[For the October 20th highlight, click here.]
One of the lengthiest section’s of Zelazny’s novel to date, October 21st offers plenty in terms of incident and revelation. For instance, Vicar Roberts is discovered to be keeping his thirteen-year-old stepdaughter Lynette imprisoned in the vicarage, presumably intending to utilize the girl as a Halloween night sacrifice. The stake-impaled body of the Count is also found, in a cemetery grave that apparently wasn’t as a secret a resting place as he had hoped. As usual, all the intrigue leading up to Game night is filtered through the perspective of the players’ animal familiars–their investigations and conversations with one another. Snuff and Quicklime know where to find the Count’s latest grave because of some cunning efforts on the snake’s part. Quciklime recounts an encounter with Needle the night before. Hanging in wait at a plum tree he knows the bat frequents, Quicklime works to convince Needle to sample some of the fallen fruit: “Those over yonder on the ground are far better than those which hang yet upon the limbs.” Needle proceeds to suck on the fermented plums, becomes intoxicated and thus much more easily coaxed into betraying key details (such as where the Count has holed up). There’s a diabolical hint to this business of fruit-tree-centered temptation, but Quicklime’s interpolated tale reads like a clever variation on a beast fable. This latest example of familiar wiliness is the shining highlight of Zelazny’s illuminative chapter.