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Less Than Hero by S. G. Browne

Less Than Hero

by S. G. Browne

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I wasn't as in to Less Than Hero as I have been with other books by S.G. Browne (and when I say that keep in mind that I LOVED Breathers and Fated). This was in part my own fault, as I went into reading this expecting more of an action-packed style superhero satire and was presented with more of a character driven pharmaceuticals satire. I should have expected this having read other books by Browne.

Lloyd Prescott is a professional guinea pig — that is, an otherwise healthy person paid to sign up for pharmaceutical trials in order to test for side effects. All this mixing of drugs, though, ends up having an unexpected consequence for Lloyd and his guinea pig buddies, when the group begins to develop the ability to project their side effects (such as narcolepsy, vomiting, seizures, rapid weight gain, etc.) on to other people — which of course leads them into trying to be superheroes. However, it there are super villains out there too, with their own abilities.

A large portion of the book deals with Lloyd's life as a guinea pig, how he feels without direction, and with his mostly happy relationship with his girlfriend. It's deep into the novel before the guys start to figure out that they have supernatural abilities and they joke around with their powers for a while before they find enough direction to become heroes. There's a pondering quality to the story and something almost, but not quite, plausible about these heroes, which makes it fun.

Although, Less Than Hero doesn't have the spectacular stunts featured in a Marvel movie, there is definitely a stand off and a "great power comes with great responsibility" feel to it. I rather liked how things wrapped up (or didn't wrap up). Plus, there was at least one cameo from a character in Fated, which was unexpected and awesome (you don't have to read Fated to get this story, but it's a fun reference for those who have). ( )
  andreablythe | Sep 17, 2015 |
S. G. Browne has written a contemporary, change of pace novel that packs a strong message in a wrapper of fun.

"Less than Hero" is a social commentary introducing Lloyd Prescott, a thirty-year-old professional guinea pig. For the past five years he's participated in over 150 clinical trials.

The pharmaceutical companies have volunteers who test experimental drugs for cash. In a typical month, Lloyd can make over $3,000. He also has a part-time job where he stands in Central Park with various signs for handouts. One states that he will accept money for abuse. People call him all sorts of things and he just thanks them as he accepts their money.

Lloyd and a group of five friends who are also human guinea pigs. They wonder if all the drugs they put in their bodies could have any effect. This is answered in a humorous fashion as Lloyd and his friend, Randy, are on the J train to Manhattan. Three punks enter the train and begin harassing a homeless man. Eventually Randy tells them to leave the man alone. Lloyd is expecting the worse but stands beside his friend facing the punks. Lloyd nicknames them Cue Ball, Cornrows and Soul Patch.

As the train pulls into Essex Street station, Cue Ball's skin turns bright red and blotchy and he becomes covered with hives. His friends back away from him and Lloyd and Randy casually depart from the train.

There are many parts of the story that had me laughing out loud. Lloyd and his friends all exhibit various powers. Lloyd has the ability to fall asleep before him, another in the group causes diarrhea and vomiting.
The men decide to use their powers to protect the innocent. Examples of this are funny and funnier.

To add to the uniqueness, Lloyd's girlfriend is a human statue. She stands in Central Park as a Fairy, sprinkling pixie dust on those who leave her a contribution.

The characters are well described, the scenes are most entertaining and the story is a fun romp and is a critique of a broken and corrupt pharmaceutical industry.

For those wanting a good story and something different, this is the book I recommend.

I received a free book for my honest review. ( )
  mikedraper | Jun 26, 2015 |
In Less Than Hero, S.G. Browne presents an entirely different take on the superhero genre than anything I have ever read before. Typically, superheroes have cool powers like the ability to fly, or super strength, or speed. In this novel, Lloyd and his band of heroes do things like put people to sleep, make them develop rashes all over their bodies, and blow up like human version of the Goodyear blimp. Not exactly an astounding array of powers. Not to mention the way they obtain their powers is quite odd, being the guinea pigs of pharmaceutical company clinical trials. And what would a superhero novel be without supervillains to counter them? In this case, the villains can steal people’s memories and create hallucinations. One thing is certain, Browne will never write a novel that isn’t entirely fascinating and interesting to read.

As usual, Browne writes in an easy going and professional manner. It’s always a breeze to read his books, something I appreciate. The premise is full of intrigue. I like the development of the characters’ powers and how they go about using it. These are unconventional heroes so it’s fitting that they should have an unconventional way of developing and using their abilities. There’s a lot to like in this novel. One area that I thought it falls short is that there is a lot of social commentary about the role of pharmaceutical drugs and how they are used in society. I don’t have a problem with that, but I did think it was a little heavy handed, and it often took me out of the story because those sections were lengthy. This is a cool novel that you will want to read.

Carl Alves - author of Reconquest: Mother Earth ( )
  Carl_Alves | Apr 29, 2015 |
BOOK REVIEW ALSO ON: http://bibliomantics.com/2015/03/16/with-great-power-comes-great-something-cassi...

Less Than Hero is a fun new look at the superhero genre inspired by ridiculous drug side effects, human pharmaceutical testers and outcast superheroes like the Mystery Men, the X-Men and the duo in M. Night Shyamalan's only other good film: Unbreakable.

It was also originally a short story entitled "Dr. Lullaby" in Browne's collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel.

Have you read Browne's second novel Fated? The two tales take place in the same universe -- modern day New York City-- and are occurring at the same time so be on the lookout for crossovers! Browne revealed that oddly enough he came up with ideas for both books at 10PM "exactly 30 days apart."

Less Than Hero's narrator is Lloyd Prescott, a man with no ambition who enjoys living a non nine to five lifestyle testing drugs for pharmaceutical companies (called guinea pigging) and panhandling for money on the streets of New York City, which includes taking money in exchange for being insulted by strangers.

We also get a few interludes from the other guinea pigs Lloyd regularly keeps in contact with through a guinea pig support group, all of whom have been forced to test drugs for companies that pray on "the poor, uneducated, and desperate" so that those who can afford new drugs get them.

There's Charlie, the high school student who was forced to drop out to take care of his dying father and stepmother. A mishap with their wills left Charlie with no inheritance.

Frank is the patriarch of the group who lost it all when his wife left him and took their joint business with her. He spent his entire divorce settlement at the racetrack.

Next is the classic rock guru Randy, the horny flirt (get it? you get it) whose knee injury and lack of insurance led to high medical bills and eventual bankruptcy.

Vic was a middle school teacher who threatened the principal, putting him on a black list of all the school districts in the area.

And Blaine was the victim of payday advances after identity theft left him in a bind. To earn extra money to pay off the cash-advance fees, Blaine turned to guinea pigging.

Finally, there's Isaac, the stuttering wannabee thespian who can no longer get work due to his speech problems.

Before getting into testing, Lloyd was an independent contractor who lost his job. Unable to gain unemployment, he drained his life savings and took on two part-time minimum wage jobs to make ends meet before falling into the guinea pig life.

Unlike his fellow guinea pigs, Lloyd could return to the world of marketing -- his career five years prior -- but he lacks ambition, drive and instead chooses to sleepwalk through his existence, unsure of his place in the world, a fact which upsets his longtime girlfriend Sophie.

Eventually, the individual members of the group begin to realize that they have developed the uncanny ability to cause spontaneous vomiting, seizures, rashes, erections, tiredness and sudden weight gain in others -- common side effects of on the market pharmaceuticals, which leads them to believe their years of drug testing has literally empowered them.

With their super powers combined, the guinea pigs form a not-so elite group, first punishing the rude (loud cell phone talkers, people who don't hold open doors, those who are rude to food service workers) before moving onto protecting those who can't protect themselves: the homeless citizens of New York City.

As with any superheroes, they eventually must deal with mighty foes: supervillains causing hallucinations and memory loss, and Lloyd must deal with the realization that he may have finally stumbled across his destiny as the very symbolic Dr. Lullaby. ( )
  yrchmonger | Mar 16, 2015 |
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"With the razor-sharp satire that earned him rave reviews for Big Egos and Lucky Bastard, among others, S.G. Browne delivers another irresistible read, about an unlikely band of heroes who use their medical complications to gain fame, confront villains, and bring their own unique brand of justice to New York City. Lloyd Prescott is a professional guinea pig. After nearly a year on unemployment, Lloyd discovered he could make money volunteering for Phase One pharmaceutical drug clinical trials, where drugs are tested for safety by giving them to subjects and studying the side effects. Every month, Lloyd meets up with a group of other guinea pigs to share information on their clinical trials, but soon they learn they're getting a lot more than they bargained for... Convulsions. Memory loss. Hallucinations. Drowsiness. Vomiting. Sudden weight gain. These and other side effects affect them all--but rather than simply suffer the consequences, the guinea pigs find they're able to project these side effects onto others. And once they realize this, there's no end to the ruckus they'll cause using their powers for good...or ill. In a winning combination of pitch-perfect humor and biting social commentary, S.G. Browne proves with Less than Hero that he is still "one of America's very best writers" (Jonathan Maberry)"--… (more)

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