Roger Zelazny – A Night in the Lonesome October



Title: A Night in the Lonesome October
Author:
Roger Zelazny
Year: 1993

In England towards the end of the 19th century, in a year in which Halloween and a full moon coincide, a number of highly unusual players (more or less obviously taken from other famous and/or fictional characters active at the time, for instance Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and Victor Frankenstein) gather to play the ancient game of opening and closing. Some of these people want to open a gateway and allow the Great Old Ones (known from H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories) back to the Earth, whereas others want to close the gateway and keep Earth as it is. Each of the characters have familiar, and the narrator of the story is the dog Snuff, belonging to Jack. Until this night in october, in every game played, the closing side has always won, but will it be so this time, as the ones playing for the opening side is being murdered one by one and the 31th of October draws nigh?

The most interesting thing about A Night in the Lonesome October is probably the narration. Each of the 31 chapters (one for each day) elaborates the details of the game, its players and so forth, but this is done piecemeal and very skillfully at that. In the beginning, it is only apparent that there will be some kind of summoning, but the rules or traditions of the game are only revealed as the story goes on. The twist of having the story told by the dog is also nice, since it gives little insight into what the humans are doing, but all the more into the relationship between their companions.

Still, although Roger Zelazny manages to be entertaining, and even if the concept feels fresh, the overall impression is not sparkling. The story is not interesting enough, the characters, although a wonderful collage of real and imaginary heroes and villains, are not interesting enough. I am, however, prepared to award A Night in the Lonesome October three and a half snails for its quite unique perspective, as well as for its narration.

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