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A Night in the Lonesome October [Paperback]

Roger Zelazny , Gahan Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 1994
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.

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From Publishers Weekly

Leaving his ever-popular and ever-expanding Amber series behind for the nonce, Zelazny delivers a cheerful, witty, well-crafted fantasy narrated by Snuff, dog-companion to Jack the Ripper. It seems that Jack is in fact a sorcerer and his gruesome exploits were perpetrated in the service of his magic. But the Ripper's killings are tangential to the tale of an upcoming struggle between magical personages. In a rare occurrence, the cosmic forces are in alignment, permitting an opening for the Elder Gods to return to Earth. "Openers" are contending with "closers," who want to keep the Elder Gods shut out. Snuff recounts the day-by-day preparations as players size up the competition, gather their magical arsenals and make and break alliances. Snuff himself maneuvers among other familiars (a cat named Graymalk, a snake called Quicklime, etc.). An instantly recognizable gothic compliment of characters includes a mad doctor trying to reanimate a patchwork corpse with lightning, a werewolf named Larry Talbot and a "Great Detective" who haunts the sidelines. Zelazny handles this material with a charm few can match, and while this novel does not approach the depth of his best work like Lord of Light , its deft, understated good humor and spare, poetic prose reaffirm Zelazny as one of fantasy's most skilled practitioners.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

After years of unprepossessing folderol--the wearisome Nine Princes in Amber retreads are depressingly typical--Zelazny bursts forth with, well, ``Victorian light supernatural fantasy'' just about covers it. Narrator Snuff, a guard dog who performs complex thaumaturgical calculations in his head, has many duties: to keep various Things firmly trapped in mirrors, wardrobes, and steamer trunks; to accompany his master, Jack--he of the magical blade--on weird collecting expeditions into the graveyards and slums of Victorian London; and--for a single hour each night--discuss the day's goings-on in human speech. Snuff's neighbors include: Jill the witch and her familiar, Graymalk the cat, with whom Snuff forms a friendly alliance; Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, a werewolf, and a satanic vicar. The witches, detectives, doctors, vampires, etc., along with their equally industrious familiars, trade information and scheme for advantage as the full moon of Halloween approaches; at that time, a magical showdown to decide the fate of the Earth will occur. Some of the characters are ``openers,'' determined to open a magical doorway allowing the Old Gods to reoccupy the Earth; others are ``closers,'' equally resolved to keep the magical door nailed shut; and a few are involved yet stand outside the Game altogether. Snuff's problem is to discover who is which. Sparkling, witty, delightful: Zelazny's best for ages, perhaps his best ever. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly original, quirky, delightful novel Jan. 4 2003
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Roger Zelazny is a fascinating, singularly unique writer. What other author gives you the likes of Jack the Ripper, Count Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and Sherlock Holmes in the same novel? How about Lovecraftian themes and allusions? And it's not even a horror novel. This is wildly romping fantasy at its best. Our narrator is a dog named Snuff; he's no ordinary dog, however. He is the companion of Saucy Jack, the watchdog of unfathomable trapped monsters, calculator of the lines of fate, and immensely important guardian against evil. In certain years, when the moon is right, on All Hallow's Eve, the Elder Gods seek entry back into our world. At those times, the proper individuals and agents instinctively come to the crucial area and seek to either open or close the eldritch gates. During such a lonesome October, these agents prepare their spells and minds for the challenge, while interacting with one another in attempts to learn from, thwart, and sometimes remove their fellow players from the Game. Each player has a companion animal, and it is Snuff's interaction with his cohorts that drives the story along. Snuff's greatest friend is the cat Graymalk, and their relationship and true friendship in the face of possible competition really won me over. The Game is confusing early on, which is at it should be. The reader must struggle to understand not only what the Game actually is but also figure out who and what is on which side of the coming conflict. I remained relatively clueless as to how the final drama would play out, and I am happy to say I did not find it disappointing.

It is interesting to consider the players in this Game.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  80 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly original, quirky, delightful novel Oct. 5 2002
By Daniel Jolley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Roger Zelazny is a fascinating, singularly unique writer. What other author gives you the likes of Jack the Ripper, Count Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and Sherlock Holmes in the same novel? How about Lovecraftian themes and allusions? And it's not even a horror novel. This is wildly romping fantasy at its best. Our narrator is a dog named Snuff; he's no ordinary dog, however. He is the companion of Saucy Jack, the watchdog of unfathomable trapped monsters, calculator of the lines of fate, and immensely important guardian against evil. In certain years, when the moon is right, on All Hallow's Eve, the Elder Gods seek entry back into our world. At those times, the proper individuals and agents instinctively come to the crucial area and seek to either open or close the eldritch gates. During such a lonesome October, these agents prepare their spells and minds for the challenge, while interacting with one another in attempts to learn from, thwart, and sometimes remove their fellow players from the Game. Each player has a companion animal, and it is Snuff's interaction with his cohorts that drives the story along. Snuff's greatest friend is the cat Graymalk, and their relationship and true friendship in the face of possible competition really won me over. The Game is confusing early on, which is at it should be. The reader must struggle to understand not only what the Game actually is but also figure out who and what is on which side of the coming conflict. I remained relatively clueless as to how the final drama would play out, and I am happy to say I did not find it disappointing.
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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wicked fun! Nov. 28 2000
By Diana Nier - Published on Amazon.com
Oh, this is lovely! This is inspired! If you find a copy, buy it, read it, cherish it, and know you have my undying envy (I have to rely on libraries).
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He saved the best for last Oct. 5 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A Night in the Lonesome October.... Close your eyes and journey into this Night. A slight breeze, just strong enough to tatter the clouds, whispers in the trees, rustling the leaves like brittle parchment. It carries in it's slight chill the promise of winter to come, welcome after the sweltering nights of summer. Soon it will be All Hallows Eve with all its attendant sprites and spooks. But there is another deed to be done on that night, that, even though it shall decide the future, will be attended by only the chosen few able to read the portents of it's coming.
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun and quirky read July 25 2005
By Queenbee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have always been a fan of Zelazny's Amber series, so when a friend recommended this book to me, I was sure I would enjoy it. And while I did in fact enjoy the book immensely, it was for totally different reasons than why I loved his other works.

On the surface, A Night in Lonesome October sounds like a high school writing excerise. "Now class, I want you to write a story that includes as many horror archetypes as possible...oh, and it needs to be told from the perspective of one of the character's pets."

Yes, this novel is told from the point of view of Snuff, the canine companion on one of the protagonists, Jack. Jack is a friendly, charming, kind person, at least from Snuff's view. But the rest of the world knows him as none other than Jack the Ripper! But Jack isn't on the hunt for wayward ladies of the evening (at least in this book). He's taking part in a strange scavenger hunt that will determine the fate of the world. And at least on this occassion, Jack is on the side of the good guys.

The nature of the scavenger hunt is to aquire the components needed to either prevent the release of the Elder Gods, or set them free (depending on whose side you are on). These Lovecraftian fiends, if released, will completely destroy the world.

Also taking part in this strange game are Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein and his monster, a witch named Jill, and a whole host of horror standards. Complicating the matter (as if it wasn't complicated enough) is that nobody knows who is on whose side, and you aren't suppose to tell.

Now if this whole thing sounds silly, it is. But at the same time, it is a fun, creepy, quirky, and entertaining tale. Zelazny seemed to be enjoying himself with this novel, as it is a complete change of style from his more serious-minded works. The characters are familiar, not just because they are horror icons, but because the author gives them a very human voice. You end up caring for them, even if they are monsters.

The book is a quick read, ideal for travelling or just when you want something light and enjoyable to read. If you are a fan of Zelazny's work, a must read if for no other reason than to see a different side of the author. Fans of horror and dark fiction will also enjoy this unique take on those old favorites.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And you thought your friends had odd hobbies... Oct. 28 1997
By david@charger.newhaven.edu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio Cassette
This relatively recent effort of Zelazny's manages to convey a highly engrossing sense of fun through the narrative voice of Snuff, Jack the Ripper's faithful enchanted hound. With a plot borrowed from one of his own short stories, Zelazny pits two factions of famous historical madmen and freaks against each other. The prize is, of course, the fate of the world. During Snuff's search for the perfect eye of newt, the reader will encounter many other animal familiars, as well as a vampiric Count, a mad scientist, the Great Detective (replete with deerstalker cap) and the aforementioned Ripper, who turns out to be a rather quiet, likable fellow who only kills when the fate of the world is threatened or some upstart vivisectionists attempt to carve up his dog.
As the book's chapters are numbered to match the thirty-one days which make up October, I try to read this book once a year in real time. Anyone is welcome to attempt this, but may find it difficult not to read ahead, or they may not have the same perverse sense of literary propriety which I possess.
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