Completed 2/2/2015, Reviewed 2/18/2015
My track record for Zelazny is not looking too good. This is the third novel I’ve read by him that I felt was so-so. I think I’m not reading the right books. This one has an interesting premise. Something is going to happen this Halloween, something that only happens when it falls on a full moon. A group of people are preparing for a “game” that night. These players are all notorious in some way in history or literature: a witch, a druid, Sherlock Holmes, Rasputin, Dracula. They seem to be dividing into two teams, the good guys and the bad guys. Each player has a familiar, an animal who helps them with their preparatory tasks. The story is narrated in diary form by one of the familiars, Snuff, a dog who recounts the events that end in a battle of Lovecraftian proportions.
Unfortunately, the book never quite came together for me. I think the biggest problem was the slow buildup. There are thirty-one chapters, one for each day in October, and the game isn’t revealed until October 26th. Everything before that is a confusing string of events as perceived by Snuff. Though there were some amusing moments, it generally dragged. And Snuff is cute, but I could not get into his character. All the supporting animals had interesting little encounters with Snuff, but they left me cold as well.
Only knowing a little about the Cthulu mythos of Lovecraft from movie references rather than from his actual literature, I found the actual horror to be the most intriguing and exciting parts of the book. You get a taste of it early in the book when Snuff must keep a watch on some terrifying creatures imprisoned in Jack’s house, and it goes into full throttle at the end. There’s just no tension to keep you interested in between.
I felt that Zelazny couldn’t decide what kind of book he wanted to write: satire, comedy, or horror; or worse yet, he made an unsuccessful attempt at bringing all three together.
I read this book for my SF book club. The discussion in the group really helped me understand it and actually appreciate Zelazny’s attempt. However, it still didn’t bump me up into feeling like I really enjoyed the book. The book has a large cult following, with its fans annually reading it a chapter a day in October. Between the book club discussion and the knowledge of the fan base, I feel I need to give this book a second chance. I plan to reread it like a fan, making it my Halloween literary event. If I decide I really like the book after that, I’ll rewrite this review. For now, I’ll settle with giving it two stars out of five.