Friday, December 27, 2013

FFB: A Night in the Lonesome October -- Roger Zelazny

I love Roger Zelazny's early books, but for a time there he was writing things that didn't engage me nearly as much.  I kept on reading them, mind you (well, except for the Amber series) because I kept hoping that he'd return to form.  And then, with his final book, he did.  I should have written about this one for Halloween, but it slipped down in the stack and I didn't get to it until now.  

To begin with, let me say that this is the best book you'll ever read that's narrated by Jack the Ripper's dog.  If that idea puts you off and makes you doubt that this is your kind of book, I'd say you're wrong.  

The dog's name is Snuff, and the story he tells has to do with the Great Game that is played during the month leading up to Halloween in those years when there's a full moon on that date.  That's when the Great Old Ones of Lovecraftian lore make their attempt to enter a gateway into our world.  There are two groups of players, the Openers and the Closers.  Jack has played before, but it appears that none of the others in this game have.  So far, the Closers have always won, but it's often a tight race.  The players this time consist of Jack the Ripper, the Universal monsters (I know they didn't originate with Universal, but their characters in this book come from the movies, not the original sources), a Mad Monk, a witch, a Druid, a clergyman, and a couple of others.  Sherlock Holmes and Watson are also important characters, and all the players have familiars, of which Snuff is one.  The familiars are excellent characters, too, especially Graymalk, the cat, whose relationship with Snuff is one of the book's highlights.

The Game has rules, but sometimes they get violated, and it's fairly complicated.  I'm a little surprised nobody's developed it as an actual game to be played by gaming fans.  I'm sure it could be done.

A Night in the Lonesome October is stylish, poetic, at times hilarious, suspenseful, and just a whole lot of fun.  And did I mention the Gahan Wilson illustrations?  No?  Well, there's one for each night of the month, with maybe a couple of extras. Great stuff.  If you're looking for a treat, don't wait until next year to read this one.




6 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Wow. I let this one get right past me, as well...this does sound like the kind of book Zelazny should've been doing rather than bogging down in ever more generic fantasy and such. And if the premise (or its approximation) was good enough for Virginia Woolf beforehand and Kim Newman after...

Steve Oerkfitz said...

My favorite Zelazny novel. I liked his early stuff but from the mid 70's on most of his books seemed rushed and mediocre. I came to this only a couple of years ago and loved it.

Bill Crider said...

I feel pretty much the same, Steve.

Monte Herridge said...

I read this book when it first came out, but don't remember anything about it. Looks like I need to pull my copy and reread it. Thanks for the review.

Burke said...

Thanks for letting me know about your commentary on it, Bill. As you know from my own post, this is a favorite in the Burke household. There's loads of fun to be had, but also, as you say, poetry. The insights on Holmes alone make it worth the price of admission.

Bill Crider said...

Zelazny was one of the greats.