A Night In The Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny and Gahan Wilson (ebook review).

October 29, 2016 | By | Reply More

‘A Night In The Lonesome October’ is one of the last works of the late, great Roger Zelazny. He well known as a Science Fiction writer but this is a work of fantasy and horror. I’m not familiar with his books but this one has a lot of familiars, in the sense of animals that hang out with a sorcerer.

anightinthelonesomeoctober

Cats are the most familiar familiars but, in this case, our narrator is a dog called Snuff, who lives with his master, Jack, in a house in the countryside near London in late Victorian England. His daily rounds of the house include checking on the Thing in the Circle, the Things in the Mirror, The Thing in the Wardrobe and the Thing in the Steamer Trunk. His master, Jack, is under several curses and wanders the streets of London at night collecting things which may be useful for magic. Snuff keeps watch.

Jack’s identity is fairly obvious from the time, the place and the hints. Other characters involved are the Great Detective, the Count and the Good Doctor, whose house is frequently struck by lightning and has a large fellow under a sheet. There’s also the mad monk, a gloomy Russian who consumes great quantities of vodka, the Vicar and Larry Talbot, who may or may not be a player. They are gathered for the Great Game which takes place on the thirty-first of October when the moon is full. The coincidence of a full moon and Halloween doesn’t happen too often.

It soon becomes clear that Snuff is older than most dogs and has played the Great Game before. Although the players are rivals, there are rules and customs seldom broken. Not much happens before the death of the previous moon. Outright violence against fellow players is rare before that point though a little theft of certain items can be useful.

Snuff is just one of a large and interesting cast of animals in the book. His best friend is Graymalk, a cat who serves Jill, a lady that lives down the road. Other colleagues and rivals are: a snake called Quicklime, familiar to the mad monk Rastov; Needle, a bat who serves the Count; Bubo a rat who is with the Good Doctor and Nightwind, an owl familiar to grave robbers Morris and MacCabe. Mostly, both the animals and the players in the Game try to rub along amiably until the time of conflict but not everyone does so. Snuff being our point of view character, we see the game unfold from the perspective of the animals, a chatty bunch. The tension builds nicely and events get more dramatic as the big night gets nearer.

Snuff is an engaging narrator and the book is a very easy read. There are some great scenes. In one, Snuff and the cat Graymalk make a side trip one day to the Dreamlands, a long sequence that may ring bells with H.P. Lovecraft fans. Another takes place in a lonely graveyard where all the players are harvesting parts for their incantations and end up having a sort of swap meet. The Great Detective frequently appears in disguise, as is his wont, but Snuff always knows it’s him by the smell. He doesn’t share this knowledge with his rivals.

The chapter titles run from October 1 to October 31, starting short and getting longer as the action picks up. My electronic review copy didn’t show the illustrations by Gahan Wilson but I looked them up on-line. They are simple, linear things, almost in the style of John Lennon. Quirky, which is quite apt for this work. I like illustrated books but didn’t miss pictures much as the prose gave plenty of pleasure. This is an enormously entertaining romp using the characters of Victorian fiction and proving what fun you can have with them.

Eamonn Murphy

October 2016

(pub: Farrago. 280 page ebook. File Size: 7922kb. Price: £ 2.99 (UK). ASIN: B01LWJTHQ4)

check out website: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Lonesome-October-Roger-Zelazny/dp/1556525605/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477735001&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Night+In+The+Lonesome+October

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who lives in the south west of England. He's written a few stories too.

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