Rob's Reviews > Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty
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's review
Jun 26, 2009

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Read in June, 2009

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 than coming to some faux-moral ending. This does mean that the ending is perhaps a little less satisfying than it could be, but that seemed a fair tradeoff.

That said, the book is not flawless. The author clearly has a strong sense of characterization, but it is communicated to the reader very slowly. The initial quick sketches of supporting characters are are very lightly applied and are dumped on the reader in blocks as multiple characters show up at once. My overall impression was that the author knew the character so intimately that she glossed over some of what a reader who was new to these characters might need to know.

More problematically, the writing is a little transparent in parts, including more than one occasion where a character abruptly does something that seems out of place, which turns out to have no impact on the story other than to serve as a vehicle for some specific point of plot introduction. This is not a horrible thing - characters do act to move the story forward out of necessity - but it happened enough to draw my attention to it.

That said, these problems do not keep it for being a fun read. More than anything, they are frustrations because the good parts are strong enough that they make the flaws stand out. I'd really be more inclined to call it 3.5 stars if goodreads allowed for such things.
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