Jack the Ripper's faithful watchdog, Snuff, relates the shady tendencies of his master, as well as those of a vampire, witch, demented clergyman, and others who band together and are also accompanied by animal familiars. Reprint. K. PW.
It is interesting to consider the players in this Game. While we know Snuff serves Jack the Ripper, we see the man as a cheerful, utterly pleasant man with a grave responsibility, a veritable hero in fact; allusions are made to his trips to town for certain necessary items, and we do see him become deadly dangerous when Snuff is in danger, but largely the character is Jack and never the Ripper. The other characters are basically all portrayed in the same fashion, and it becomes particularly amusing for the Great Detective to continue running around in the guise of a woman, especially since Snuff is never fooled by the disguise the way the humans are.
Zelazny gives us a fun read with this novel. It's not particularly funny, yet I view it as a comedy in many ways. There is one section when the text changes completely, describing a transit among the lands Lovecraft fans regard with awe and wonder, but by and large it is a fast, engrossing read sure to delight all fans of well-crafted, lively fantasy. There is only one Roger Zelazny, and no fan of fantasy should deprive himself of the talents of this fantastic author. I should also mention the fact that this book is replete with illustrations by the renowned Gahan Wilson; the illustrations strike me as minimalist and simplistic, but they do seem to suit the story and its style of presentation quite well, adding a further touch of distinction to this uncommonly good novel.
In this book, Zelazny freely borrows from Stoker, Shelly, Conan Doyle, and Lovecraft (most especially Lovecraft!), screen adaptations of the same, and other popular touchstones. "A Night in the Lonesome October" follows 31 days in the lives of watchdog Snuff and his master Jack, as they prepare for a Halloween ritual. Some players want to bring Lovecraft's ancient gods of chaos back to earth; some want to banish them, at least until the next ritual. Discovering who is who and what is where are vital tasks. The story works in its own right, but the more familiar you are with Zelazny's sources, the more fun it is to read.
The book is not as powerful as some of Zelazny's works, but it is wickedly fun and well worth rereading (many times!) to catch and savor the details.
Ever thought you'd find yourself siding with the Wolfman, Dracula or Jack the Ripper in any kind of conflict?
Roger Zelazny has taken a cast of characters from literature and screen and combined them in probably the most unique story I've ever had the pleasure to read (and re-read and re-read, ad infinitum). I know a review should talk about the characters and the storyline, etc. but to do so in any way except for the vaguest generalities would definitely cripple the virgin enjoyment of reading this very short novel. Humor, suspense, occult, mystery, history, it's all here. If you were raised in any Western culture you already know the major characters. The story may be vaguely familiar but I assure you it's presented in a way that's completely original. To help you get started here's a general plot. Jack the Ripper is still alive (maybe he's even immortal?) and back in rural England. The predations that he is so famous for are, it turns out, not the doings of a twisted mind, but rather, the necessary preparations for a rare event. Others, such as the Wolfman, Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, and even the Great Detective, are also converging on the spot where this event will take place accompanied by their familiars. The story is narrated by Jack's familiar Snuff, a demon trapped in the body of a hound. That's enough to get you going. Set aside 3 or 4 hours and enjoy (it's only 150 pages or so).
I've read and re-read over fifty of Roger Zelazny's books and could safely be classified as a devoted fan (I've been through 5 copies of both Lord of Light and Eye of Cat). These books all have a core that is uniquely the author's and a style that unfortunately seems to be an acquired taste,like a fine malt Scotch. The comments I've gotten from people that I've tried to expose to him usually go something like 'I tried reading it but I just couldn't seem to get started'. Of course the more intelligent ones got into them right away and then worked their way through the rest of my collection <G>. But now there's a book that I can give to those who 'couldn't get started'. Everyone I've given it to has not only finished it quickly, but also borrowed others to try again.
His final work, Roger Zelazny definitely saved the best for last.