Our Lady of Darkness

by Fritz Leiber
Reviewed date: 2005 Oct 25
Rating: 3
183 pages
cover art

It is a requirement for science fiction authors to write at least one Lovecraft pastiche. In Our Lady of Darkness Fritz Leiber updates the setting from turn-of-the-century New England to present-day (1970s) San Francisco. The central horror of the novel is the city of San Francisco, whose presence calls evil spirits into existence by the confluence of steel and concrete present in the design and construction of the city. (Sort of an evil version of feng shui.) Leiber includes all of Lovecraft's mainstays.

  • A scholarly, introspective narrator (Franz Westen)
  • A long-dead sorceror of the black arts (Thibaut de Castries) whose curse may be the undoing of our narrator
  • A book of evil so hideous its existence cannot even be known (Megapolisomancy)
  • An evil lurking just below the shadow of known reality (the ghosts--or paramentals--of the city of San Francisco)

Not content with a half-decent Lovecraft pastiche (although one without the permeating sense of horror that only Lovecraft himself can evoke) Fritz Leiber livens it up by including references to other people in the Lovecraftian subculture. Leiber throws in references to Anton LaVey, Aleister Crowley, Clark Ashton Smith, and yes, even Howard Phillips Lovecraft himself.

Our Lady of Darkness is a book serving two masters: it is the Lovecraft pastiche, and it is the tribute to all the authors Leiber takes pains to include. The plot suffers: it is boring. That would be fine, except that unlike a true Lovecraftian story, Our Lady of Darkness is not scary. Boring and not scary equals no recommendation.

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