Posts Tagged ‘Charlaine Harris’

GAMES CREATURES PLAY edited by Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner

October 12, 2016 - 7:07 pm No Comments

51jpgbnjiyl-_sx329_bo1204203200_ GAMES CREATURES PLAY edited by Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner. Jo Fletcher Books, London, UK. £14.99 trade paperback. 356 pages. ISBN: 978-1-78087-260-5
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Themed anthologies continue to challenge authors into tailoring a story to fit the criteria imposed by the editor or publisher, and it can be a challenge. In an anthology with an open submissions policy this can provide a wide variety of stories to choose from and often the results are stunning. Sometimes, the editors will offer specific invitations to authors to contribute. In the case of Games Creatures Play, I suspect the latter. Whichever, isn’t important – the quality of the contents is and here the standard is high, many of the contributors having won or been nominated for various awards. An added criterion for all these stories is that they must not only involve a game but also have supernatural beings playing them. This doesn’t mean that the stories are horror, although there are frequently horrific events portrayed. The vogue for urban fantasy has created many novels and stories that involve vampire, werewolves, fairies, zombies and similar, not all of which want to devour humans.
Here, may be found stories which link into other works by the same authors. This is certainly true with the opening story, ‘In The Blue Hereafter’ by Charlaine Harris. Two characters, from separate series – Sookie Stackhouse and Manfred Bernardi – meet at a softball game. Though not a fan, Manfred has gone because his late grandmother has sent him. He doesn’t know why but suspects it’s a test and he has to somehow work it out. Sookie is a spectator that he gets chatting to. Readers may find other characters they are familiar with in some other the other pieces but not all.
Of all the games possible, only a few can be featured in a book containing fifteen stories and only one occurs twice. ‘Hide And Seek’ by William Kent Krueger involves a cruel game by the owners of a foster home. The children having to hide in the grounds and if caught meet a horrific end. This is part nightmarish horror and partly a ghost story. ‘Hide And Shriek’ by Adam-Troy Castro goes in a totally different direction and has a Lovecraftian theme with Cthulhu like beings playing the game, with mortals having to solve the riddles and find them.
In the stories that work best, the game is very central to the plot. ‘Dead on The Bones’ by Joe R. Lansdale is one of these. The narrator’s Uncle Johnny considers himself the best prize fighter in the country. One a year, the Conjure Man comes and reanimates a corpse with the spirit of one of the great boxers of the past for Uncle Johnny to fight. On this occasion he doesn’t expect the narrator to intervene and call back the spirit of his father, a man Johnny murdered. In contrast, ‘Stepping Into The Dead Zone’ by Jan Burke has dodgeball as the game but though it is a strong feature of the story, it could have easily been substituted by any other popular team sport.
Games are not always played fairly. The Devil is likely to cheat, so the only way to beat him is to do the same. In Caitlin Kittredge’s ‘The Devil Went Down To Boston’ Ellie challenges the Devil to games of skill. Other games featured in the stories include ice skating, road racing, baseball and lacrosse.
One story I do have an issue with. ‘The God’s Games’ by Dana Cameron is set in an ancient Greece where there are werewolves. It is a well told story set against the background of the Olympic Games. All women were not banned from watching events, only married women, Unmarried girls were encouraged to watch the naked wrestling so that they had an idea of what they were getting once they did marry.
There will be stories in this volume that will appeal to any reader of the supernatural. It is a shame that all the authors included only those from North America. There are also talented supernatural writers in Britain, Europe and Australia.