Games Creatures Play Review
Games Creatures Play is the latest in a series of anthologies from the Hothouse’s friends at Jo Fletcher Books. Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner, two of the biggest names in young adult Paranormal Fiction, each edition in the series takes a theme and builds a collection of spooky tales around it. In the case of Games Creatures Play the theme is sports and games and thankfully it’s a pretty loose one otherwise little old coach potato me would be completely at sea.
Like in any anthology there are some really great stories and then some that I personally found a little less engaging, however there are no real clunkers. Top of the pile would have to be Dead on the Bones by Joe R Lansdale, a Depression era slice of Southern Gothic where the local hardman scraps with the spirits of dead celebrity boxers enticed into bodies retrieved from the cemetery by a Voodoo Conjure Man. Vividly imagined with a side order of revenge it’s a very satisfying tale.
Other honourable efforts are Caitlin Kittredge’s The Devil Went Down to Boston featuring a game of chance with Old Nick himself; a ghostly fencing lesson in Prise de Fer by Ellen Kushner and a road race between a Moonshiner in an all American muscle car and a stranger dressed in black driving something low slung and European in False Knight on the Road by the appropriately named Mercedes Lackey.
Of the pair of Buffy-inspired monster hunter stories, Scott Siegler’s The Case of the Haunted Safeway, where gun toting redneck Hunter Hunterson and family take on a pair of spectral baseball players causing havoc in the local supermarket, suited me best with its clever irony. Seanan McGuire’s Jammed, where the human Antimony Price teams up with the paranormals on her Roller Derby team to take down a rogue chimera, involved a sport I know nothing about and rather too many good monsters.
Paradoxically, I thought the weakest stories in the collection were the very ones that will probably draw in the most punters. Toni L.P. Kelner’s Bell Book and Candlepin and In the Blue Hereafter by Charlaine Harris, both hail from that stream of horror writing that seeks to normalise the supernatural into the mundane world of us normal mortals. Kelner’s tale involves a witch and a werewolf dealing with a curse at the bowling ally where they both hold down dead-end jobs, while Harris kicks off the collection with a Sookie Stackhouse and Manfred Bernardo story involving softball.
This was my first encounter with the world of Sookie Stackhouse, who apparently has ‘bodacious’ breasts (does anyone really use that word outside of Bill and Ted?) as well as her well-documented psychic attributes. While competently written In the Blue Hereafter struck me more as an extract designed to be used as a component in another work rather than a standalone story in its own right. I really do have to put my hand up here and say that while I found the society of monsters living within human society in Buffy quite amusing and fresh (except for Angel, who was a goody goody bore), for me Harris and Kelner have tripped too far over the mark from horror into soap, but then I am a 55 years old!
Still Games Creatures Play contains some real spine tingling gems I give it a 555.
Games Creatures Play was published by Jo Fletcher Books on 1 April price £14.99.
If you enjoy Games Creatures Play you will also like the following collections from Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner from Jo Fletcher Books.
Home Improvement: If anything is going to put you off DIY this collection of gruesome and funny short stories should.
An Apple For the Creature: It’s a lie that School Days are the best days of your life.
Review by Simon Ball
Connect with Simon: @RealShipsCook or here.