A Night in the Lonesome October

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A Night in the Lonesome October (1993) is one of Roger Zelazny's last novels.

In an October in the late 19th century, a small English village finds itself host to an eclectic group of visitors. They are players in the Game, and on the final night of the month they will declare their allegiances and take sides in a contest that will determine the future of the world. Until then, there are mystic artifacts to locate, rituals to complete, potential allies to court or enemies to incapacitate (cautiously - for appearances can deceive, and a person whose allegiance seems obvious may be working for the other side, or may indeed not be a Player at all). Not to mention complications to deal with, including a mysterious American with an interest in botany, a famous detective with his suspicions roused, and a Player aiming to grab power through methods even his (or her?) allies might balk at...

Tropes used in A Night in the Lonesome October include:
  • Animal Talk: All the animals (including the non-magical ones) can speak to each other in what seems to be the same language.
  • And Call Him George: The "experiment man", although they manage to explain that Kitty would like to be put down now, please, before he does the kitty any permanent harm.
  • As The Bad Book Says: The cultists' sermon is an apocalyptic inversion of the Bible's Song of Solomon.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: It's rather obvious that Jack is that Jack, but he's also a Player and there's a wild rumor among magic-users that he's immortal Cain himself. There are also others, including Rasputin the Mad Monk.
  • The Bet: Zelazny wrote this one because someone bet him that he couldn't get readers to root for Jack the Ripper. He won.
  • Cats Are Mean: completely averted.
  • Canine Companion: Snuff
  • City of Gold: In the Dreamlands, even the trash cans are made of semiprecious stone and fine ceramics.
  • Connect the Deaths: It's not murder sites, but a very similar idea, with the characters having to identify a set of mystically-significant locations and then figure out, from the pattern they make, the place where the showdown with the villains will take place.
  • Cthulhu Mythos
  • Dynamic Entry: The Count has a beautiful one.
  • Evil Albino: The main villain has an albino raven as a familiar.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once: The gate may or may not close again, but with Nyarlathotep and his pals on this side, it wouldn't matter much.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: The Count is happily evil. He's also a rich man who can sit in his little castle by day and drink blood by night pretty much indefinitely, so... he would want to have Cthulhu and Co. crash the party and stomp all over his begonias exactly why?
  • Eye of Newt: Features a variety of unusual spell ingredients; at one point the narrator remarks that "Magical rotas sometimes strike me as instructions for lunatic scavenger hunts." Which is half of what the Players do, of course.
  • Familiar: About half the characters. Including the narrator: Snuff, Jack's dog.
  • Female Feline, Male Mutt: Graymalkin and Snuff
  • Friendly Enemy: the players to each other in general; Snuff and Gray (and their respective masters) in particular.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: When Jack is under his curse, "that funny light came into his eyes".
  • Gory Discretion Shot: There's not much of narration about Jack actually working with his knife, though the end result is made very clear.
  • Grave Robbing: With morbid relish.
  • Heel Face Turn: Jill the witch, at the end of the book.

Snuff: Jack and Jill went down the hill. Gray and I ran after.

  • Heroic Sacrifice
  • In Vino Veritas: Quicklime (?) gets Needle drunk to extract information from him.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: The Public Domain Character / Historical Domain Character version.
  • Mistaken for Badass: One of the characters everyone else assumes is a Player turns out to be, if not exactly an innocent bystander, in town on unrelated business and unaware of the Game.
  • Mugging the Monster: Trying to show "how to cut" on the man whose curse is materialized in the form of a big knife may not be very healthy. Just a thought.
  • Noodle Incident: A previous Game apparently got Snuff into a scuffle with voodoo zombies.
  • Orifice Evacuation / Orifice Invasion: Quicklime the snake lives part-time in Rastov's stomach, entering and exiting via his master's mouth. Subverted in that they're both apparently okay with this (!).
    • Examined with a touch of realism. Quicklime isn't in too great shape after Rastov went on a drinking binge...
  • Shadow Pin: Owen binds Cheeter to be his familar by nailing his shadow to the wall with silver pins.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: The Thing in the Circle, one of various eldritch Things that Jack and Snuff are set to guard over, tries this on Snuff without success. Apparently it never quite gets the smell right.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal: Played with. Bubo attempts one of these, switching the key MacGuffins so that when the Openers attempt to open the gate they'll actually be closing it. He didn't count on the Closers gaining the upper hand, and they nearly open the gate, attempting to close it, before he explains what he's done.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: October 1 through October 31.
  • Wicked Stepfather: Lynette's stepfather is a priest of Nyarlathotep, and plans to sacrifice his stepdaughter to acquire supernatural power.
  • Villain Protagonist: He doesn't act like one, but the reader is rooting for Jack the Ripper to save the world. In a different sense, much of the book is spent trying to figure out who is on which side, and there are some surprises before the end. Someone the reader thinks is a hero may turn out to be a villain or vice versa.
    • For that matter, all named Closers are more or less traditional antagonists.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Lynette is intended as one, but is rescued by the Great Detective, with the assistance of Snuff and Larry.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: The familiars can only speak with their human masters between 12 and 1 at night.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Not only humans. Familiars tell normal critters to stay the hell away and some are outraged when mundane animals - who were actually called "civilians" - catch fallout from the Game, such as crossbow bolts.