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Playing for Keeps

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,614 ratings  ·  157 reviews
The shining metropolis of Seventh City is the birthplace of super powers. The First Wave heroes are jerks, but they have the best gifts: flight, super strength, telepathy, genius, fire. The Third Wavers are stuck with the leftovers: the ability to instantly make someone sober, the power to smell the past, the grace to carry a tray and never drop its contents, the power to ...more
ebook, 248 pages
Published 2008
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Community Reviews

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You may not know it yet, but you want this book. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Hey, Jason, maybe *you* want this book, but how do you know that *I* want it?" Well, nameless faceless reader, I'm glad you asked that.

If you like superhero stories, you'll like this book. It's got the usual fun action, adventure, and cool superpowers that make your inner fan-person go "squee."

If you don't like superhero stories, you'll like this book. Instead of focusing on the jet-setting antics of a few too-
The collection of folks with lame powers in a supers setting is something of its own subgenre, complete with its own tropes and dangers. The single greatest accomplishment of this book is how deftly it avoids most of those traps. Most notably, there are very few scenes where the heroes end up in a situation where their esoteric power is exactly the right solution, and thank goodness for that. Similarly, Lafferty does a great job of starting things off morally gray and keeping them there, rather ...more
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett
The “misfit superhero” storyline is nothing new. One of my all-time favorite movies is 1999′s Mystery Men about a team of wannabes who have to step up and become real heroes to save Champion City from the clutches of the evil and delightfully campy Casanova Frankenstein. That movie was based on characters from the cult comic book Flaming Carrot. There was also the The Specials, which followed the misadventures of the “sixth or seventh best superhero team in the world.” Another prime example is B ...more
Gail Carriger
I picked up Mur's book because I am a fan of her podcast and I feel it helped me to get published and I wanted to pay her back in some way. I'm very glad I did as I heartily enjoyed Playing for Keeps. I love her basic premise that in addition to major super powers there are minor ones as well. (I, myself, seem to posses the inexplicable ability to turn off street lights.) I'm a big fan of the secondary characters and of the love interest in this book. I was left wanting more.

I could also see an
I didn't read the book, instead, I listen to the podcast of it. I loved it! This story gives you a unique twist about the whole superhero/villian story. Furthermore, the powers of some of the people in this story is ridiculously funny!! I didn't think I'd like this story as much as did. It's a definite listen.
Morgue Anne
Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty is an interesting new take on the superhero genre. Just like in real life, you’re not entirely sure who the “good” guy is, because everyone in charge has their own agenda – the only difference is that these politicians have superpowers. Actually, almost everyone has powers, but the only people who get to have the “super” prefix to their names are the ones who have really good ones like flight and invisibility. Everyone else gets stuck with things like summoning ...more
Aster Brown
I haven't been overly tempted by the Seventh City series, though I love good superhero prose. This book about the lower powered crew did tempt me and made it worth the ride after a slow start.

Good solid, middle of the road, e-book only superhero prose. Much longer than I thought when I bought it (over 100 pages instead of the normal 50 or so) - which turned out to be good. The author takes a while to get engrossing. The concept had me buy the book, but by the third or fourth chapter the poor dia
The previous superheroes-in-modern-day book I read was the "Worm" epic by Wildbow, which set the bar rather high. This doesn't come close to topping that; this doesn't, however, make "Playing for Keeps" a bad book. I enjoyed the rogues-vs-established-heroes conflict as it was presented, but had a few concerns with the book:

1. The character voices often felt muddled. There were several times where I found myself thinking, "Wait, why is *this* character avoiding contractions? They've never avoided
Enjoyable self-published book. The audiobook was read by the author herself, who does a much better job of reading than many other authors I've listened to. Be warned, though, that the audiobook version has a very annoying repeating musical riff that breaks up the narrative podcast-style about every ten minutes, and by the end of the book it will get on your nerves.

Keepsie and her friends are D-list superpowered people, not effective enough to be real superheroes and get academy training. Inste
So there is this thing you really don't enjoy, say reading superhero novels.
And then you go and, say, read a superhero novel.
Now why are you not enjoying it?!

Oh boy, can I be a dick or what.
Sometimes I'm really staring at myself in awe, wondering about how much of a dick I can really get. >_<

So I don't like superhero novels. Really truly honestly do not like.

I read this book because I am kinda Mur Lafferty fangirl (awesome podcasts, awesome short stories, awesome longer works) and I am t
If you're looking for a slightly different spin on superheroes, give Mur Lafferty's Playing for Keeps a read. With that dry wit that only Mur can create, this was a real fun trip. Thanks, Mur, for taking my love of comic books and superheroes and setting it off-kilter!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I loved the idea of this book--people with less than spectacular powers getting caught up in a super heroes vs. super villains war and not quiet knowing which side to take.

I was impressed with the wide variety of super powers and the creativity behind them. The super heroes get the typical powers, including super strength and flight, but there is also a few interesting originals--like a guy who's tattoos can come to life. The super villains have their own interesting powers--control over machine
I wanted to like this book so badly. I've followed Lafferty's "I Should Be Writing" podcast for a while and have always enjoyed it; the clever marketing behind "Playing For Keeps"'s original release was pretty inspired, too. Maybe I would have been more sympathetic to the novel if I hadn't immediately read it on the heels of Jennifer Matarese's excellent "Heroine Addiction." Their plots are broadly similar -- an exploration of the side of superheroes one rarely gets to see -- but whereas Matares ...more
If this book was a movie it would be a low budget Direct to Video one. Previously, I would have given this a 1-Star but I've evolved as a reader and am now mature enough to save my 1-stars to those books that are an abomination.

Areas in which this book was lacking:


Keepsie and her friends are Third Wave heroes, which are people with useless superpowers like keeping all bar trays upright or knowing things about people from sniffing them. In a town run by real superheroes and infested with su
A fun read. I almost feel bad only giving it a 3 out of 5; it seems like it deserves a bit more, but I've reset a bunch of ratings recently, so that's probably where it falls on my list. That's not a bad rating, I quite enjoyed it. The primary plot points appeared a bit...trumped up, I guess. Unfocused. Arguably a good representation of how things would happen in "real life"; there's no actual narrative rhythm. Things just happen, and we wire them together in retrospect. But for novels, that fee ...more
Melissa Hayden
Ooh goodness, this was fun. Humor of personalities along with lame superhero powers. Yep, win-win. All need to listen/read this one. Fun and great story with superheroes and villains, and those in the middle. But think twice about who you think are which. ;)

When Keepsie is taken captive by Doodad, a super villain, and she finds he slipped a metal sphere in her pocket, the crew of Third Wavers that visits Keepsies bar stand with their friend and get drawn into the constant batt
Upon discovering that Campbell Award winner Mur Lafferty had written a book about superheroes with shitty powers, I immediately bought it, and I have no regrets. Playing for Keeps is a fun ride.

Keepsie Branson runs a bar for members of the Third Wave, those with powers deemed too useless to be worthy of superherodom. Her power? No one can take anything from her. Hurrah, go fight crime with that. Her best friend can balance anything on a bar tray. BIG WHOOP. It's not invulnerability and flight an
Dave Hogg
I'd read a novella of Mur's that was set in the Siglerverse and really enjoyed it -- even if I then made a nitwit of myself by complimenting her on Twitter and misnaming the book.

Later, I read The Shambling Guide to New York City and was thrilled by it -- it's on my growing list of books to review. Since there's still a while until Ghost Train to New Orleans comes out, I grabbed Playing For Keeps for my Kindle the other day.

The first night, I started reading at 11pm, and finally had to drag myse
Please note this book is available for a free download as a .pdf file here. The .pdf also includes a short story that follows the novel: "Parasite Awakens". You can also buy this book from .

Hang on to your tights and secret identity! Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty is an imaginative and entertaining new superhero story that will leave you looking at caped crusaders in an entirely new way.

The story revolves around Keepsie Branson, a bar owner in the shining metropolis of Seventh City
This was a quick, entertaining read. The main character is Keepsie. She lives in a world inhabited by heroes and villains with superpowers, as well as a class of people with minor powers, classified as too insignificant to make them useful to serve as heroes. Keepsie's own power is the ability to prevent people from stealing things from her. When one of the villains gives Keepsie something to keep things get really interesting. Keepsie and her other "Third Wave" friends find themselves stuck bet ...more
Eric Juneau
A freebie, and the sole written word I've read from the First Lady of Podcasting. Mur's pixie voice and soft-spoken geekitude rings out in waves in this superhero novel - if the guys from "Cheers" were C-list superheroes forced into action, pitted against both superhero and supervillain. This is for the Matter-Eater-Lads, the Bouncing Boys, and the Lasso Kids of the comic book world.

Well, it's a good concept anyway. But the problem is the plot goes around and around and it never feels like you
Lady Ozma
What happens when the superheroes turn out to be less than heroic? What about those people with less desirable (to those who would be heroes at least) superpowers?

Meet the regulars, who are anything but regular, at a local bar in a city overrun with supes on both sides of the law. When they get caught up between the villians and the heroes, things turn a little hectic. What will they discover about the world they live in and their own selves.

Action, adventure, heroism from unusual places, and a
Ken Reed
Why can't I give this book a 10? Stupid rules. Ok, here is the deal....the writing was good, but the story and idea was way better. It's a story about heroes. Real heroes. The ones that have to make tough decisions and live with them. "With great power comes great responsibility." But what about mediocre power? Also, this book taught me a fantastic lesson. We are who we think we are. If we think we are losers, we are. Enough said. Read the book.
Bill Glover
Aug 09, 2009 Bill Glover rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys superhero fiction with a sincere but funny style.
Mur Lafferty tells the story of Keepsie, who's superpower is to hang onto anything that belongs to her. That's not enough to make her a superhero in Seventh City, so she owns a bar where the other second-rate heros hang out. She's bitter about her place in life but comfortable until the day it all goes wrong.

This is a fun read, and a story you won't want to put down. There are plenty of rough edges, but this book was originally written as a serialized podcast and then collected into a novel. It
Nov 28, 2010 Liv rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: folks who liked Mystery Men, and loveable losers
Shelves: fiction, humour
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christopher Tang
Solid super hero fiction. I was a little jarred about 1/5 of the way in to the book when the stakes got raised and the tone changed but I pushed through. The tone change is organic, just sudden and the characters actions remain consistent so that makes the tone change easier to swallow and is the mark of the solid writing. In super-hero fiction, I suppose one must accept that even things that start small and street level tend to wind up on a grander scale.

This reminded me in some ways of Brando
Christopher Munroe
The "railing against Super-Heroes grown corrupt with power" trope has been used more and more in the past few years, but Mur manages to keep it sounding fresh here. She has a sweetness and vulnerability to her voice (both authorial and personal, i listened to the podcast version of this) that makes you naturally want to empathize with her characters, both the good and bad guys, and this lends a layer of complexity to her storytelling.

I had some minor issues with the pacing that i feel like I wou
Brian Foster
In Playing for Keeps, Mur Lafferty tells the story of a group of people with powers so worthless that they’re not considered adequate to become a part of the city’s elite group of heroes. When the hubris of those very heroes leads to their downfall, it’s up to the misfits to save the day.

Why to buy this book: It is competently written, and the ebook edition doesn’t cost a bunch.

Why not to buy the book: While the writing is competent, it is not spectacular. Though there are no major stylistic ann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Mur Lafferty is the author of Playing For Keeps, The Afterlife Series, and Marco and the Red Granny. She is the editor of Escape Pod magazine and a pioneer podcaster behind the shows I Should Be Writing and Angry Robot Books Podcast.
More about Mur Lafferty...
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