Less Than Hero
S. G. Browne
Gallery Books, Mar 17 2015, $16.00
Although he has a degree in marketing, for the last five years thirtyish Lloyd has earned money panhandling in the Manhattan parks and as a professional pharmaceutical Phase One drug trial subject to determine side effects. He, like his peers, gains no health benefits from the assorted cocktails they test. Recently Lloyd noticed an increase in drowsiness that causes people near him suddenly to fall asleep and rashes in places where most men prefer none to surface, among other manifestations. Checking with his card playing crash dummy cronies, Lloyd concludes he and his merry band of guinea pigs have superpowers that they all agree to use as a team of superheroes fighting crime.
At the Carnegie Deli, patron Brad begins screaming of shark attacks and at a Starbucks customer Debra strips while screaming she is on fire. Similar incidents lead Lloyd and his team to believe the guinea pigs cause “normal” New Yorkers to hallucinate. As they have some success dealing with the felonious dregs, robbers mug residents and visitors, but also eradicate the victim’s memory of the theft.
With a nod to the films Mystery Men and Sicko, Less Than Hero is a super (pun intended) satire that stars superhero guinea pigs who mock and condemn an immoral pharmaceutical-government complex and the American exceptionalism health care system. Readers will want to join Lloyd’s stunning tour of New York; as long as he does not cause us to hallucinate, sleep or suffer memory loss and rashes.