At age seven, child prodigy Cadel Piggott lands in a shrink's office for illegal computer hacking, where psychologist Thaddeus Roth delivers startling counsel: "Next time, don't get caught." Thaddeus is an agent of Cadel's real father, a brilliant crook who, from behind bars, manages to place Cadel at the secretive Axis Institute for World Domination. By 13, Cadel is earnestly studying "Infiltration, Misinformation, and Embezzlement," but as he increasingly relies on an outside friendship, he privately plots to extricate himself from the paterfamilias. (from Amazon)
Evil Genius starts off quite slow, when protagonist Cadel is around age seven. Luckily, it speeds through four or so years until he gets to high school, then again when he gets to the Axis Institute. It really picks up around page 300, which leads to a fantastic action-packed ending!
The title makes Evil Genius seem like it might be campy, but it isn’t. Instead, it’s creepy– bordering on scary– and it takes any potential silliness and treats it very seriously instead. For instance, there’s a LOT of death in Evil Genius. Kids in the Institute die, disappear, or get traumatized and the adults are usually involved in CAUSING that.
Because the story is told through Cadel, and because he’s so emotionally stunted for most of the book, we don’t really get the full emotional impact of the horrible stuff until much later. Cadel isn’t emotionally connected to anyone, so their trauma is almost inconsequential to him– until he learns to care for other people, and then it matters a LOT.
As for the rest of the book, I loved the twists and the shocking reveals spread throughout the second half. The whole book is designed to suck you right into Cadel’s character arc, and following him through his experiences (and watching him grow as a person) was fantastic. Loved it!
Read: November 2008