Podcast Review #9: Playing for Keeps

Title: Playing for Keeps
Author: Mur Lafferty
Genre: Super Hero Fantasy
Released: 31 October, 2007 – 13 February, 2008
Located: PodibooksiTunesAuthor’s Site
Formats Available: Podcast, eb00k (multiple formats including free .pdf), iPhone app, dead tree version published by Swarm Press available at Amazon and many other locations.

I have been a lover of comic books since I was a kid. Something about being able to do what others could not, or maybe just wanting to help others who couldn’t help themselves really appealed to me.

Fast forward to the 90’s and I finally could afford to start collecting comic books (yeah, as an adult, so?). Image Comics were all the rage and people were buying double copies so they could immediately bag and board and store one while reading the other. (Cotton gloves? Really?) Iconic superheroes were being reworked by the major companies and sales had to have gone through the roof. Remember “The Death of Superman”? D.C. had my number.

At this point though, many of the story arcs were becoming darker. In fact, Vertigo, an imprint of D.C. that is marketed for the mature reader, was born 1993. Here I fell in love with the works of Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and others. And more importantly, the non-hero. The hero that was a hero in spite of him/herself. Not the whiny Peter Parker type, but the so much more cool working man’s hero. The ones that did their job because it was their job.

Because of this, when I heard of Mur Lafferty’s Playing for Keeps, I was thrilled and jumped right in.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Playing for Keeps tells the story of Keepsie Branson, a bar owner in the shining metropolis of Seventh City: birthplace of super powers. Keepsie and her friends live among egotistical heroes and manipulative villains, and manage to fall directly in the middle as people with powers, but who just aren’t strong enough to make a difference. Or that’s what they’ve been told. As the city begins to melt down, it’s hard to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad. (Stolen from iTunes)

Production: Playing for Keeps is one of the first, if not the only, works of podiofiction that I remember coming with it’s own theme song, graciously provided by the band Beatnik Turtle. I noticed while writing this review that there are even downloadable ringtones of that theme available on the author’s site.

Production is kept to a minimum as Ms. Lafferty focuses on the story and on the characters (never a bad decision). Each episode begins and ends with the theme and after the closing theme there is usually a promo for another work of podiofiction. Each episode does open with The Story So Far. Enough said (if you are unaware of this reviewers feelings on this device, feel free to look at previous reviews).

Cast: Playing for Keeps is an author read story. For those of you that read these reviews weekly, you’ll know how much I enjoy these. Ms. Lafferty does an excellent job with all of her narrations, but to me, this story stood out. Keepsie and her friends each had their own personality that comes through with this reading. Simply a very well done job.

Story: This was the first story I ever heard where superheroes that weren’t powerful/talented enough weren’t allowed to play with the big boys and girls. It was completely original in its implementation and the story really did seem like it could have come straight out of a comic book (that is a good thing in my opinion).

Keepsie and her friends had true motivations and I can understand how these motivations lead to their actions. While this might seem like an obvious necessity in a story, I am dismayed how often I find it lacking in books published in the last few years. And I’m not talking about small press publishers here either. (Yes, New York, I’m shaking my finger at you.)

***I am going to step outside of the regular review format for just a moment to make a suggestion. Many of the podiofiction stories I’ve reviewed here are still looking for publishers. Others have been published by small house publishers. I will make an assumption that not a single author wrote one of these stories with the hope that no one else would ever enjoy it. All of them are working towards eventually having a major publisher pick up one or more of their stories. If you can afford to buy a book, an ebook, an iphone app or any other version that is available, I encourage you to do it on occasion. I am not suggesting that you need to buy every book that comes out, but choose a couple and show your appreciation to those podcast fiction writers that have given FREELY to us. I do own the print version of Playing for Keeps, and it is a good read as well as a good podcast. Now, back to the review.***

Verdict: If you don’t enjoy superheroes on any level, there is a good chance you will not enjoy this story. If, on the other hand, you can relate in any shape or form to the opening paragraphs of this review, there is a very good chance that you might be able to really enjoy it. Give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I have never met Ms. Lafferty. I have never tweeted with Ms. Lafferty. In fact, she doesn’t follow me, nor I her. I should probably correct that. I know she can be found on Twitter: @MightyMur. I have listened to many of her stories and am beholding to her for her participation in the podiofiction community.

Next week: Max Quick, The Pocket and the Pendant by Mark Jeffrey.

Comment Pages

There are 4 Comments to "Podcast Review #9: Playing for Keeps"

  • Thomas says:

    Well said my friend, well said. Murs stories are always entertaining; her Heaven series, her short stories (some of which are on Escapepod.org) as well as PfK. she is a very active writer/podcaster with tons in the works.

    @trreed

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks Thomas for the feedback. One that you didn’t mention was the incredible and way to short “The Takeover”. Braaaiinnns… loved it.

  • Scaleslea says:

    I enjoyed Playing for Keeps up until recently. The feed that runs through iTunes, the same feed available from the Playing for Keeps site, seems to have been deleted. Attempts to download files get 404 errors. It does still seem to be available from the Podiobooks site, but without all the extras that were in the original feed.

    I tried to bring it to Mur’s attention, but so far nothing has changed.

    • odin1eye says:

      That is very interesting, I’ll check into it. I don’t have much pull with Mur, but this is an important cast for her (I would think). Thanks for the heads up!

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