Friday, February 22, 2008

Playing for Keeps

Yesterday I listened to the final episode of Mur Lafferty's podiobook Playing for Keeps. Mur is the inspirational podcaster of I Should be Writing. Some of her short works have been amazing, like the Escape Pod story "I Look Forward to Remembering You". So I eagerly subscribed to this podiobook, her first novel, I believe.

Playing for Keeps is a super hero novel, which is a pretty rare breed. It's set in the fictitious Seventh City and the supers are members of an acclaimed organization called The Academy. The main characters, however, are a group of slightly powered super rejects who hang out at a bar called named after its owner, Laura "Keepsie" Branson. She is called Keepsie because her power is that no one can take anything she owns. They freeze in place, paralyzed. Other humorous powers include a guy who can fire feces out of his hands, a fellow who is super strong for just a few seconds before having to rest, a cook who knows exactly how people like their food, and a waitress who can balance anything on a bar tray.

This motley cast is thrown into a situation where the "heroes" seem pretty ruthless and corrupt and the super-villains don't seem so bad.

I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. It was a fun take on super heroes and it kept up my interest. If it sounds appealing so far, you should definitely check it out. However, there were some problems for me and part of what I am doing with these reviews is trying to learn from the things I read.

Number one, there was just way too much bouncing back and forth from the bar to the academy to the bar to the park to the bar to the academy to an apartment to the academy, etc. All the while the characters are bickering about what to do. Not saying it wasn't realistic, it just wasn't the most entertaining part of the book.

Second, and this is more an issue of presentation, the "Story so Far" segments at the beginning of each episode were not that helpful. I could usually remember what was going on from week to week. Where I needed help was remembering who everyone was. There is a large cast of characters in this book. The supers were easy. What does White Lightning do? Give you one guess. But it took me til the 3/4 mark to be able to remember which of Keepsie's friends was which and who had what powers. Some were easier than others, but this is one area I think the podiobook presentation could have been improved.

Overall, Playing for Keeps was well worth my time and I listened to each episode within a day or so of getting it, usually the same day. For some reason this was one I liked to listen to on the way home, as opposed to Sigler's podcast novels which are always at the top of the list for the drive to work. *shrugs* Still a fun, interesting change of pace, especially for a first novel. Great job, Mur.
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