Games Creatures Play - Charlaine Harris, Toni L.P. Kelner

Welcome to the wide world of paranormal pastimes, where striking out might strike you dead. Editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner are your announcers for this all-new story collection of the most peculiar plays ever made… Sports fans live and die by their teams’ successes and failures—though not literally. But these fourteen authors have written spirited—in more ways than one—new tales of killer competitions that would make even the most die-hard players ask to be benched. These supernatural sporting stories are guaranteed to have you rooting for the home team…or else…

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Edited by Charlaine Harris of Sookie Stackhouse series fame, along with co-editor Toni L.P. Kelner (they've previously collaborated on similar anthologies), these short stories are crafted by some of the biggest names in the supernatural / fantasy / sci-fi genres. Oh, and speaking of Sookie Stackhouse by the way, Harris includes a story featuring her into this mix.

 

Here, the stories are given a sports-themed twist just to keep things interesting. That's the concept anyway. After my reading experience, I came away feeling more like these were kind of like campfire stories... fun and mildly spooky in the moment but quickly forgettable once you're distanced from them. I also found the sports connection in many of the stories pretty loosely done. 

 

Each author gets a (usually comedic) bio blurb at the start of their story. I suspect each author wrote their own, but who knows. I'd say my favorite is the one for Mercedes Lackey, which opens with: "Mercedes Lackey was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 24, 1950. The very next day, the Korean War was declared. It is hoped that there is no connection between the two events."

 

Then there was the bio blurb of Adam-Troy Castro, the author of the Gustav Gloom series: "Adam-Troy Castro has historically brought the suck to any sport he has ever been coaxed into playing, but he has had a little bit more luck as a writer."

 

No surprise, my very favorite story in this collection was "Jammed" by Seanan McGuire, as she is one of my favorite authors and seeing her name on the cover was a primary reason for me purchasing the book in the first place. I can always count on her to come out with highly unique and wildly entertaining plots! I haven't yet gotten into the InCrytpid series, but I hear this story is supposed to fit into that world. 

 

In "Jammed", Antimony Price comes from a long line of monster hunters, but the Price family was supposed to be wiped out centuries ago. In this modern age she needs to keep a low profile, so she takes up the persona Annie Thompson, social worker / roller derby competitor (playing under the name Final Girl). At one of the roller derby meets, a girl from another team is murdered, her severed leg all that's left to identify. Looking at the leg, Antimony determines this was likely a non-human attacker. So, you can imagine that low-profile life is quickly eliminated as an option!

 

"I shove my phone into my pocket, shouting, 'Mom! I'm going to go fight a monster I can't identify yet!"

 

"Don't get decapitated, dear," she called back. 

 

I shook my head. "Parental oversight," I muttered, stepping outside. Sometimes it's hard to forget that I'm the youngest child in the family -- I came after the heir AND the spare, and my parents are happy if I make it through the day without setting anything on fire or dropping anyone who doesn't deserve it down a pit trap. Great for doing whatever I want without worrying about rules getting in my way, lousy if what I want is for my mother to realize that I'm running off to get myself killed and at least offer me an extra knife or something."

 

~ from "Jammed" by Seanan McGuire

 

The collection opens and closes with offerings from editors Harris & Kelner. It's a fun enough gathering of names in that you get to see them doing a little something different, creatively, with their craft, but most of these didn't leave me mindblown. I'd recommend solely off the Seanan McGuire story.