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Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October Tom Send a noteboard - 30/03/2010 03:16:15 PM
I decided to read this book because I read about it online and the premise seemed fun and interesting. It was also apparently the last book published by Zelazny before his death.

What I found was a book that took me back to middle school. It wasn't just the fonts, which were big. It wasn't just the words, which were small and simple. It wasn't just the fact that the whole book can be read in about two or three hours, depending on your reading speed. It wasn't just the illustrations, which sort of looked like what Ralph Steadman might have drawn if he were illustrating kiddie books.

I think that it was the tone and content that made the book feel childish in an early adolescent way. Talking animal familiars are one thing, but when they're the talking animal familiars of Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Rasputin and a witch, it's a bit more fanciful. It's fanciful in that silly way that The Monster Squad was (a movie that unfortunately left an indelible stain on my adolescent memories).

I did like the book. I'm not trying to dismiss it or denigrate it. Well, perhaps I'm being intentionally dismissive to a degree. But that's not the point. The point is that I did enjoy the book, though I do think it's young adult reading at best.

The premise is that powerful magicians gather every October when there is to be a full moon on Halloween in anticipation of the opening of a gateway that would allow the Elder Gods to return to Earth (Zelazny seems to be confused about the distinction, often fuzzy, in the Cthulhu mythos between "Old Ones" and "Elder Gods" because I think he really means that the Old Ones will return). It is directly Cthulhu-inspired, uses the name "Cthulhu" and "Nyarlathotep" in several spots and talks about the Dreamworld of Lovecraft. There are two groups - the "Openers", who want to open the gateway fully and help the Elder Gods return - and the "Closers", who want to close the gateway and keep them away. Obviously, the Closers have won every time in the past. The book takes place circa 1900, and so the characters include Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Rasputin, Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and other recognizable characters of fiction or history.

The premise sounds fun and enjoyable, and (for better or worse) the book that results is Cthulhu-esque in that silly way that reminds me of sixth grade, when I had bought a copy of a book purporting to be the Necronomicon and liked to scare impressionable kids by secretly drawing pentacles and seals in their books in red ink and then surreptitiously slipping them back under their desks.

Okay, so maybe not everyone used the occult to scare and taunt their fellow-students. Maybe you didn't have the complete Time-Life Mysteries of the Unknown series and hadn't read about Blavatsky and Crowley and the Yeti's secret compact with Uri Geller to bend all the spoons in China at one time as a protest against their takeover of Tibet (and, by extension, Shangri-La, though we all know that Shangri-La is a Western invention that corrupts the immutable legend of Shambhala). The point is that I did read that sort of stuff when I was in sixth grade and I enjoyed it. I seem to remember that I also enjoyed taking my friends Evan and Jeff through Modules I3-I5, The Desert of Desolation. Evan's cavalier didn't do so well in the desert, though. That was sad.

But I digress. I was talking about the book. The Zelazny book that I read, that is, not the Necronomicon or Desert of Desolation, though strictly speaking modules don't quite count as books (they're more game props or something like that). The Zelazny book was fun. It was childish and it does have really big fonts and really simple words. Some of that may be due to the fact that the book is written from a dog's perspective, but it really is just a simple book.

It's fun, light reading. It's probably young adult reading in all fairness, though I didn't see that indicated anywhere on the cover.

The summary is this: if you were like me when you were in sixth grade you may enjoy the book for its nostalgia value as well as its fun, light story. Also, if you see the Elder Sign drawn at the front of your copy of Possession by A.S. Byatt after I've visited, you'll know who did it.
Political correctness is the pettiest form of casuistry.

ἡ δὲ κἀκ τριῶν τρυπημάτων ἐργαζομένη ἐνεκάλει τῇ φύσει, δυσφορουμένη, ὅτι δὴ μὴ καὶ τοὺς τιτθοὺς αὐτῇ εὐρύτερον ἢ νῦν εἰσι τρυπώη, ὅπως καὶ ἄλλην ἐνταῦθα μίξιν ἐπιτεχνᾶσθαι δυνατὴ εἴη. – Procopius

Ummaka qinnassa nīk!

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This message last edited by Tom on 30/03/2010 at 04:46:03 PM
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Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October - 30/03/2010 03:16:15 PM 3315 Views
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