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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writer, but not for the faint-hearted ...
Thomas Ligotti has been hailed as a successor to H.P. Lovecraft, though not from any similarity of style or theme. The comparison comes from an intuition that Ligotti has a unique, interior sense of the horrific, the weird and the uncanny that brings to mind the unsettling originality of Lovecraft. He seems to be plugged into the same power conduit.

Ligotti has...
Published on 5 Aug 2012 by C. Low

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as clever (or as depressing) as it thinks it is
Nothing really new to say.
Quotes the same, very few writers, over and over.
Showy wordplay.

Not actually that dark.

Doesn't really give any good reasons for such pessimism (there are plenty of examples out there!!!)

Seems to be a bit of a self-conscious attempt to be "provocative"

Unconvincing
Published 3 days ago by Ghoti666


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writer, but not for the faint-hearted ..., 5 Aug 2012
By 
C. Low (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (Paperback)
Thomas Ligotti has been hailed as a successor to H.P. Lovecraft, though not from any similarity of style or theme. The comparison comes from an intuition that Ligotti has a unique, interior sense of the horrific, the weird and the uncanny that brings to mind the unsettling originality of Lovecraft. He seems to be plugged into the same power conduit.

Ligotti has laid bare the nature of his interior vision in his non-fiction work "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race". It is bleak, pitiless, pessimistic and nihilistic. In a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock, Ligotti crushes everything. Satan himself could stand in the infernal flames, swearing it was better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven, and one minute later he would be roadkill under the wheels of Ligotti's merciless prose. Reading "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race" is like sitting next to Ligotti while he operates the control bars of a tank in the car park of a large mall. There is an unequal contest between sardonic rhetoric and universal verity that howls like metal being torn apart. It is wild fun.

I had a sense of what to expect from "Conspiracy" because I had read and re-read Ligotti's essay "Thinking Horror" in "Collapse IV" (an astonishing compilation of essays straddling the boundaries of horror fiction and philosophy - it can be found online). I think I needed this graded inoculation of spleen to prepare myself mentally for the nihilistic overdose that "Conspiracy" represents. If a cosmic hypostasis of Pain had an internal dialogue, a keen intelligence, and access to the finest vocabulary, then this is what it would write. "Conspiracy" is Munch's Scream given literary form.

The fundamental dichotomy examined by this book is the split (which Ligotti characterises as absolute) between optimists ("being alive is all right") and pessimists ("being alive is not all right"). The argument that Ligotti sustains throughout the book is that being alive is not all right. The conspiracy of the book's title comes from humanity's collective optimism, a mass delusion in which the majority of the human race disguises the essentially horrific character of conscious existence, and likewise suppresses the extremes of pessimism by isolation or treatment.

Ligotti's approach is almost entirely literary, and his emphasis on a relatively obscure literature of profound philosophical pessimism and horror is somewhat surprising. One does not require a broad circle of friends to encounter instances of severe depression, often part-way through a programme of self-medication using whatever comes to hand. These are people for whom the universal exit is only too obvious, and they don't require philosophy to show them the way. Numerous first-hand accounts of severe depression are available, and while depressed philosophers have as much right to be heard as depressed taxi-drivers, the philosophical tendency to take a personal predisposition and turn it into a universal truth is something to inspire caution among the unwashed.

The central part of the book deconstructs the notion of the self, the idea that there is an atom of being within our protoplasm that constitutes our essential and enduring identity. I think Ligotti may be working against this notion harder than he needs to. The idea that the mind is a product of a collective of parts coming together in a semi-coordinated and chaotic way to create the illusion of a coherent self is approaching orthodoxy, and essentially similar presentations can be found in sources as different as the philosopher Daniel Dennett, the neuroscientist David Eagleman, and the cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky.

I think Ligotti is correct to suggest that consciousness has evolved in parallel with internal mechanisms to protect us from the terror of the situation - we are not good at passing on our genes while whimpering in a corner. We can maintain an illusion that everything is ticketyboo until disease, drugs, senescence or trauma erode the dykes that hold back raw perception.

The final part of the book is an examination of the literature of Horror, and bears some resemblance to Lovecraft's classic Supernatural Horror in Literature. It is engaging and perceptive. The literature of Horror is perhaps a symptom of a weakening social orthodoxy. It is the leakage of night into day, as the transition from mythology to rationality leaves us exposed and weaponless in the face of our fears. Once upon a time crucifixes worked autonomously; then they had to be believed in; now they don't work at all. There are cracks in our world, and we don't know how to repair them. A limited exposure to Horror inoculates us in small doses.

My overall impression of the book is of a mismatch between the power of the rhetoric, which often overflows into full-blown polemic, and the scholarly convention of presenting an argument through an orderly review of ideas taken from a canonical literature. Ligotti gives the appearance of playing the Glass Bead Game, but he plays with sticks of dynamite instead of glass beads. There are places, about two-thirds of the way through, where I thought the argument was sinking under the weight of polemic, and in many ways the shorter "Thinking Horror" essay does the job just as effectively. At the same time, I rarely failed to be entertained by Ligotti's spirited use of language, and he draws on a wide range of fascinating sources, almost all of which I had never heard of, and most of which I will research when time permits.

There is a sense in which Ligotti undermines his own argument. With characteristic insight he states that every negation requires an affirmation; you can't blow up the world without first finding the energy to rise out of the sofa. This book is a huge affirmation. There is a bubbling sense of the absurd that spills over into his writing, and it is often blackly comic and irresistably entertaining. I don't care that the universe is a giant meat-grinder, that my sense of self is an illusion, or that I'm only one heartbeat away from death ... I can sit on a huge tracked vehicle with Mr. Ligotti as he reverses over things. They are only ideas ... they experience no pain.

It is easy to forget that while we experience Horror, we can transform it into Fun. As a species we can take the most appalling experiences and piss ourselves laughing about them. The comic impulse deconstructs every kind of institution with as much ferocity as pessimistic philosophy, and instead of gloom, we end up with Father Ted, or Community, or Jewish humour. Because we appear to manufacture Fun out of situations that are profoundly unfunny, it may look like we are using it to whitewash reality. I am not convinced this is so. There are two masks to every situation, tragedy, and comedy. Fun seems every bit as irreducible as Horror. Even the Great Old Ones are unmanned and mocked and stitched-up in fur fabric; it is only a matter of time before Cthulhu appears on the Simpsons. Much as I admire and respect the power of Ligotti's vision, I still retain an overwhelming allegience to Fun.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Pessimism!, 2 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (Paperback)
Thomas Ligotti is a genius. To find another soul out there as pessimistic about existence as myself is wonderful, and to read about it in such a wonderful book is even better. For fans of nihilism, existentialism and pessimism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best work on pessimism ever written., 31 Mar 2014
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So persuasive and so well-written. It's like reading Benatar, Schopenhauer and Zappfe all rolled into one. I highly recommend this book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not as clever (or as depressing) as it thinks it is, 19 Aug 2014
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Nothing really new to say.
Quotes the same, very few writers, over and over.
Showy wordplay.

Not actually that dark.

Doesn't really give any good reasons for such pessimism (there are plenty of examples out there!!!)

Seems to be a bit of a self-conscious attempt to be "provocative"

Unconvincing
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4.0 out of 5 stars i am not a pessimist, 22 July 2014
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Grinding, hilarious, fascinating. But ultimately impossible to relate to. Thomas Ligotti has some serious drive in spite of what he thinks of human consciousness
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Offers an interesting and very unusual perspective, but could be better laid out, 12 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (Paperback)
The book centres around the idea of pessimism, the idea that the future of our own lives and humanity is not so bright, and tries to explain the reasons we feel compelled to resist this idea. The central concepts of the book are extremely fascinating and provoking but the narrative could be better-structured, I found the book to be a jumble of thoughts in places.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on death, life and our relationship with them, from the point of view of the species, 16 Sep 2011
By 
Suman Eugen Costin (Bucharest, Romania) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (Paperback)
Excellent book on death, life and our relationship with them, from the point of view of the species. It goes through the latest philosophical thesis and thinking on the subject, and is written in a way that's far from the arid language of the academics. That is to say, it's easy to read and understand. Even if I may disagree on some of the points stipulated, especially those about transhumanism (I choose to perpetuate the conspiracy a bit more in this regard), I cannot find any fault for this author or this book. So please disregard the negative ratings you've seen, and give it a try. Even if you don't disagree, I think you'll find the book well worth buying and reading. Just because you don't agree with an author doesn't mean you should rate the book down.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for those who enjoy fairy stories!, 13 April 2014
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This review is from: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (Paperback)
The book presents a clear uncompromising challengs to face reality and all the demons of our nightmares as we rush headlong into the distractions and attachments we create to get away from those very things!
Reality is the true horror to the writer, and he expounds on this brilliantly, movingly and with no mercy for sentiment that is unfounded, I had to stop every few pages to digest the magnitude of what i read, it really is that deep and probably life changing.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Conspiracy Against The Human Race, 10 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (Paperback)
Ligotti is a complete one off in any genre,his misanthropic world view is consistently thought provoking-although not everyone will agree with the conclusions he reaches about what it means to be a sentient life form dwelling on the face of the planet Earth.Laugh or cry?
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Ligotti is the Typhoid Mary of suicidal philosophy, 1 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (Paperback)
Wittgenstein's said that philosophy is something like a disease and the job of the philosopher is to study philosophy as the physician studies malaria, not to pass it on but rather to cure people of it. Thus argued the charismatic Ludwig Wittgenstein. Has Thomas Liggoti caught the philosophical bug?

Wittgenstein means that philosophy builds an ideological grammar around the victim; 'I am a pessimist', 'I am an optimist', 'I am left wing', etc. I, on the other hand, prefer to call the ideological grammar, a 'masturbating cocoon', so better to visualize and snigger at Thomas Ligotti's world view. For all his musings, Ligotti needs a nice fresh girl, with big breasts, like it promises in the Qur'an, to romance for the weekend. He will feel better.

So a masturbation cocoon is constructed around the head of the victim (Ligotti's) similar to the way a caterpillar constructs a cocoon around its own body. All educated people are carrying this cocoon around themselves and so Thomas Ligotti's cocoon is suicide, which he sells in Conspiracy Against the Human Race, rather than sex or drugs. We all have our preferences I suppose.

By the way, caterpillar experts say that it is impossible to break the cocoon before the time of metamorphosis, which for the lucky caterpillar is a butterfly and for the not so lucky philosopher, death. Better not to be a philosopher then!

Oh Thomas Ligotti, you died cocooned and you never touched the natural state. The profundity of the idea is in adverse proportion to its usefulness. This means that philosophical naval gazing is blinding the human, moving the mind away from the natural state.

The misfortune of being incapable of neutral states except by strain and effort. What an idiot achieves at the outset, we philosophers must struggle night and day to attain, and only in fits and starts!

A guy in the natural state will never take Thomas Ligotti serious because the natural state is the opposite of the ideology he has cocooned himself inside. The suicidal, mind, will find that Conspiracy Against the Human Race is an enjoyable romp. However, by the reviews on Amazon and the You Tube videos, only one group of consumer is buying Thomas' gospel.

So for the suicidal fan-base, Thomas Ligotti will confirm what you already feel inside. You want the human species to jump off the cliff, do you? You need that push to help with your suicidal solution? Thomas Ligotti is your pusher.

Here is flavour of the message in this book. Nietzsche never went far enough and Arthur Schopenhauer was a chicken too, and even Albert Einstein didn't get! These 'thinkers', says Liggoti, are really sissy girls, as they didn't realize that they had to blow their brains out, instead of thinking, or they should had swung from the lamp-post. Ligotti argues that having kids is also a bad idea. Even Plato had kids and he invented philosophy!!! Ligotti would call Plato a sissy too! If only Thomas Ligotti was around to show the Greek wrestler the correct path (Plato was also a wrestler). Let us not be too hard of the genius' of the olden times, it isn't there fault, they are not as clever as Thomas Ligotti.

I am somewhat surprised however, that Mr Ligotti hasn't committed suicide himself. This is his main 'bright idea', you see, the suicide way for all. Now then, because Ligotti won't kill himself, he's like your typical heroin pusher. A good drug dealer knows never to take the product he is selling and Thomas Ligotti is selling you suicide but he is immune from suicide himself.

In a funny way, Ligotti reminds me of Typhoid Mary, the Irish maid from the 19th century who was a carrier of typhoid but was immune from the deadly disease herself.

So Thomas Ligotti is the Typhoid Mary of suicide philosophy. He wants you to commit suicide but, like the way Typhoid Mary was immune from typhoid, Thomas Ligotti is immune from suicide. Joking aside, Thomas Ligotti supplies a nice juicy morsel of pessimism, to re-confirm that life is indeed rubbish. 'I am a pessimist'....

Unfortunately, if you are a pessimist, it is impossible to see into the optimist camp and this is why we are convinced that we have all answers and they haven't.

Pessimists, or people who see women as wicked because they are unwanted, will ignore the naked ignorance in this book and the overly masturbation of darkness in Thomas Ligotti's 'philosophy', just like fans of Wittgenstein, like me, ignore the chaff that the great man spoke, to get to the wheat.

There is much wheat in Conspiracy Against the Human Race, as well as a generous helping of chaff. The universe is none-simultaneously apprehended, so said Albert Einstein. No it isn't, say the pessimists, it's a rubbish universe!

Saying that the universe is rubbish isn't profound, it's mad egoism! Isn't it? To look out into the universe; a universe that you can't even comprehend, than look at your personality?

Anyway, each point is valid, there is happiness and there isn't, take your pick.

So if you are feeling the philosophical influenza (nihilism), like I sometimes do, then you will ignore the uncomfortably happy things in life, like good drugs, a fancy gothic cathedral and big breasted girls in the summer sun. You know, things that do not gel with your world-view.

Ill get to the point now, Conspiracy Against the Human Race is still a masterpiece of philosophical horror. It's like a good Smiths song or a brilliant death metal album. If you are into the dark side, then this book will definitely take you there. Though people like Ligotti always bite off more than they can chew. I mean, how about beautiful people? These are not in the book. Another problem is the lack of a biography of the author.

What I mean is; for a man as personal as Thomas Ligotti; you would expect at least some biographical information about the guy. And he is very very personal because he's saying you and I should die. Do you see what I mean by personal? Women should stop breeding too, all personal stuff, but how about the guy typing the words? Who is Thomas Ligotti anyway? Is he married, does he have kids etc? Seriously, I was expecting Thomos Ligotti's musings on the industrial and existential and horrifying hell he is living in, and the people he is forced to interact with on a daily basis, to be the theme or at least a morsel of a theme in his own book. This is not what you get from this book.

So what is in the book? Well pages of literary criticism and bio's of dead people. So we get Thomas Ligotti's opinion of Nietzsche and his opinion on Susan Blackmore and his opinion on an entire laundry list of thinkers; dead and alive, well, mostly horror writers actually.

Thomas Ligotti doesn't seem to have his own opinion because Conspiracy is full of quotes and discussion of long dead authors. Like I mentioned, Thomas Ligotti is very well read and he knows the literature on pessimism. This is fine, however, I doubt that H. P Lovecraft got angry about the things that make me mad today, in my horrific 21st Century bubble. And I don't really care how the great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, partied with his serfs, to cure his depression and I am not interested in literary criticism and analysing horror movies, like a media student.

I'm not being picky here but Thomas Ligotti is a very successful author (he keeps reminding the reader), so why can't he just state his own observations? Why can't he write what it feels from his gut? I would personally love the opportunity to 'write it all down', as they say.

So Ligotti sells suicide to various thinkers and he is convinced that he has stumbled on an original idea, like the way Albert Einstein stumbled in an original idea, and he talks about other authors and how they were too chicken to commit suicide and how they should never have had kids or why they should have never been born; things like that, but we get zero autobiography from the author of his own book. If I was a successful horror writer, I would just let rip and talk honestly, as I'm sure you would.

Sometimes it's better to put your books down and drive in rush-hour traffic or walk through K Mart and just observe our fellow humans and start your philosophy from there. I'm thinking like David Foster Wallace, the most gifted and original American novelist of his generation, did before he killed himself. Foster Wallace committed suicide by mingling with people, which is tragic. I borrowed the supermarket and rush-hour imagery from an essay David Foster Wallace wrote in the Guardian newspaper, it's still online and it is well worth a read. You will be able to Google it easily...

Ligotti does state his own opinion sometimes. He argues that "consciousness is a disease". Do you agree? By the way, which consciousness is he referring to? You see, the way Newton's universal time has been proved wrong, well universal consciousness has been proved wrong. There is no one consciousness, only many, hence millions of competing psyches. Eat a psilocybin mushroom and you will see what I mean.

There are many levels of consciousness, you see, but Ligotti and his academic sources ignore this like the cardinals ignored Galileo's telescope.

But if you feel that consciousness is a disease before the question, you will say yes, no matter the evidence to the contrary. As sleepwalkers, we are genius for constructing gestalts of meaning to suit our gripes. The mind, remember, can make a hell out of a heaven and a heaven out of hell, and the world of the sad man is different from the world of the happy man. And if you really believe, like the cardinals of orthodox evolutionary theory do, that consciousness is a disease without a cure (evolutionary dead end) and if you believe that the answer to our wretched species is extinction, then I invite you try a good line of Coke or Ayahuasca or take some pure MDMA, or pull an amazing girl or boy, and your disease will vanish like Dracula in the summer sun.

Universal consciousness is nave realism by definition. Nave realism is thinking that you have comprehended the universe in your head. There is a book that all the people in the know are reading called 'LEFT in the Dark' by Tony Write. It's a good primer on the brain and reality.

Ligotti never mentions nave realism which just means that the world is how it appears to be is wrong. I wouldn't mind this if Thomas Ligotti didn't have a gas of megalomania around his head. I mean, who can correct Nietzsche and Schopenhauer in one book?

This is all academic mind, because it's not that important for most readers to know about realism and the illusion of nature.

So Conspiracy isn't the gospel of truth. It is the gospel of horror, like good death metal music, with brilliant excuses to go extinct.

I am new to the horror genre and so I enjoyed the discussion of many ideas of horror and helplessness in here. Science shows that we are puppet zombies made out of flesh, and all that real meaty science is part of Buddhism, there is a cool quote from the Buddha saying this.

I was introduced to many brilliant thinkers, like a now forgotten German philosopher, who was just as mad and brilliant as Firedrich Nietzsche; one Philipp Mainlander. Mainlander wanted the human race to commit suicide along with God! He showed this logically, hence he is unknown.

True to his logic, Philipp Mainländer committed suicide by balancing a pile of freshly printed hardback versions of his magnum opus, delivered that morning, and swung into oblivion! A romantic gesture that didn't make the victim famous! Maybe this is why Thomas Ligotti won't commit suicide, he knows it's not a one way ticket to fame.

I get the feeling however that the suicide solution, though commendable, is another conformist solution for Ligotti's fan base. Why suicide? Why not cull the idiot part of our neighbours to make a big chested superman race? Or invent a drug like in Huxley's Brave New World, to become euphoric simpletons, forever. These are unpopular solutions in trendy existentialism but suicide is kurt Cobain cool, isn't it, and this is probably why Ligotti goes for this option.

Liggoti's hero is a cogito ergo glum philosopher from Norway called Peter Wessel Zapffe. If you thought that Arthur Schopenhauer shot from the hip with his pessimism, well this Zapffe fellow is a depressed gun slinger on steroids!

Peter Wessel Zapffe is impressive and isn't some pseudo bad boy because he really wants you to kill yourself. This is why he is unknown today. Conspiracy is based on Zapffe's psychoanalytical tool kit and he, and not Einstein or Keynes or Stalin, is Ligotti's hero. Hey we all have our heroes!

Peter Wessel Zapffe's main work, On the Tragic, has never been translated into English because, Ligotti thinks, he was too close to the truth, though he was probably too much of a bore to get translated. However, Zapffe's short essay, The Last Messiah, has been translated and Liggoti uses large chunks of it for this main argument. I must say though, even though Ligotti's discussion of The Last Messiah is excellent, it isn't as well written as the original essay. Zapffe, in Liggoti's book, feels a bit too cut and paste. There is nothing wrong with a cut and paste job but I'd expect a writer of Ligotti's stature to come up with better imagery than a philosopher who wrote in the world of the 1930's; that's 80 years ago. This is a shame because Ligotti is supposed to be a fancy writer but a translation from a Norwegian into English reads a great deal better that Ligotti's summary. So check out The Last Messiah online before you buy this.

Another problem I found is that most of Conspiracy is based The Last Messiah and there is little mention of evolutionary biology or quantum physics. There are exciting things happening in quantum physics but you wouldn't guess it by reading Conspiracy. Ligotti was obviously moved by the Messiah essay (it is a brilliant essay), though today, Zapffe it a tad too Freudian.

So I highly recommend that you read the last Messiah (it's online) before you read Conspiracy Against the Human Race. It's a very short essay that really brings the message home that we are a wretched and ephemeral species. If you are not as moved as Liggoti is from this essay, then you probably won't be that moved by Conspiracy because most of the book is predicated on Zappfe's ideas.

Conspiracy Against the Human Race is still a proper philosophy work, rather than a dry academic 'heard it all before' bore. Though I personally agree with Stephen Hawking in calling for Sophia's burial.
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The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror
The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror by Thomas Ligotti (Paperback - 30 April 2011)
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