Shelf Control #169: A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

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Title: A Night in the Lonesome October
Author: Roger Zelazny
Published: 1993
Length: 288 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Loyally accompanying a mysterious knife-wielding gentleman named Jack on his midnight rounds through the murky streets of London, good dog Snuff is busy helping his master collect the grisly ingredients needed for an unearthly rite that will take place not long after the death of the moon. But Snuff and his master are not alone. All manner of participants, both human and not, are gathering with their ancient tools and their animal familiars in preparation for the dread night. It is brave, devoted Snuff who must calculate the patterns of the Game and keep track of the Players—the witch, the mad monk, the vengeful vicar, the Count who sleeps by day, the Good Doctor and the hulking Experiment Man he fashioned from human body parts, and a wild-card American named Larry Talbot—all the while keeping Things at bay and staying a leap ahead of the Great Detective, who knows quite a bit more than he lets on.

Boldly original and wildly entertaining, A Night in the Lonesome October is a darkly sparkling gem, an amalgam of horror, humor, mystery, and fantasy. First published in 1993, it was Zelazny’s last book prior to his untimely death. Many consider it the best of the fantasy master’s novels. It has inspired many fans to read it every year in October, a chapter a day, and served as inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s brilliant story “Only the End of the World Again.”

And further info from Wikipedia:

A Night in the Lonesome October is a novel by American writer Roger Zelazny published in 1993, near the end of his life. It was his last book, and one of his five personal favorites.

The book is divided in 32 chapters, each representing one “night” in the month of October (plus one “introductory” chapter). 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. The title is a line from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ulalume” and Zelazny thanks him as well as others – Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Bloch and Albert Payson Terhune – whose most famous characters appear in the book.

The story reveals 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 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.

How and when I got it:

I bought a used copy online a couple of years ago, after spending some time tracking down a copy.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve seen this book mentioned on all sorts of blogs and book lists over the years. I’ve read books 1 – 5 of Zelazny’s Amber books (loved them… one of these days, I need to read the rest!). I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, but now is not the time: I hear that the ideal reading approach is to read one chapter per night during the month of October, and I’m totally up for that! I’m so glad I just re-discovered this lurking on my bookshelf. Now I’m all set for a spooky Halloween read!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

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Flashback Friday REWIND: Nine Princes in Amber

ffbutton2Flashback Friday is a weekly tradition started here at Bookshelf Fantasies, focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. If you’d like to join in, just pick a book published at least five years ago, post your Flashback Friday pick on your blog, and let us all know about that special book from your reading past and why it matters to you. Don’t forget to link up!

I’ll be traveling for a few weeks during the month of June, so rather than skipping Flashback Friday,  I thought I’d dig back into my FF archives and revisit some of my very first flashback books.

Going way back for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Nine Princes In Amber by Roger Zelazny

(published 1970)

Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles simply astounded me when I first encountered them quite a while back (no, I will not disclose just how many decades ago that was or how old I was — suffice it to say that I was vibrant and youthful and wore clothes that my children would mock). These books were among my early forays into the world of science fiction and fantasy, an area of my reading history that was sorely lacking during my childhood and youth. I admit it now: I’d never read Narnia, had read The Hobbit but no other Tolkien (horrors! I’m ashamed of my younger self!), and had only recently been introduced to Dune. And then I met Amber, and it rocked my world.

From Goodreads:

Amber, the one real world, wherein all others, including our own Earth, are but Shadows. Amber burns in Corwin’s blood. Exiled on Shadow Earth for centuries, the prince is about to return to Amber to make a mad and desperate rush upon the throne. From Arden to the blood-slippery Stairway into the Sea, the air is electrified with the powers of Eric, Random, Bleys, Caine, and all the princes of Amber whom Corwin must overcome. Yet, his savage path is blocked and guarded by eerie structures beyond imaging impossible realities forged by demonic assassins and staggering horrors to challenge the might of Corwin’s superhuman fury.

I barely remember the details, but I do know that I loved this book and the ones that followed. The Amber Chronicles consist of ten books in all, although I believe I only made it through 6 or 7 of them. (Hey, it was the 80s — I was busy!). Still, I know I fell in love with the concept of the shadow worlds, the battle for the throne, and the labyrinth-like Pattern that the royal family members must walk in order to gain access to other worlds. It was epic and dramatic high fantasy, and I’d never encountered anything quite like it before.

Last year at a book sale, I picked up an all-in-one volume of the entire Amber Chronicles, and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since. Maybe it’s time to dust it off and give it a whirl. It’s entirely possible that it will feel incredibly dated at this point — but somehow, I have a feeling that I’ll be drawn into Corwin’s story once again and won’t be able to let go until I reach the end.

If you’re a fan of today’s bestselling fantasy series, such as George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle, why not go back in time and give Amber a try?

 

Thanks for sticking with me for three weeks of FLASHBACK FRIDAY REWIND! As of next week, I’ll be back with fresh picks for Flashback Friday.

What flashback book is on your mind this week?

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