I’m always out to discover a new book or author and came across an article from io9 suggesting a certain book as a good Halloween read on the 25th anniversary of said book’s original publication. What was it?
Well, it’s A Night in the Lonesome October by the late Roger Zelanzy. And man, is it ever a trip.
In a small, unnamed village in Victorian-era England, there is a Game. What Game is it? Zelanzy only gradually reveals the answer to that. The novel’s narrator is part of a pair that is, at the start of the month of October, gathering ingredients. At the end of the month, the Game will be played as the various players with their companions will join one of two teams and the winning team will get…something. Again, Zelanzy only gradually reveals what it is. The narrator’s partner is a man known only as Jack. Jack is cursed. He’s a good man who does really bad things to prevent even worse things from happening. Among the other players are the Count, the Good Doctor, a local clergyman, a druid, a pair of mystic types, a Russian-type monk, and a witch. And as they gather their ingredients, someone known as the Great Detective keeps looking into what’s going on. And then an American named Larry Talbot moves into town.
If the name Larry Talbot sounds familiar, it should. He has a condition that turns him into a wolf during the rise of the full moon. And while many of the players are basic archetypes, certain characters who are never named are also fairly familiar fictional characters. And Jack? Well, he’s heavily implied to be a certain Ripper.
And the best part? The narrator is not only Jack’s loyal companion, he’s also a dog. His name is Snuff. Each player in the Game has a different animal companion except for Larry…probably because he’s his own animal companion.
What follows is a fun story with each chapter being a different day in the month. Zelanzy parcels out information a little at a time, as the players start off more or less cooperating and then eventually giving us the stakes and what the two sides are playing for. Along the way, Snuff bargains information with the other animal companions and starts a nice friendship with the witch’s cat Graymalk.
I really liked this one. It was a quick bit of fun, and Zelanzy’s Easter eggs to the work of other authors added to it. I may have to track down more of Zelanzy’s books. As for this, I’m giving it 9 out of 10 Elder Cats offering advice.