Roger Zelazny

 

A Night in the Lonesome October

 

Another famous name I hadn’t got around to. It’s been good to have the discipline of working through dual Hugo/Nebula winners – on the basis of this book I’ll be back for more.

 

Very pleasant, enjoyable fare. Much is in the nature of an amicable tribute to acknowledged writers like Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Conan Doyle et. al. And while he happily borrows characters from these authors, there’s a lovely brief detour into the style of H. P. Lovecraft midway. Tributes are a dangerous pursuits and usually result in disappointing comparisons, but it’s skilled books like that explain why people try.

 

The opening sentences: “I am a watchdog. My name is Snuff,” might put a few readers off, but I was pleased when I realised the canine narrator wasn’t just a novel idea for a prologue. Zelazny lets adults enjoy the charm of talking animals, although now I think of it this book could probably be enjoyed by kids and then enjoyed again at another level ten or twenty years later. Snuff is a wonderful image of a fully dog/fully intelligent character. Zelazny admirably just drops hints here and there to develop Snuff’s back story and personality rather than bluntly dropping it on us.


While dealing with potentially macabre subjects, the mood is kept light – here Zelazny is not out to scare us, but to let us enjoy these classic supernatural settings and characters. There’s charm, but when occasionally pushed the characters are also substantial.

 

The mood, the voice, reminds me of a couple of books I’ve come across recently, Wolfe’s ‘The Knight’ (ostensibly from a boy’s perspective) and Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’. Is it just that they’re a welcome exception to the almost mandatory seediness of so many books?

 

September 2007