[For the October 22nd highlight, click here.]
Another lengthy chapter, and one that pairs nicely with its predecessor, as the ancient cat’s prophecies to Snuff in the Dreamworld quickly bear out. The predicted loss of a friend occurs after Rastov is found hung (a murder by Vicar Roberts that is made to look like a suicide), and Rastov’s familiar Quicklime decides to retire from the Game (and go live in the woods). Later, after Snuff has a violent run-in with Roberts, the vicar has him dognapped and sold off to a trio of London vivisectionists. Unfortunately for the animal mutilators, Snuff’s master Jack is a man possessed when he comes to rescue his faithful companion, and the carnage that Jack creates at chapter’s end when he rips through the vivisectionists provides the “seas and messes” of blood “all around” that the ancient cat foretold to Snuff. But my chosen highlight for the October 23nd section of Zelazny’s novel is actually drawn from the very beginning of the chapter. Heading outside first thing that morning, Snuff discovers a potential red flag: “A black feather lay near our front door. Could be one of Nightwind’s. Could be openers on a nasty spell. Could just be a stray feather. I carried it across the road to the field and pissed on it.” Snuff is so eloquent and witty, it’s easy to forget sometimes that the intelligence of this crafty familiar is contained in a dog’s body. Here, though, his recounting of his recourse to a basic canine function furnishes a wonderful contrast between the cerebral and the physical. Snuff’s urination appears to be a practical act that washes away any magic possibly attached to the feather, but his debasing gesture also serves as quite a carnivalesque flourish.