“Cadel Piggott’s parents thought he was brilliant… and dangerous. His therapist thought he could rule the world. They were right.” This is the description on the back of the paperback edition of Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks, and it’s a fairly decent spoiler-free description.
The book is an interesting exercise in advanced IQ and what happens to a hyper intelligent youth when he is isolated by that intelligence and unmotivated by the existing educational structure.
“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.”
The beginnings of this book do remind me of the beginning of Hackers, the movie. A child who’s hacked into systems is being told he can’t use computers anymore. That’s really where the similarities end, but it’s a pretty solid start nonetheless.
Cadel Piggott is a complex character, and his adoptive parents aren’t quite sure what to do with him. His therapist, the mystery of his birth parents, and why exactly he’s studying at the Axis Institute for World Domination are all puzzles for Cadel to put together.
For me, this felt like a vacation book. It’s the kind of book that you read for fun and enjoyment. It’s probably not going to change your life or the way you look at computers or school. It’s not game changing, but it is an enjoyable read with some unpredictability in its construction.
I really enjoyed the construct of the Axis Institute. I think the idea that “world domination” can be taught at an institute of higher learning and can be boiled down into its component parts is a great concept. I’m pretty sure many of our current public and shadowy leaders have taken classes in basic lying, forgery, loopholes, infiltration, manipulation, misinformation, embezzlement, contagion, assassination, power channeling, guerilla skills, and, yes, even pure evil.
Many of the classes that are attended by our main character Cadel include selected lessons, which are particularly of interest, because they rely on a combination of real world information and some selected de facto evil genius-type cliches.
In all, Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius is a fun and easy read that combines young adult indecision with thriller and mystery elements into a unique read that may not be for everyone. If you’ve ever rooted for the bad guy, be sure to pick this one up.