Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Night in the Lonesome October – review

Author: Roger Zelazny

First Published: 1993

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Loyally accompanying a mysterious knife-wielding gentleman named Jack on his midnight rounds through the murky streets of London, good dog Snuff is busy helping his master collect the grisly ingredients needed for an unearthly rite that will take place not long after the death of the moon. But Snuff and his master are not alone. All manner of participants, both human and not, are gathering with their ancient tools and their animal familiars in preparation for the dread night.

It is brave, devoted Snuff who must calculate the patterns of the Game and keep track of the Players—the witch, the mad monk, the vengeful vicar, the Count who sleeps by day, the Good Doctor and the hulking Experiment Man he fashioned from human body parts, and a wild-card American named Larry Talbot—all the while keeping Things at bay and staying a leap ahead of the Great Detective, who knows quite a bit more than he lets on.

Boldly original and wildly entertaining, A Night in the Lonesome October is a darkly sparkling gem, an amalgam of horror, humor, mystery, and fantasy. First published in 1993, it was Zelazny’s last book prior to his untimely death. Many consider it the best of the fantasy master’s novels. It has inspired many fans to read it every year in October, a chapter a day, and served as inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s brilliant story “Only the End of the World Again.”

The review: Spread over 32 chapters (an opening and one per day of October), A Night in the Lonesome October is both a revelation and a joy to read. The blurb quoted above gives a good idea of the characters involved (none, bar Larry Talbot, are directly named but the reader knows exactly who the Count, the Great Detective, the Good Doctor etc are) as they prowl an October in Victorian London.

The story is told from the point of view of Snuff – the familial creature, in dog form, of Jack one of the players of the Game. The Game occurs in an October where the full moon falls on the 31st and players are drawn in. Some are Openers, others Closers, some may switch sides. What the blurb doesn’t overly highlight is the Lovecraftian mythos that all this is based on (indeed there is a sojourn within Lovecraft’s Dream Worlds at one point).

The writing is crisp and the characterisation excellent – especially the voice of our narrator. From a TMtV point of view we, of course, have the Count (Dracula) and his familiar Needles, a bat. The Count’s gypsy servants also pay a visit. This is a must read for fans of the classic monsters and Lovecraft alike. 9 out of 10.


Stephen Phillips said...

I've read the Amber series, but have never read this! After reading your review, I immediately checked my local library. They don't have it, but it's on order from another branch, so I should have it in a few days. Looking forward to it! Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

no worries, let me know what you think :)