Roger Zelazny- a favorite author of mine for his ‘Amber’ series and ‘Lord of Light’- has written a marvelous romp of a horror story. The large cast of characters includes figures from horror stories, Victorian mysteries, and vintage monster movies. You figure out who these folks are as you go along; a couple I never figured out. Apparently there is a large site on the web where people have discussed all this!
Written from the POV of Snuff the dog, who is really the familiar of Jack; the tale has 31 chapters, one for each day of October. The characters have a countdown; on the 31 is a full moon, and a great magical working will take place. Some characters are Openers, who seek to open a portal for the Elder Gods to enter the world. Some, like Jack, are Closers, who seek to keep them out. Each has an animal familiar- Graymalk the cat, Bubo the rat, and so on.
Snuff is not just a guard dog; he’s a worker of magical mathematics. He seeks to find out where exactly the battle must take place; to figure it, he must know how many individuals will be there and whether they are Openers or Closers. He talks with the other familiars to see what they have seen and heard. And he tries to figure out who is murdering some of the contenders… killings that have not taken place before on any of the previous events.
Until the very end, the story takes its time, then it happens in a rush. In the beginning, there was a point where I was thinking “Where is this all going?!?” and then it started to make sense. It’s witty along with creepy and I really enjoyed it. The illustrations by Gahan Wilson (a rather morbid cartoonist) are nice, and I really love the cover illustration (not by Wilson) that shows most of the main characters. I heartily recommend this for reading in October to get in the Halloween mood!