Monday, March 08, 2010

Game - Conrad Williams

buy - author site

(There was a magnificent sleight of hand involving pigs early in the story. Petite Porker still doesn't get it, and needs to get out of the damn photo.)

I was wretchedly directionless and restless yesterday, and the Wise and Sensible Deb Biancotti told me to: Read a book. Let someone else's world right yours. That's what I do.

So, yeah, I went and picked up my last Conrad Williams book.

Sometimes, the mind can be soothed by feeding it love, warmth, hope and delight.

But when that fails, giving it something a hell of a lot more fucked up than it will ever be can do the trick too.

Game is a short sharp novella that, after the punch-you-in-the-face-kick-you-in-the-gut END OF THE DAMN WORLD horror and despair of the last few novels and novellas of his I have read, is a subtle and restrained creature, all the more sinister because of it.

Bas Eachus is exacting a little revenge that is far beyond what the perceived crimes against him call for. His grand scheme (and as far as revenge goes, it is a fine one) sees Rache and Fi, two of his chosen targets, forced to tear around from one place to another hunting out Bas's other targets and doing his wetwork for him to a specific timetable, as if they fail Bas will drain another pint of blood from Liam. Add into this Ness, a woman who suffers from premonitions more than most fictional characters with premonitions suffer, and what you have is a brilliant and grueling little story.

The characters are marvelously drawn; it's desperation that drives this narrative, and while the dictionary definition of desperation is uniform, how it manifests and shapes the individual it is consuming is a varied and nuanced thing. Each of these characters is driven to such lengths by their desperation, resorting to such means and consciously the future consequences, because here and now there is work to be done and only one goal to be achieved, anything else being a distraction - they haul the story along at an incredible pace, to a conclusion that I truly did not see coming and crowed with satisfaction when it came.

It was also excellent to be served a plate of characters with different vital statistics. Just chance has seen the last few of Williams's story consumed to be centred on the same character structure; the family unit of father, mother and son, with the father as point of focus. Great to witness Williams flaunt is ability to nail university students with lousy boyfriends, sappy sad romantic psychics and criminal entrepreneurs who are perhaps past their prime but not quite ready to fully admit that.

The prose didn't linger as lovingly on the gore, now I think on it. There was opportunity to do so, but in this case there were more important things to be done. The horror being evoked in the reader did not stem from the visual image of the deeds done, but the emotional and spiritual destruction that came from doing the deeds themselves. Quite to my tastes.

Verdict: The Source of Awesome. Damn fine, I say, damn fine. I know Williams has a crime book coming out soon, and the way this story unfolded it had more than a little of a crime bouquet about it. If it be anything like this saucy little darling, cannot wait to get my paws on it.


  1. Now I totally want to read that book!

  2. It's an excellent nasty little thing, totally worth it. Unfortunately, probably exceptionally hard to find without ordering it from the publishers. I lucked out and found it at Borderlands when I was there.