DiscoverHumor & Comedy

Superficial Intelligence

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Loved it! 😍

Great read with lots of laughs, perfect for 'cleansing the palette' between heavier books.

Synopsis

Superficial Intelligence is an absurdist, satirical novel centered around one man's transformation from pseudo-intellectual human to reality TV robot. Whether he is recounting a wild night aboard Will Ferrell's depraved party yacht, or he's theorizing ways to "kill all humans" (he doesn't think it'll come to that), our narrator's oddly constructed metaphors and witty one-liners make for an unforgettably unique read.

The futuristic robotic legs our narrator receives after a freak accident, thrust him into the public eye. And he'll do anything to stay there, even if it means replacing everything in his life that makes him human.

The question he keeps asking himself: is he creating a legacy that will last forever, or is he just a narcissist with a TV show?

Greg Alesso must sit around and think to himself, "How can I take something that really shouldn't be funny at all and push it so far past the limits of ridiculousness that it's not even remotely serious anymore?" At least, that's one possible way that this book came into existence...


Superficial Intelligence is the story of a man who has a tragic accident that leaves him legless. Thankfully, the field of robotics has advanced to the point that he can receive robotic legs. And that's all it takes to get him addicted to the idea of replacing his human parts with robot parts.


Most of the laughs in this book come from the stereotypical situations the protagonist finds himself in and the caricatures of characters he surrounds himself with. Though it's definitely closer to a reality show screenplay then a classic of literature, it definitely is good for some humor. Though sometimes over-done, the farcical situations are obviously meant to be over-done. No one is going to accidentally take this book seriously.


A couple of minor drawbacks kept this from being a 5-star read for me, and it's mostly just pet peeves. The writing is a little amateurish in some spots (though you can get away with that a lot easier in something like this book), and a couple of grammatical errors (including one that really made me cringe in the acknowledgments) prove that the author is actually human, and not a cyborg writing machine.


So if you find that your brain hurts from your latest book on the history of racism in America, or you've gone cross-eyed from the 18th century classic of Russian literature you just persevered through, maybe this comical look at how any good thing can be taken too far is just the right thing for your next read.

Reviewed by

I've been devouring books since I was a little kid, these days I mostly listen to audiobooks. I read about 200 books per year, and one of my favorite things is recommending a book to someone and then hearing how much they enjoyed it.

Synopsis

Superficial Intelligence is an absurdist, satirical novel centered around one man's transformation from pseudo-intellectual human to reality TV robot. Whether he is recounting a wild night aboard Will Ferrell's depraved party yacht, or he's theorizing ways to "kill all humans" (he doesn't think it'll come to that), our narrator's oddly constructed metaphors and witty one-liners make for an unforgettably unique read.

The futuristic robotic legs our narrator receives after a freak accident, thrust him into the public eye. And he'll do anything to stay there, even if it means replacing everything in his life that makes him human.

The question he keeps asking himself: is he creating a legacy that will last forever, or is he just a narcissist with a TV show?

The Beginning

There I was, sitting across from a beautiful human woman, but my eyes were transfixed on the phone I held in my lap. The girl’s name was Diana, but I’ve always thought Diana was a stupid name and she comes up quite frequently. I’m going to change it to Sam.

Sam thought…

Sam shook her head…

Sam sighed…

Yes, that flows much better.

Anyway, Sam and I had this routine. We would stare at our menus until it was time to order our food, which was then proceeded by staring at our phones, which led right into staring at our food. True love. Don’t get me wrong, I adored the gorgeous girl sitting across from me, but I also adored video compilations of people falling off skateboards.

I heard an unmistakable noise from across the table. Sam exhaled a giddy breath of excitement. When I heard this sound, I knew she stumbled upon baby animal content. Perhaps it was a puppy playing with a human baby, or a lion who thought it was a lap-cat. I needed to see it. 

“Here, watch this,” she said. Sam and I were a little strange, in that we both loved adorably cute animals. Just a unique quirk we had in common. “It’s a puppy who discovers he is a cat.”

“Wait, is it a cat or a dog?” I asked.

“An inconsequential question. Be true to your true self.” Sam handed me the phone, and what I saw did not disappoint. I can’t adequately describe the nuances of a video in which a dog, feeling like an outcast with the rest of his litter, eventually becomes comfortable in his baggy skin with a group of cats. What made the video even more inspirational was how the puppy’s parents accepted him as a cat. They gave him balls of yarn to play with instead of tennis balls and he barked—sorry meowed—with acceptance.

Sam, aside from being an avid lover of adorable things, was sweet, compassionate, and had a face that could start mythical Greek wars. She would probably be upset I didn’t include smart on my list—sorry. Don’t get me wrong; she was intelligent. It just wasn’t why I loved her. But I should give her credit for her hard work. She did the whole school thing. She paid attention, did her coursework, took electives. Understand what I’m telling you, she took classes she didn’t have to—for fun. She elected to do extra work. The only thing I ever “elected” was 2012’s Miss White T-shirt. Intelligence is just a matter of motivation. She chose to be smart. I could do it if I wanted.

Sam actively kept up with current events. She said it is important to read the news so you can have informed conversations with strangers. I told her I don’t need to know the events of the day because it was just going to change tomorrow. If something is in the news for longer than a week, I’m sure I’ll read about it on whatever social networking platform was currently popular.

“I swear I’m getting carpal tunnel from like holding my phone up to my face all day,” said Sam. “Not carpal tunnel, but like whatever the equivalent is for my elbow. I think I’m getting elbow tunnel and neck tunnel. I should just get one of those new smartphones you can integrate straight into your arm, so you don’t have to hold your phone all day.”

“Sounds unnecessarily convenient. Is it a real product or is it like when people talk about flying cars and robot servants?” I asked.

What an extreme concept. I liked my phone, but I didn’t need it on me all the time. Well, I kind of did need it all the time. What if I was listening to the radio and needed to be the 20th caller for water park tickets or someone got into an accident and I needed to record it? My phone made life more convenient, but it didn’t control everything I did. For example, I wanted to go hiking with my buddy a few weeks ago, “no technology allowed,” but he was busy. You know what? I may have forgotten to call him. Either way, I made my point. I think. I honestly don’t remember what I was trying to say. My phone vibrated so it could tell me there was weather outside and I got distracted.

We heard a noise and looked up as our waitress approached with two large plates and one large smile. “I hope you two are hungry,” she said with so much exuberance it made me want to throw myself off a large building onto the top of a slightly smaller building. I mean, yeah, she was annoying, but it wasn’t worth dying over. “This isn’t your food. No, I’m just messing with you. Of course, it’s your food.”

We met her incessant pandering for a larger tip with a half-hearted chuckle.

I no longer protested Sam’s habit of photographing her food. In the past I had hypocritically denounced this behavior as pointless and childish.  Sure, I took the occasional selfie, picture of scenery, sunsets, cute animals, art, funny signs, misspelled signs, funny-looking people, and car accidents, but I never photographed my food. Well, unless you count smiley face pancakes but those are undeniably a public service to spread joy.

“The arm-phone is real. You seriously need to keep up with the world as it evolves,” said Sam. “I’ll send you a link so you can buy me one for my birthday. I think it’s the coolest thing. One day we won’t even need a screen to look at, we’ll just close our eyes, and it’ll be there.” Her news app must have had a technology section keeping her informed. Sam saw this progression as exciting and necessary; she was much more willing to accept change than I was. I would still use “Uncle Frankie’s Super Cool Shampoo for Growing Boys and Horses” if they still sold it. Apparently, it gave a bunch of people cancer, but I’m skeptical; none of the horses got sick.

“What happens when you open your eyes?” I asked.

“If I could predict the future, I would be working at a carnival charging people money so I could tell them when they are going to die.” Sam stared out into space before jerking back to reality. “Make sure you chew your food thoroughly. You’re about to die.”

“Well, I’m glad I didn’t order a salad; no one wants their last meal to be a salad,” I said before shoving a big handful of french fries into my face. Sam’s premonition didn’t worry me. I was confident scientists were going to figure that whole not-dying-thing eventually. I just hoped they figured it out before I got too old and gross looking.

“Send me the article later, and I’ll take a look,” I said. “And don’t forget, I’m getting drinks with a buddy after lunch.”

“That’s fine. I’m meeting this girl from class.” I had already started in on my burger, so whether Sam was explaining how her friend was in mortal danger and needed help or whether they were just going shopping, I’ll never know. The rest of lunch was uneventful. We both ate all our food—Is this useful information?—and found ourselves fully satisfied in front of the restaurant, readying ourselves to part ways.

I feel obligated to paint a detailed picture of my surroundings to give weight to the events about to follow. There had been a streak of sunny days leading up to the moment Sam and I stepped into the diner. But as we exited, clouds sprawled across the sky, water fell to the ground, and a frenzied swarm of birds began attacking people in phone booths—typical autumn weather. Sam and I kissed as the wind whipped water across our faces, accelerating our goodbye. As I walked up the street to meet my friend and her down to meet hers, she yelled something back to me. I smiled and nodded in recognition, but her words had been drowned out by the passing traffic. If it were vital, it would come up again.

I didn’t mind the darkness that overtook the streets. I saw the sudden banishment of the judgmental sunshine as a gift. I would be fully justified in returning home, putting on my sweatpants, never to leave again. If it weren’t for the bizarre phenomenon of people forgetting how to drive when the sun disappeared, it could have been a pleasant rest of the day. I don’t want to blame the concept of weather, but I’m in this predicament because our stupid earth decided to give people in the southern hemisphere a little more sunlight. (I’ll be honest, I don’t know how seasons work.)

As I approached the intersection, I felt my pants vibrate. It must have been Sam, sending me the article. And with hindsight being what it is and now that I’ve had ample time to look up the actual definition of irony, I feel comfortable describing the article as oppressively ironic. The walk sign changed as I reached into my pocket to verify the notification. I am positively certain the walk sign turned as I stepped into the street, this being the last thing I remembered before waking up in a hospital room. I didn’t even see the car hit me, but I have seen enough movies to know the general imagery of getting hit by a car.

About the author

Gregory Alesso is a humorist, fiction writer. He has had his comedy articles published across well-known humor publications, which are accessible on his personal website comedicramblings.com. Gregory often writes fictional satire about what he knows best: judging society and being a narcissist. view profile

Published on July 18, 2020

40000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Humor & Comedy

Reviewed by

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