There’s no way I can remember all the titles of all the books I dragged out of the dusty stacks of the Southwest Public Library that was just a block from my home. There’s no way I can even remember all the books I dragged out of there period. There have certainly been many that I read and forgot.
One I still remember, though, is a short series about three kids with super powers. I’ve always remembered this one, but my memories were really stirred up by the similar scenario of the recent film Chronicle. I couldn’t remember the title of the series, though. Even after Googling for hours, I just couldn’t track these books down. Fortunately, our venerable VicSage knew that they were called Psi Patrol. And as soon as I had that critical bit of information, I was able to track them all down.
The Psi Patrol story is very simple. A satellite (which I erroneously remembered as a meteor; no wonder I couldn’t find them!) crashed into a mall, and three kids, Sal, Hendra, and Max, all touch it simultaneously. Once they do, they are gifted with psionic powers and able to do all sorts of things such as lift heavy objects, communicate telepathically, and fly.
Sounds like it has a lot of promise, doesn’t it? And it did, enough promise to make a young me search out the rest of the series after I read the first book. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really live up to that promise, as I discovered while rereading it over the past two weeks. The characters are incredibly unlikable. Sal is a teenage sex fiend, Hendra is obnoxious to an unbelievable degree, and Max is as snooty as can be. Their powers are never fully explained or defined. Subplots are set up and then dropped. They use their powers in public and yet don’t get caught. And worst of all, they never get in any major super battles.
But the series does have two saving graces. The first is the one that I remembered all these years. These kids got their powers just from touching a satellite. This was something I could do, something that could happen to me! I obviously didn’t come from the planet Krypton and I wasn’t a millionaire playboy/engineering genius, so I knew I couldn’t be Superman or Iron Man. But it was absolutely possible that a satellite could fall on my mall and give me super powers. Possible? Heck, it was nearly inevitable!
The second is the one I re-discovered upon my recent rereading of the series. As the series ends, Max finds out that everyone born after 1967 has psionic powers. That’s all of us, my retro friends! We don’t need a satellite to fall on us! We’re already psionic! That in turn leads Max to suggest that he, Max, and Hendra record their story in a book form to get the word out to all the other kids of the 80s. The books they write? Why, they’re the very books we’re reading! The book ends on this ruse, which I found delightful even as a jaded 37-year-old and must have found earth-shaking at a fresh-faced 11. This ruse is carried over to the books as each presents the perspective of a different main character (one is Sal’s, one is Hendra’s, one is Max’s). It is even carried over onto the front covers, as each of the books claims to be written by the main characters.
Is Psi Patrol great? I don’t think so. As I said, there are a lot of problems with it. But I thought it was great once, and I still think it’s pretty good.