Henry Merriweather falls in love with a playing card; Dan and Evelyn cannot shuffle off this mortal coil until they finish the card game they began on their wedding night in 1928. Lady Farrimond plays cards with a stranger and forfeits her most treasured possession.
Two brothers cannot agree even on the rules of a simple game like noughts and crosses; rioting has become a national sport with fixtures, policing, and the whole media circus; even Scrabble has become a dangerous game when the tiles spell out MURDER.
I’m no expert in the sub-genres of speculative fiction, but these cover a wide range from humour to horror, from near-mythic fantasy to deeply dystopian science-fiction, with several stories in what I’d class as slipstream. Although set in, or touching on, some parallel universe, several had me thinking days and weeks after reading of their implications for the game of life.
Life as a game becomes an addiction; a cruel children’s game brings about a death. The real and virtual collide in the forest where geometry meets set theory; where the town planners become absorbed in a town-planning computer game; and the deals struck in another office promote some players to the lofty heights of Permanent Management and others to the dole queue.
My only gripe is that a couple of stories contained incorrect punctuation, especially regarding full stops, commas and capitalisation or otherwise inside and outside reported speech. I found this distracting and, despite the otherwise attractive presentation in terms of cover, paper and font, it looked as if the editor/publisher had, to use a game analogy, taken his eye off the ball. But, apart from that, this is an excellent debut from Boo Books, and I look forward to seeing what they’ll come up with next.
As an aside, I was interested to find the male-female ratio of contributors to this collection was radically different to the predominantly female authorship of the last collection I reviewed here. I hate to stereotype by gender, but I wondered if this theme were generally more attractive to men than to women. Had I seen the request for submissions, I doubt I’d have had anything to put forward of my own. Now, witnessing how creatively these writers have played with the topic, I hope it’s expanded my own ideas about what fiction can achieve. It might already have influenced my recent country-house flash with its parallels to the board game, Cluedo.
Do you enjoy wacky stories? What’s the strangest idea you’ve come across yourself?
If you’d like to read more posts like this, see the sidebar to subscribe by email.