Name:  Playing for Keeps
AuthorRead by:  Mur Lafferty
Episodes:  15
Format:  Podcast Novel
AuthorNovel Website:
Podcast Feed:
Print Status:  Published by Swarm Press
Theme Song :  “Playing for Keeps” by  Beatnik Turtle
One sentence synopsis:  A bar owner is thrown into the middle of a Villain plot and a Hero conspiracy because of her unique powers.

This week’s review is about a book that holds a special place for me in my listening library.  Playing for Keeps was the first non-compilation podcast novel that I ever listened to.  It also has the distinction of being the first podcast Novel that I have gone out and bought the print book of.  I discovered this one from Mur Lafferty’s podcast “I Should be Writing” which as a writer who struggles with the motivation to actually write I find very helpful.  I highly recommend it to any struggling writers.  So now that I have listened to it again does “Playing for Keeps” live up to the pedestal I have placed it on?  Read on to find out.

The main Character Keepsie is not considered powerful enough to be a Superhero by the government academy that trains and monitors those with Superpowers.  Her and her friends are bitter at the Academy and she has started a bar for those that were turned down by them right across the street.  The staff is all low powered, but most of their powers are so situational that they are perfect for the jobs they have.  A waitress that can instantly sober anyone up, a cook that instantly knows the perfect meal to make for anyone, and a waitress that can carry anything of any weight on a bar tray without dropping it.  Keepsie herself has the ability to keep things that she owns and no one can take anything from her.

Mur through the course of the novel finds interesting and new ways to use these powers.  I have always liked the concept of simple powers being used in innovative ways to create strong results.  In RPG terms these would be cantrips.  Mur impressed me with the creativity needed to use some of these power choices and shows that with a little ingenuity any power can be a force to be reckoned with.

I have listened to many podcast novels and have noticed that there are three camps in regards to voices.  The author can either get voice actors, voice every voice themselves with just minor emphasis, or they can go all out and do separate voices for everyone.  Mur thankfully does not try to do drastically different voices for her characters.  I find more often than not that authors who do try this do not have the skill needed and it can distract from the story.  Instead there are minor differences in tone to indicate the speaker, but for the most part it is still her voice.

For the story itself; if you are the kind of listener that wants a strongly focused story this may not be the book for you.  If you need the problem defined in the beginning to be the problem solved at the end you might have issues with her writing in general.  Mur likes twists and turns.  She seems to enjoy being unpredictable and taking her stories in strong curves away from where they had previously been.  This might not be a style that everyone enjoys, but I find it refreshing to not be able to predict the ending right from the beginning.  The story feels more organic to me when approached from this direction.  I can see how the story could easily get too convoluted for some listeners though.

I obviously enjoyed the podiobook since I have mentioned buying the print version.  I particularly enjoyed the exploration of these characters and seeing what the author would do to make their powers more interesting.   None of her characters come off as shallow and you can see what motivates them.  Overall it was a different take on the Superpower underdog genre and it hooked me pretty easily.  She has developed a setting with great story telling potential if she chooses to return to it at any point.

For next week’s review I will discuss a piece of work by Scott Sigler.  I’m not trying to be mysterious, I just haven’t decided if I want to start with The Crypt or Infected.