A Night in the Lonesome October
infobox Book |
name = A Night in the Lonesome October
image_caption = Cover of first edition (hardcover)
language = English
William Morrow and Company
release_date = 1993
media_type = Print (
isbn = ISBN 0-688-12508-5
"A Night in the Lonesome October" is a novel by
Roger Zelaznypublished in 1993, near the end of his life.
The book is divided in 32 chapters, each representing one "night" in the month of October (plus one "introduction" chapter). Moreover, the story is told in the first-person, akin to journal entries. Throughout, 33 full-page illustrations by
Gahan Wilson(one per chapter, plus one on the inside back cover) punctuate a tale heavily influenced by H. P. Lovecraft.
"A Night in the Lonesome October" was nominated for the
Nebula Awardfor Best Novel in 1994.
"A Night in the Lonesome October" is narrated from the present-tense point-of-view of Snuff, the dog who is
Jack the Ripper's companion. The bulk of the story takes place in Londonand its environs, though at one point the story detours through the dream-world described by Lovecraft in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Though never explicitly stated, various contextual clues within the story (the most obvious of which being the appearance of Sherlock Holmes(or "The Great Detective")) imply that it takes place during the late Victorian period (in actuality, the year 1887based upon Halloween full moon appearance dates [A further examination of historical data concerning the cycles of full moon appearances during this time period reveals that, in England, a full moon (in this case, it being a "Blue Moon" meaning, the second full moon to appear within the same month...and for the sake of trivia, for ALL Halloween full moons are "blue.") appeared at 21:31:08 GMT on Monday, 10/31/1887. The first full moon of that month was on Sunday 10/02/1887. The next gathering of "Players" for the "Game" would be scheduled to fall on Halloween, 10/31/1925, 12:12 GMT.] for the London area as confirmed by the Royal Observatory).
It is revealed as the story progresses that once every few decades, when the moon is full on the night of Halloween, the fabric of reality thins, and doors may be opened between this world and the realm of the
Great Old Ones. When these conditions are right, men and women with occult knowledge may gather at a specific ritual site, to either hold the doors closed, or to help fling them open. Should the Closers win, then the world will remain as it is until the next turning... but should the Openers succeed, then the Great Old Ones will come to Earth, to remake the world in their own image (enslaving or slaughtering the human race in the process). The Openers have never yet won. These meetings are often referred to as "The Game" or "The Great Game" by the participants, who try to keep the goings-on secret from the mundane population.
The various "Players" during the Game depicted in the book are archetypal characters from Victorian Era gothic fiction - Jack the Ripper (only ever referred to as "Jack"),
Dracula("The Count"), Victor Frankenstein("The Good Doctor"), and the Wolf Man(known as "Larry Talbot", the film character's name) all make appearances. In addition, there is a Witch("Crazy Jill"), a Druid("Owen"), a "Mad Monk" ("Rastov" - clearly modeled after Rasputin), and Hermetic occultists ("Morris and McCab" - often mentioned as a reference to real-life Hermetic of the time MacGregor Mathers).
The most unusual aspect of the story is that each Player has a "
Familiar" - an animal companion with near-human intelligence which helps complete the numerous preparations required to be ready for the ritual on the final night. The vast majority of the story describes the interactions and discussions of these animals, all from Snuff's point of view.
Throughout the book, the Players slowly take sides (Opener or Closer), form alliances, make deals, oppose one another, and even kill off those who are part of the enemy camp. Events, slow-moving at first, accelerate until the night of October 31st, when the ritual takes place and the fate of the world is decided.
A similar theme of the conflict around the opening of a Gate to an older world (also with references to Lovecraft's work) can be seen in Zelazny's novel
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