Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. (from Amazon)
This is my second time reading this book, and I THINK I liked it more this time around than the first (back in 2008), even though the rating’s fallen by a full bird1. Maybe because I’ve read other Catherine Jinks books now and I’m more used to her writing style? It’s an interesting style; she tends to have very good characters and interesting plots, but she sort of tamps down on the exciting bits for some reason. It almost reminds me of Scott Westerfeld’s writing, only less melodramatic.
Evil Genius is the sort of book that could have gone in very different directions depending on who wrote it. It’s got shades of sci-fi, of horror, of thriller/mystery, and even of humor. This means the tone is, unfortunately, all over the place, though CJ does a good job of holding it together. For example: Cadel ends up going to the Axis Institute for college, literally a University of Evil. He takes classes in forgery, computer hacking, etc., the teachers are bribed and blackmailed into teaching, and everyone who attends is some kind of villian. It’s campy and hilarious and yet also frightening because the whole thing is being taken seriously. It’s not a COMEDY book, except maybe in a very dark way. It’s almost ridiculous, except that people die horrible deaths nearly every other chapter.
Reconciling the campy bits with the serious bits takes a bit of doing, and I don’t think I entirely made it. Characters who call themselves things “Darkkon” and then spend a lot of time telling people it means “Dark Lord” are characters I can’t take seriously, and when an author TELLS me to take them seriously, my brain starts to hurt.
Maybe that’s just me, though, I don’t know.
I also had trouble with the pacing, although I don’t think anything could have been cut without important bits being lost, so I just had to muddle through.2 Cadel’s growth from self-absorbed near-villian to someone who actually cares about people needed room to happen, and since that’s my favorite part of the book I can forgive wonky pacing.
Overall, despite my issues with the tone and pacing, I enjoyed reading Evil Genius. It’s a fun book– any book with teenage geniuses is one I like to read– and I really liked that it’s set in Australia, with Australian characters and places and whatnot.3
Read: May 20-23, 2012 (reread)
- Remember, I restructured my ratings last year! Every old rating is slightly wonky when compared to my rating standards today. ↩
- The second book, btw, is just as long as this one but is considerably more fast-paced. The humor/serious tone is more even, too. ↩
- Which makes sense, because the author’s Australian. 😛 ↩