(2013) Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner (editors), Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, 336pp, ISBN 978-1-78-0-87259-9
Hot on the heels, or make that the crumbling soles of Home Improvement: Undead Edition edited by Harris and Kelner, comes An Apple for the Creature, with the subtitle of All-New Tales of Unnatural Education, and a cover showing a pretty dark-haired goth-girl looking alluringly out at you, the reader, while the top half of the cover is dominated by a picture of a full moon to which a wolf is howling. Behind the goth girl is the side of a building Ė a school building, obviously, and a door, not a main door, more a fire exit door, an emergency exit door and there seems to have been some sort of emergency given the splatters of blood around it and on the steps leading up to it.
Cue 13 tales of educational otherness from 13 writers and I have to confess that apart from Harris herself, and the likes of Ilona Andrews, Amber Benson, (Mighty) Mike Carey, Nancy Holder and Jonathan Maberry, the rest were unfamiliar to me, and while I say 'educational otherness', donít think these stories are all about schools, some are set in colleges as well, inside a prison and on the 'odd' field trip.
The first story and one of the 'biggies' is a new Sookie Stackhouse story penned by Harris concerning the lead character from her 'Dead' novels which have been turned into the television series True Blood. So in 'Elementary School', Sookie visits her 'nephew' (the son of a friend who calls her 'Auntie') at his kindergarten class when the boyfriend of the school secretary turns up with a gun.
Action thriller writer, and YA powerhouse, Maberry follows next with a story called 'Spellcaster 2.0' concerns the search for the perfect spell from which all other spells are derived. Following that we have Donald Harstadís 'Academy Field Trip' which is about involving unusual crimes, and to say more would invoke spoilers, but a great story and a great ending. Marjorie M. Liu is the author of the 'Hunter Kiss' series and in 'Sympathy for the Bones' we get a tale of revenge by a pupil on her evil mentor. School can be hell, and it is for Amy Weinstein, the lead character in Rhys Bowenís story 'Low School'.
Not all the stories are stand-alone affairs, and Amber Bensonís 'Callie Meet Happy' is a short story based on her 'Calliope Reaper-Jones' series where Callie has to master the summoning of a wormhole so she go anywhere in the world, a much-needed skill when you are President of Death Incorporated. Best to say this one is for a fan of the series.
One of the stand-out stories is a touching and thought-provoking post apocalyptical tale from Mike Carey called 'Iphigenia in Aulis' set in a prison on a West Coast army base where the surviving humans hold out against the Hungries who have decimated most of America and probably the world.
Another spin-off tale from a major series is 'Golden Delicious' by Faith Hunter, riffing off her own 'Skinwalker' series by telling the story of a detective bitten by a were-jaguar (I kid you not) and is now trying to get into the PsyLED Spook School which is a very specialised part of Homeland Security. Think Ed McBain meets shapeshifters!
'Magic Test' by Ilona Andrews is another series spin-off story, concerning a missing student at a magic academy. More unusual is 'An Introduction to Jewish Myth and Mysticism' which on one-level does what it says on the tin, but not as you would expect it and is probably one of the best stories in the book. Next comes 'VSI' by Nancy Holder which stands for the newly formed FBI unit 'Vampire Scene Investigations', expect this to grow into a series. One of the most unusual story locations is a dog obedience class which features in 'The Bad Hour', which Ė sigh Ėis another series spin-off involving a mind-talking dog - very handy in investigating a case involving dodgy dealings at a dog class. And finally, from dogs classes to werewolf classes in co-editor Toni L. P. Kelnerís 'Pirate Dave and the Captainís Ghost', which features werewolves, amorous vampires and ghosts.
As usual with collections like this, some stories are great, but most are average, so I grade this as a C+. Could try harder.
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