Sunday, September 18, 2011

Evil Genius Review

Book talk: Cadel's slight build and curls may make him seem harmless, but beneath those innocent blue eyes lurks the mind of an evil genius.  When he is only seven he gets in trouble with the police for hacking into computer systems and by the time he is thirteen he is attending the Axis Institute.  Axis is not your average college.  Instead of courses in biology, physics, and cultural appreciation they have courses in contagion, explosives, and forgery.  Cadel is getting his degree in infiltration so he can follow in the steps of his father, the infamous Dr. Darkkon.  At first Cadel loves the challenge, but as the student body starts dying off he begins to question the techniques used by his teachers.  Soon Cadel starts planning an escape, but whatever he does he must follow the university's first and only rule--don't get caught!

Rocks my socks: Jinks somehow managed to take a character with a genius IQ who delights in destroying the lives of others and make me not only relate to him, but pity him.  Cadel's youthful transgressions are easily forgiven when the full scale of the manipulation he has suffered is revealed.  I loved the way Cadel's act of showing interest in others and being nice to them, originally designed to disguise his own evil intent, eventually became a genuine habit which ends up saving him.  Just when I cared more about Cadel than ever, Jinks skillfully threw him headlong into danger and picked up the pace to keep me turning pages to discover Cadel's fate. Intellectually Cadel may be able to outwit most adults, but emotionally he is believably young and fragile as he tries to navigate social relationships. I appreciated the humor of the novel and I found the tidbits from his classes interesting, but what really touched me was Cadel's realization that there are good people and that the Earth isn't a lost cause.

Rocks in my socks: The pacing of the novel was uneven.  Cadel whips through elementary through high school with only a few key incidents highlighted over the years and even fewer characters worth remembering.  Once he reaches the Axis institute, however, a whole slew of classmates and teachers are introduced and it was difficult for me to keep track of them at first, although this naturally became easier as they died off.  At Axis time is taken out of the narration to describe the lessons the children are being taught which I found interesting but did slow things down considerably. The first half had a leisurely, often humorous feel to it. Then the novel makes an unexpected turn for the serious and begins to speed down a twisty path that kept me up late turning pages and left me a bit exhausted.

Every book its reader: It's hard to put this novel into one neat box. Fans of humor will enjoy it when  Dr. Darkkon hides his communication device  by placing it in a toilet and acting as if he's sick when he's making a video call to Cadel.  Fans of thrillers will enjoy seeing how Cadel escapes from his kidnappers.  Fans of superheros will enjoy reading about the aspiring villains at the Institute and their budding powers.  Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy reading about the unique classes Cadel attends.  And computer and science geeks will enjoy the jokes and riddles like the code Cadel uses with his pen pal involving the periodic table of elements.  But because the humor is mostly at the beginning, the school story mostly in the middle, and the fast-paced thriller scenes are mostly at the end it might be hard to sell it to one person unless they enjoy a variety of genres. I'd give it to 7th grade and up.

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

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