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by Conrad Williams

(Earthling Publications, $14/$150, 80 pages, paperback/lettered slipcased hardcover.)

Review by Gary Couzens

Fi and Rache have been ordered by Bas cover scanEachus, a North London gangster, to kill three designated people in twenty-four hours. Or he will drain the blood from their friend Liam's body pint by pint. Meanwhile, Ness has arrived in London, in search of her lover Oban (named after the Scottish seaside town where they met). Ness is an "arrester", possessed of the rare ability to see images from the future, a gift that pays its price in pain ...

Game is a novella that takes the material of very hardboiled crime fiction and adds a horror/dark fantasy twist. It's told from a number of viewpoints, with two main plotlines converging towards the end, a fragmentary structure that invites the reader to piece the plot together. It's a story diamond-hard in tone, studded with imagery that will stay in your mind whether you like it or not, evoking a brutal world where evil flourishes and the innocent are liable to die horribly. Williams also shows a strong sense of London at different times of the day and night.

There are plenty of good things in this novella which make it worth your time. However, I'm not convinced that it entirely works. The plot comes apart in the final stages, as the two plotlines converge by means of a coincidence, leading to a final twist which simply didn't ring true for me.

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