Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween Reading: Zelazny's "A Night in the Lonesome October"

I hadn't heard of A Night in the Lonesome October until my brother sent me the audio version.  Read by Zelazny himself, it's quite good.

Published in 1993, Lonesome October, nominated for a 1994 Nebula Award, was Zelazny's last book (he died in 1995, aged 58).  Zelazny was a truly original fantasist, perhaps best known for the The Chronicles of Amber, which I can't say I really got into.  Nonetheless, I found A Night in the Lonesome October to be very engaging.     

Set in Victorian Era London and vicinity, the story is in the form of first-person (or first-dog) journal entries by Snuff, who is the familiar of his master, Jack.  Each night in October gets a chapter in this gradually-revealed tale of preparations for a great supernatural event, a full moon on Halloween, when the barriers between the planes thin and doors between worlds may be opened.  A host of characters ranging from Dracula to Jack the Ripper have assembled, intent on either opening or closing a portal to Lovecraft's Great Old Ones.  Each "Player" in the "Game" has a familiar, who go about bargaining with each other and attempting to pinpoint the exact site of the portal, never quite sure who is on which side.

Zelazny writes in a sparse, effective, and humorous style, expertly building the suspense as grave robberies, murders, and weird happenings abound.  There's a somewhat pointless foray into Lovecraft's Dreamlands that reads like filler, but the rest of the story is tautly constructed.  

Reading A Night in the Lonesome October, with its monstrous characters and autumnal setting, is like being wrapped up in a warm, soft blanket of Halloween.  Simple, fun, and satisfying, it's an excellent read to get you in the Halloween spirit.        

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