Book Review: Playing for Keeps

Time for another book review! We’re continuing our look at Superhero Novels with Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty. (Full Disclosure: Ms. Lafferty is a columnist for the Knights of the Dinner Table magazine where I am also a columnist).

“The supervillain attacked at the most inconvenient place and time: right on Keepsie’s walk to work. She looked into the sky at the costumed combatants and groaned.

‘Why did they have to do this on a Thursday?’ ”

Those opening lines quickly set the tone of the book. Powers exist, superheroes battle supervillains, and the rest of us still have to worry about paying the bills. In her version of the world, superheroes were created in waves. The First Wavers are classic superheroes with great powers. Our heroes? The Third Wavers with powers like the ability to hold a serving tray and never spill a beer, or to heal you… a little bit. They gather in a bar, a haven belonging to Keepsie, and complain about the arrogance of the heroes.

The book builds quickly using the familiar trope of ‘useless’ powers that slowly become more useful through creative thinking. Lafferty does it well without telegraphing it early. The tension rises as the problems at hand get bigger and bigger. Our heroes refuse to cave in to heroes or villains and become key to the battle of the day.

Lafferty’s sense of humor is subtle and keeps the book from becoming an outright parody of the genre. The heroes and villains are very creative and the powers would be very interesting to try to model in an RPG.

I’d recommend the book as an amusing read with a lot of original ideas. I hope Ms. Lafferty is writing another already.

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