big cities, specifically how paramental entities can thrive in metropolitan settings, and Westen find himself in the thick of De Castries' posthumous attempts to prove his own theories.
Groundbreaking in the genre of urban fantasy, this is a pretty cool little novel. A cool mix of the supernatural in the lovingly-described streets and districts of San Francisco with the (literal) horrors of an academic lifestyle, and with just the right amount of creepy blended in. ( )
  electrascaife | Feb 10, 2018 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fritz Leiberprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ellsworth, RoyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walker, NormanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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But the third Sister, who is also the youngest—! Hush! whisper whilst we talk of her! Her kingdom is not large, or else no flesh should live; but within that kingdom all power is hers. Her head, turreted like that of Cybele, rises almost beyond the reach of sight. She droops not; and her eyes, rising so high, might be hidden by distance. But, being what they are, they cannot be hidden; through the treble veil of crape which she wears the fierce light of a blazing misery, that rests not for matins or for vespers, for noon of day or noon of night, for ebbing or for flowing tide, may be read from the very ground. She is the defier of God. She also is the mother of lunacies, and the suggestress of suicides. Deep lie the roots of her power; but narrow is the nation that she rules. For she can approach only those in whom a profound nature has been upheaved by central convulsions; in whom the heart trembles and the brain rocks under conspiracies of tempest from without and tempest from within. Madonna moves with uncertain steps, fast or slow, but still with tragic grace. Our Lady of Sighs creeps timidly and stealthily. But this youngest Sister moves with incalculable motions, bounding, and with tiger's leaps. She carries no key; for, though coming rarely amongst men, she storms all doors at which she is permitted to enter at all. And her name is Mater Tenebrarum—our Lady of Darkness.
—Thomas de Quincey
"Levana and Our Three Ladies of Sorrow"
Suspiria de Profundis
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The solitary, steep hill called Corona Heights was black as pitch and very silent, like the heart of the unknown.
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