Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius, edited by John Joseph Adams

The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil GeniusThe Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius by John Joseph Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, I've read an anthology, and come away with a mixed impression of the overall work. I loved the story I bought the anthology to read, and it was worth the cost of the book, but not all of the stories stacked up to that one. Here are my impressions of each, in the order they appear in the anthology:

"Professor Incognito Apologizes: an Itemized List" by Austin Grossman
I already knew Grossman could write mad geniuses, having loved his Soon I Will Be Invincible when I read it a couple of years ago. This is told in the form of a letter to the mad scientist's girlfriend, who has stumbled across his lair and discovered his secret identity. 5/5 stars.

"Father of the Groom" by Harry Turtledove
Mad scientist father turns the blushing bride into a literal bridezilla, wreaking havoc on the mall and surrounding suburbs. The men are clever, misunderstood geniuses, while the women are shallow airheads. Sigh. 2/5 stars.

"Laughter at the Academy" by Seanan McGuire
This is the story I bought the anthology for, and, as I said above, it was worth the cost of the book. I read it right before bed, though, which I don't recommend. I had bizarre and vivid dreams. In this, being a mad scientist is about whether one has a mental illness, and this latent tendency is being triggered all over the country by a very clever psychological scientist. 5/5 stars.

"Letter to the Editor" by David D. Levine
A mad scientist has a justification for his evil acts, and writes to tell the media. Creative take, and entertaining. 4/5 stars.

"Instead of a Loving Heart" by Jeremiah Tolbert
The AI trapped inside an ailing robot body has no choice but to do as his master instructs. Does it care what happens to the human race? Or does it have a soul? Typical of a sentient robot story, but I enjoyed it. 4/5 stars.

"The Executor" by Daniel H. Wilson
A mad scientist sets up an impossible test one has to solve before one can inherit his outrageous fortune. Generations later, the family is at one another's throats, still vying for the inheritance, which has grown. A man outside the family squabbles gives it a shot, so his infant daughter will live. Confusing narrative, but I liked the ending. 3/5 stars.

"The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan" by Heather Lindsley
An evil villain makes ends meet by coaching would-be supervillains on their monologues, costumes, and confidence. I liked how smart the character was, and the resolution had me grinning. 5/5 stars.

"Homo Perfectus" by David Farland
A scientist engineers himself to be the perfect man, and tries to find the perfect mate. His chosen candidate is dosed with pheromones, rohypnol, and some other inhibition-lowering substance, wherein she's reduced to a panting, begging animal, and he's too disgusted with her to take advantage. This story made my skin crawl. Creepy and gross. 1/5 stars.

"Ancient Equations" by L. A. Banks
A lonely mad scientist discovers where math and magic intersect, and summons an ancient goddess. Gets exactly what he bargained for. The dark-skinned goddess's use of ebonics wasn't appreciated, nor was her falling in line with the lusty, low-moral stereotype. I liked her attitude, but not the racial stereotypes. 3/5 stars.

"Rural Singularity" by Alan Dean Foster
A reporter goes to New Mexico to investigate a claim of a living two-headed chicken, and discovers a scarily precocious child. As he's planning how he might exploit his discovery, he makes one slip. Disturbing, in a good way. 4/5 stars.

"Captain Justice Saves the Day" by Genevieve Valentine
Tales of a mad scientist's assistant. At the end of the day, everyone has bills to pay. But one doesn't always have to perform one's job at 100%. Brenda's resourcefulness made me chuckle. 5/5 stars.

"The Space Between" by Diana Gabaldon
The longest selection in the anthology, and not worth the pages. If you're a fan of the Outlander series, you'll enjoy this one. I found it pointless, overwrought, and oversexed. 2/5 stars.

"Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution" by Carrie Vaughn
The spunky granddaughter of Queen Victoria investigates a steampunk mad scientist. It had all the elements of a story that should appeal, but it somehow fell flat. Maybe I was still mad about "The Space Between" when I read it. 3/5 stars.

"Blood and Stardust" by Laird Barron
A woman cobbled together by a mad scientist betrays her maker, for very good reason. She's clever, but the story didn't leave me with an overall positive impression. 3/5 stars.

"A More Perfect Union" by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Mad scientist specializing in political genius helps a promising candidate move up in the world. Forgettable story, and it felt significantly padded. 2/5 stars.

"Rocks Fall" by Naomi Novik
A lower-rung superhero meets an infamous supervillain, and they have a chat while waiting to be rescued. The mad scientist comes off as far more sympathetic than in any of the other stories in this anthology. Good characterization, and even a little touching. 5/5 stars.

"We Interrupt This Broadcast" by Mary Robinette Kowal
Post-WWII mad scientist is dying of TB, and is taking out Washington, DC before he goes using the primitive punchcard computers of his time. Doesn't want his lovely assistant to know he's dying, because he's in love with her. Bittersweet. 4/5 stars.

"The Last Dignity of Man" by Marjorie M. Liu
Alexander Luthor in a world without superheroes, who wants desperately to be the comic book villain so a Superman will emerge. The only story in this anthology with a gay protagonist, and he's sympathetic and redeemable, at that. Entertaining, but excessively gross in parts. 4/5 stars.

"Pittsburg Technology" by Jeffrey Ford
A disturbing little tale about signing up for one minor change in one's life to create a cascade effect that turns one's life around. But, if you're looking for that little change, you can ruin everything. Intriguing concept. 4/5 stars.

"Mofongo Knows" by Grady Hendrix
Supergenius ape foiled by his nemesis is a sideshow attraction in modern America. What happens when his nemesis is no longer around to keep him in check. Felt a bit padded. 3/5 stars.

"The Food Taster’s Boy" by Ben Winters
All-powerful despot sets up a young boy to become his nemesis, and spends the days until his return mentally mapping out how their final confrontation will go. Didn't like the dispassionate narration, and felt like the story was ultimately pointless. 2/5 stars.

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