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Games Creatures Play
by Brandon Sanderson, Brendan DuBois, Caitlin Kittredge, Charlaine Harris, Dana Cameron, Ellen Kushner, Jan Burke, Joe R. Lansdale, Laura Lippman, Mercedes Lackey, Scott Sigler, Seanan McGuire, Toni L.P. Kelner, William Kent Krueger
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Death's Excellent Vacation, Must Love Hellhounds, Unnatural Issue, Corsets & Clockwork, Street Magic, "The River's Gift", Bite, Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar, Foundation, Demon Bound, Bone Gods, Intrigues, Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, Owlknight, Charmed Destinies, Night Life, Changes, Huntress, Beauty and the Werewolf, Mistborn: The Final Empire, Murder Most Medieval: Noble Tales of Ignoble Demises, The Iron Thorn, "The Curse of Four", The Nightmare Garden, Invasion, The Wild Side: Urban Fantasy with an Erotic Edge, Home Improvement: Undead Edition, The Well of Ascension, Home From the Sea, Dead Reckoning, Conspiracies, Bedlam's Edge, The Hero of Ages, An Apple for the Creature, Crown of Vengeance, Redoubt, Towers of Midnight, Harvest Moon, World Divided, Elemental Magic: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters, Devil's Business, A Memory of Light, Soul Trade, Mirrored Shard, Sacrifices, Steadfast, Dark Days, Black and White, Bastion, Dangerous Women, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Victories, Blood Red, Half-Off Ragnarok, The House of the Four Winds, Midway Relics and Dying Breeds, The Winter Long, Closer to Home, Born to Run, Wheels of Fire, When the Bough Breaks, Chrome Circle, Sparrow Hill Road, Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar, Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar, Arcanum 101, A Tangled Web, Winter Moon, After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse, Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar, Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters, No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar, From a High Tower, The InCryptid Prequels, Pocket Apocalypse, Black as Blood, Blocked, White as a Raven's Wing, The Ghosts of Bourbon Street, IM, "Good Girls Go to Heaven", Hunter, A Red Rose Chain, Closer to the Heart, The Alloy of Law, Silence, A Study in Sable, Shadows of Self, "Full of Briars", Elite, Reflections, Closer to the Chest, Once Broken Faith, "Dreams and Slumbers", Shadowed Souls, Chaos Choreography, The Bands of Mourning, Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar.
An anthology of 15 short stories revolving around the theme of games — and there’s some mighty fine stretching in here! There are also some mighty fine authors who are new to me in here as well. That TBR of my looks to be fallin’ over…aiyeeee…
“Bell, Book, and Candlepin” (Allaway Kith #2)
“Jammed” (Incryptid #2.3)
“False Knight on the Road” (SERRAted Edge #xx.5)
“In the Blue Hereafter” (Sookie Stackhouse #13.xx and Harper Connelly #xx.5)
Charlaine Harris‘ “In the Blue Hereafter” finds a confused Manfredo Bernardo set a task by his dead psychic grandmother to go to Bon Temps for a softball game. She never has told him outright what he’s expected to accomplish, so it’s a game of guess as Manfred tries to figure it out. A game that’s helped when he meets the enigmatic Sookie Stackhouse.
William Kent Krueger‘s “Hide and Seek” was nasty…just nasty as he leads you up the garden path with subtle hints about the truth behind the game of hide-and-seek. It’s a truth you don’t want to acknowledge with an ending that will horrify you.
Krueger left me in a bit of a limbo with that comment Cameron makes that’s almost as horrifying as the buyers at the end.
Jan Burke‘s “Stepping into the Dead Zone” is a tale about military kids and bullies and the rules of fitting into a new school. It’s practical advice mixed up with a confusing tale of changelings and children who go missing.
Joe R. Lansdale‘s “Dead on the Bones” is a sad Southern tale of betrayal and using the dead for amusement.
Caitlin Kittredge‘s “The Devil Went Down to Boston” makes me think of Dennis Lehane with his working class neighborhoods and tough-talkin’ characters. She starts with making me hate one character and then leaves me wondering if I should before she progresses on to the real baddie. For a short story, Kittredge packs a punch with an entire story. It’s got the feel of a start for a series, one I want to read, even if Kittredge does have a backward way of writing. I do feel as though there’s a loose thread in here what with Doyle’s hope and Ellie’s avoidance. And I do have to wonder what’s keeping Ellie in Boston.
Brendan DuBois‘ “On the Playing Fields of Blood” is a grim bargain the town of New Salem has made with a group of Native Americans. It’s a horror story of vengeance and should make you run any time you see a mist rise up and stretch its fingers out for you.
Dana Cameron‘s “The God’s Games” was an unexpected trip back in history to the Greek Olympics with a different take on werewolves, oracles, and gods. Cameron has some interesting limitations on her characters in this and a very contemporary feel for the action in this. I felt as though the events were real.
Scott Sigler‘s “The Case of the Haunted Safeway” will crack you up with its trashy family and its downhome philosophy as it confronts unexpected bigotry in this ghostly exorcism. I have got to put Sigler on my TBR! And hope he turns the Hunterson family into a series.
Ellen Kushner‘s “Prise de Fer” was most unexpected with this bout of fencing in a private school in France. I enjoyed all but the end, which was most unsatisfactory. Nothing was resolved. The entire short was nothing but a blip in Isabelle Blumberg’s life. I do, however, want to read more Kushner.
Brandon Sanderson‘s “Dreamer” will take you by the throat and make your heart hammer as the tension mounts and your fear almost takes over. It’s the ending that will kill ya. It made me so mad, I wanted to leap in and strangle someone. Sanderson was brilliant in this.
Mercedes Lackey‘s “False Knight on the Road” was a pip. A spine-chilling tale of temptation and back road racing as Billy Ray Johnson finally figures out what he’s done and the trouble he’s in. That ending was a pip and left me both relieved…and annoyed, although not at Lackey, lol.
Seanan McGuire‘s “Jammed” got my hopes raised as I finally got to read about the nasty, vicious Antimony Price. She’s not as bad as Verity or Alex made her out to be, although I did crack up at Antimony’s comment about roller derby jammin’ calming her down! This short is more about Antimony and her teammates working together to take down a supernatural murderer.
Adam-Troy Castro‘s “Hide and Shriek” is definitely the weirdest story. It’s the extremely bored Elder Gods with the most gawdawful names, habits, and appearances, and the extremes to which they’ll go that Castro delivers in a deadpan, offhand manner. The best of this story was the quirky professor at the end and his extremely practical responses to the pneumatic women’s attempts to entice him.
Laura Lippman‘s “Ice” is a sad tale of sibling abuse, lies, and drowning on Martin Luther King Day. It’s a folk tale that has made the rounds for years, and Mickey is about to discover how true it is.
Toni L.P. Kelner‘s “Bell, Book, and Candlepin” is another that I’m hoping is part of a series — or will be *hope, hope, hope??* It features a still-learning witch in college with her dead-end job that provides her own calm…hmmm, reminds me of Antimony and her roller derby…with a wall of sound. A fun read that’s reminded me that I’ve enjoyed past Kelner short stories, and it’s about time I started in on her full-length novels, dagnabbit!
The Cover and Title
The cover smacks you over the head with its bright greens in the sky, lightning zapping out to tap that dart tip the skeleton hand is holding in a battle between a hairy-clawed paw wielding a lacrosse stick versus a tentacle wrapped around a baseball bat, all sprouting up from a red and black checkerboard encasing the earth. The title is in a bright yellow between the arms above and a pair of dice below. Do ye fancy your luck in these games?
The title is a good one, for these are the Games Creatures Play — and I ain’t excludin’ the human creatures!