A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way puns. Several somethings, actually, in Roger Zelazny’s seasonal romp, A Night in the Lonesome October. Those things are not to be confused with the Things in the Mirror, the Thing in the Circle, the Thing in the Wardrobe, the Thing in the Steamer Trunk, or the Thing in the Attic; all of those are kept in place by faithful watchdog and narrator Snuff. He serves his master, Jack, even as they skulk about foggy London streets, evading both the regular police and the Great Detective. (He’s the one in the deerstalker hat, holding a dramatic pipe and observing very closely.)

Their tasks in London mostly done, Snuff and Jack relocate to the countryside, for this is a year when the full moon falls on Halloween and a Game for very high stakes is about to begin. Possible players include the Count, a Russian monk, a witch, a druid, and more, all with their animal familiars. Some will act together when the stars are right to open a gate and bring the Elder Gods back into the world; others will band together to try to slam the gate shut. Until the last night, though, no one is sure who is on which side. They spy, steal, thrust and feint, trying to gain advantage before the big night comes.

Zelazny relates it all with aplomb, never giving too much away too soon, and never taking the end of the world too terribly seriously.

Made the circuits. The Thing in the Circle changed shapes, finally making itself look like a lady dog of attractive person and very friendly disposition. But I was not fooled into breaking the Circle. It didn’t have the smell part down yet.
“Nice try,” I told it.
“You’ll get yours, mutt,” it said.
I walked past the various mirrors. The Things locked in them gibbered and writhed. I showed them my teeth and they writhed away.
The Thing in the Steamer Trunk pounded on the sides and hissed and sputtered when it became aware of my sniffing about. I snarled. It hissed again. I growled. It shut up. (p. 5)

Snuff makes friends with the witch’s cat, although he suspects they are working for the other side. They discuss what a sneaking rat, Bubo, might have seen at Snuff and Jack’s residence.

“But I heard him come in, and I know just where he was. All he got to see was the Things in the Mirror.” [Snuff is speaking]
“Things in the Mirror?” [asks the cat, Graymalk]
“Yes. Don’t you have any?”
“Afraid not. What do they do?”
“Come on. I’ll show you.”
“You sure it’s all right?”
Later, she placed a paw against its reflection as she stared.
“You’re right,” she said. “They—slither.”
“Change colors, too, when they get excited.” (pp. 49–50)

There are twists and turns, and moons to howl at. Players attack, traps are laid, plans made. Soon all is ready for the Game’s final moves.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2016/10/11/a-night-in-the-lonesome-october-by-roger-zelazny/

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