Superpowers have turned out to be a disappointment. Heat vision? Super strength? Flight? They are nowhere to be found. Instead, powers like photosynthesis or the ability to spontaneously change hair color seem to be the best the world can offer. To make matters worse, the gifted individuals tend to suffer from psychological issues. Nonetheless, in hopes of finding enough functional meta-humans to form a squad, in 1965 the US military created The Guardian Project. The head of the Army’s current incarnation of the project hires Dr. Adam Aiken, a psychologist specializing in the meta-human condition, to filter out the most dangerously unbalanced of the prospective super-soldiers. The screening process is to be done with all possible secrecy. This proves to be more easily said than done. A misfiring superpower leaks news of the recruitment effort to the public, attracting a flood of misfit meta-humans from around the nation, each hungry for heroic validation. A sleazy PR officer knows publicity when he sees it and converts the secret program into a nationally broadcast competition with all of the dignity and grace of a reality show. The ultimate prize is a coveted spot on a government sanctioned super team.
The Other Eight follows the exploits of the applicants deemed sane enough for consideration. On one side are earnest but underpowered heroes like the twitch-inducing Nonsensica or the fluorescent tube-hurling Phosphor. On the other are the better equipped but less dedicated recruits like walking good luck charm Johnny on The Spot and seed-spitting loose cannon The Hocker. Who will win a place on the team, and what will be done about the jilted heroes who didn’t make the cut?
Thanks to Jena Gregoire, I got to read an advance copy of Joseph R. Lallo’s new book, The Other Eight.
Mr. Lallo is my favorite new author this year, because he is an awesome writer. His stories are well crafted and intelligent, the characters are well developed, and the dialogue flows naturally to keep his stories interesting.
But I did not know that Mr. Lallo is also very funny. The Other Eight is about a group of “differently abled” superheroes gathered by the U.S. Army to assess whether they have any abilities that would be useful in combat. I normally read in bed, at night, my Kindle Fire propped up on pillows so that I can drift off to sleep reading the printed word. But I found it hard to get to sleep, because I was laughing out loud.
I can promise you that the superheroes in The Other Eight are like none you have ever encountered before. And they get themselves into more hot water than you can imagine, especially with one another, as they go through their basic training in close quarters. And there are two groups of these superheroes–one group accepted by the army, the other group rejected.
The characters in The Other Eight are hilarious, a glorious mixture of real-life human foibles and outlandish behaviors that I found delightful. Mr. Lallo moves his story along with scenes that are comical and at times heartwarming. There is one scene where a superhero is trying to take off her skintight costume; I reread this part a few times, just so I could giggle again. The superheroes are assessed by a doctor and his aide, and the whole project is supervised by a general who would rather be doing anything else.
As usual, the dialogue in The Other Eight is witty and smart, crafted to delight the reader. The story is, at times, totally ridiculous but so well done that I could not stop reading. This has to be hard, to craft a story that combines these elements, writing that compels you to keep reading! I want to read more about these superheroes and their adventures.
Joseph R. Lallo has crafted a wonderfully inventive and hilarious story. If you love science fiction, humor, and parody, you will love The Other Eight.