________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 25. . . .March 4, 2016


The Midnight Games.

David Neil Lee.
Hamilton, ON: Poplar Press, 2015.
206 pp., trade pbk., $12.00.
ISBN 978-1-894987-96-7.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

*** /4



A blaze of light exploded as something enormous appeared at the stadium's rim—the grey horizon of the city ripped open to reveal a vast blackness, and, as the winds grew, I smelled the smell of death and decay and burning. I ducked as something flew toward me, something alive, bat-like and chittering, with flashing teeth and great black eyes and leathery wings. The storm before me turned hot. Twigs and vegetation blew through this hole in the night, and something enormous began to take shape in the void that had opened above the stadium: a writhing mass that filled the night sky. It was alive, it moved and groped like a huge animal, but light shone from within it. When it made a sudden move, the light surged unbearably, and I closed my eyes and saw an afterimage of countless tentacles, covered in huge glowing suckers like globes of light, a network of flesh and fibres and unnameable angles that were the thing's veins and capillaries and nerves.


The Midnight Games is an interesting transplantation of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos to the gritty streets of industrial Hamilton, Ontario. Nate is 16, living with his father and working the concession stand at the nearby stadium. When the Resurrection Church begins holding noisy events at the stadium at midnight, Nate gets curious. He and his homeless friend Dana sneak in one night and observe a ritual that involves a man being sacrificed to a barely-glimpsed creature. As the two of them escape, the leader of the Church gives Dana a piece of paper with runes on it that says he has 48 hours to live.

     Nate does some online research, learns about Lovecraft's stories, and sends an email to The Lovecraft Underground, a group who believe the stories are true and want to protect the world from the Great Old Ones Lovecraft describes. Then Nate finds a copy of the Necronomicon at the library, and when two Resurrection Church members come in looking for it, Nate takes off with the book, leading to a chase through Hamilton. Nate is rescued from his pursuers by a strange woman in a scooter, someone who turns out to have tentacles. She explains that the Church is trying to weaken the boundaries between worlds so that Cthulu and Yog-Sothoth can cross into our dimension, and this cannot be allowed to happen.

     Two days later, Nate discovers Dana's headless body in the abandoned school he was squatting in. Nate begins to collect allies, including the librarian, his friend's father, and a representative from the Lovecraft Underground who calls himself a proxy Lovecraft. The Resurrection Church tries to kidnap them, but they escape. A monster tunnels underground Nate's yard and tries to eat his neighbour's dog, but Nate fights it off. When Nate's dad is given a paper with runes, they have to figure out how to save him from the Hounds that will kill him as they killed Dana.

     In the climactic scene, the Resurrection Church almost succeeds in summoning Yog-Sothoth, but the efforts of Nate and the Lovecraft Underground disrupt the ceremony enough that the monsters are all sucked back into their own dimension. Hamilton is saved, for the time being at least. But a mysterious airship appears briefly, and Nate gets a mysterious phone call at the end, and so a sequel is clearly in the works.

     Nate is an engaging protagonist, with recognizable teenage confusion and bravado. His relationship with his father is well-drawn. The other characters are less well-developed, but they're a diverse cast with interesting quirks.

     The monsters are fun, and the mythos behind them is sketched out enough to make sense, though it could have been developed a lot more, and readers already familiar with Lovecraft will probably appreciate the story more. But Lee interweaves giant burrowing insects and inter-dimensional squid quite convincingly into the fabric of run-down Hamilton, with its abandoned factories and boarded-up schools. Promising to restore Hamilton to prosperity and dominance, The Resurrection Church has plausible appeal.

     The plot feels thin, and Nate, himself, doesn't accomplish very much other than to keep getting himself in trouble. He alerts the Lovecraft Underground and assembles the team that goes against the Resurrection Church, but he doesn't listen to their advice and tends to do stupid things, like going all by himself into the Church's territory. Plot elements like the Necronomicon are introduced but don't go anywhere. It isn't clear at the end exactly why Yog-Sothoth doesn't come through, but it isn't because of anything Nate does at the time, and so the climax is a little underwhelming. But the action is fast-paced, and the battles with monsters are exciting. A sequel will likely develop more of the characters and setting and follow up on hanging plot threads.

     The Midnight Games will definitely appeal to fans of Lovecraft and to readers who like their horror to have chitinous legs or tentacles. Since the novel’s a relatively short, easy read, it might be a good choice for reluctant readers, particularly boys. The violence is not particularly gory or frightening.


Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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