PositivePopMattersAickman\'s prose is dry, often oppressively so. His tone, no matter the events he might be relaying, is relentlessly matter-of-fact. His meter does not change whether he is relaying the mundane or the supernatural; even as his characters start to panic, even as the skies turn red and the walls close in, Aickman\'s relationship with his readers is that of a mildly disinterested third party relaying an anecdote at a business meeting. Mostly, this is to his credit, for while his self-described \'strange stories\' may contain elements of the supernatural, they tend to function as allegory for the most unremarkable situations our lives can offer ... While the subject matter and casts of characters vary wildly from story to story, much of it feels like the thought-out criticisms of \'modern (read: mid-to-late-\'70s) culture\' by a man for whom time was passing too quickly. Nobody in Aickman\'s stories tends to come off as entirely sympathetic, though we certainly see ourselves (or at least someone we know) in the immediacy of the wants and needs of the various characters ... As a collection, Compulsory Games is a book-length master class in allegory and the evocation of pure discomfort.