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Read on B.'s Kindle.

Greta is a Demon, which means that she's one of the people who really know what's going on with the universe. Which is to say the war that takes up all time and space, the war that rips and changes time and space and leaves no piece of history intact: the Changewar between the Snakes and the Spiders. Her side is the Spiders, who are supposedly the forces of good, except that nobody's ever seen them. Or the Snakes either. Greta works as a prostitute cum psychologist for soldiers taking a break from the war, in a refuge outside the ordinary cosmos, held away from the void only by complicated machinery no one understands.

And of course the war is going badly, and the mix of personalities from the entirety of history who have turned up in Greta's little nest is not precisely a good one at the moment, and then someone turns out to have a pony nuke in a box they brought along and everything gets a little complicated...

I've read a lot of Leiber over the years; Our Lady of Darkness is one of the very few books that reliably scare me (there are four-- that, An Enemy at Green Knowe by L.M. Boston, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and John Bellairs' The Face in the Frost). I spent a lot of time with that one as an adolescent, and with Conjure Wife, and less time with the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stuff but I got to most of it eventually. And 'Gonna Roll the Bones' is one of my favorite short stories.

That said, I keep hearing about Leiber that is totally new to me not just in terms of my not having read it but in an 'I had no idea that existed' way, reliably every few years. I hadn't heard of this until [personal profile] sovay brought it up a couple of months back, and she recommended it to B., und so weiter. I should really look at a bibliography of his some time and see what else I am missing.

This is a fast, funny, talkative little book, light on the surface with undertones of desperation. It is allusive without being dense; it wants to go by quickly while retaining its intelligence, and manages. It partakes of many genres including the time travel novel, the locked-room mystery, the romance, the metaphysical fantasy and the book about the grinding futility of war, and it helpfully flags each genre for you in the quotations at the beginning of each chapter as they go by. It's a little weird about gender but not terrible-- both men and women are soldiers, both men and women are soldiers' entertainers, but all sexuality appears to be heterosexual even when cross-species, a mode I find a tad strange in its directions of open-mindedness. It is very much a novel dependent on the voice of its protagonist; if you like Greta you will like the book and if not, not. I enjoyed its carefully artless-seeming plotting, its worldbuilding (more complex than it initially appears, which is saying something), its general atmosphere of 'we're all mad here so the hell with it'. I wish it had been longer and I wish it had been willing to let the desperation remain free-floating for a greater length of time before it coalesced, but I am also happy with the amount it ties in a neat knot at the end and the amount it leaves open to speculation.

Not my favorite Leiber; not even my third-favorite Leiber. But worthwhile.

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