- Which side effect would I want to project vs what I got?
- How did I get this ability?
- How would I “test” this ability?
- With these abilities would I use it and in what capacity?
- Would I tell others?
- Why did I get these “powers”?
- What are the consequences of having these powers? Both when I use it and the effects on my own body?
In the novel “Less Than Hero,” by S.G. Browne, I get answers to my questions in the form of a satirical social commentary when a 30 year old guy named Lloyd Prescott and a few of his friends, all medication guinea pigs, develop powers as a result of all the pharmaceutical drug testing they have been doing within the past five years. I liked that the scenario seems plausible because of the type of environment we live in where we depend on some form of medication to help with the slightest of ailments. The novel started slow but picked up not too far from the beginning. The story is told in the third person and while the novel mostly takes place in Lloyd’s head, other characters get a chance to take the spotlight.
Not only does the author take us into the world of medication testing but also panhandling. It was interesting reading about the different reasons for panhandling. Who knew that depending on where you are panhandling it could be lucrative? I will not look at the panhandlers I see occasionally while driving the same way again. I did feel like throughout the book panhandling was focused on slightly more than medication testing but I guess since it was part of Lloyd and his girlfriend Sophie’s livelihood it was understandable.
The superhero elements incorporated into the story worked well with the satirical way the novel was written. Despite one instance where Lloyd “tested” his ability, I enjoyed how everyone realized their ability and what they decided to do with it, whether to help or hinder society. The majority of the powers featured I have experienced at one point as a side effect, like sleepiness and weight gain. If I had the ability to make people vomit I wouldn’t do it because that’s just too gross. A part of me wished that the villains in the book didn’t have the cooler powers. Why does that happen in some superhero stories? Some of the names that they came up with were cute like Mr. Lullaby or The Rash. New York City seems to be the place where heroes are made; but it would be nice if another city, say like Washington DC (totally biased) got some love. However based on the author’s note there was a reason New York City was featured since some of the places mentioned were also in another of his novels.
I grew fond of the characters. The “villains” were just crazy. One character I did have some issues with was Lloyd’s girlfriend Sophie. Her only saving grace for me was her cat Vegan and how Lloyd saw her despite her faults. I liked the quirky relationship Lloyd had with the feline. There was some aspects to Lloyd and Sophie’s relationship I was hoping would get a little more resolved. I could relate to Lloyd and his conflicts with what he wanted to do with his life and the expectations of how society expects us to live. I also had something in common with Frank, since he struggles with his weight and I have those same issues. The novel did get serious at times with life reflections and how society views potential heroes which makes it thought provoking even after I’ve finished reading the book.
This novel pleasantly surprised me. While predictable, I still liked some of the twists that were made. I even got a little emotional at one point. This book is really making me wonder what kind of side effect would I want as a superpower. I don’t normally read satire, but after reading this novel, I will consider reading more of that genre especially books written by S.G. Browne.
For those that have read this novel, what did you think?
*Photo from S.G.Browne’s website.