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The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius (2013) John Joseph Adams

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“Professor Incognito Apologizes: an Itemized List” by Austin Grossman
“Father of the Groom” by Harry Turtledove
“Laughter at the Academy: by Seanan McGuire
“Letter to the Editor” by David D. Levine
“Instead of a Loving Heart” by Jeremiah Tolbert
“The Executor” by Daniel H. Wilson
“The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan” by Heather Lindsley
“Homo Perfectus” by David Farland
“Ancient Equations” by L. A. Banks
“Rural Singularity” by Alan Dean Foster
“Captain Justice Saves the Day” by Genevieve Valentine
“The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” by Theodora Goss
“The Space Between” by Diana Gabaldon
“Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution” by Carrie Vaughn
“Blood and Stardust” by Laird Barron
“A More Perfect Union” by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
“Rocks Fall” by Naomi Novik
“We Interrupt This Broadcast” by Mary Robinette Kowal
“The Last Dignity of Man” by Marjorie M. Liu
“The Pittsburgh Technology” by Jeffrey Ford
“Mofongo Knows” by Grady Hendrix
“The Food Taster’s Boy” by Ben Winters

This is the third anthology I’ve read by John Joseph Adams, and I must say that he has a good rack record for creating anthologies with stories I really like. He also has a good mix of stories, some of which I am guaranteed not to like, but that’s okay, because it’s good to read stuff I don’t normally read, and if I really don’t like a story, I can always skip on to the next (even though I rarely do that).

The stories I liked best in this anthology were the straight-up cackling Evil Overlord sort (you know that list, right?), because they were funny. The ones I liked least tended to be the more serious ones, because, well, evil in its true form exists in the world, and it’s generally funny at all.

“Professor Incognito Apologizes: an Itemized List” by Austin Grossman starts the anthology. Professor Incognito is writing a letter of apology to his fiancee for when she discovers his secret evil lair. I liked this because it was one of the Evil Overlord stories.

Harry Turtledove’s story “Father of the Groom” was another funny story, riffing off the whole idea of Bridezilla.

Now, bridesmaids’ dresses could piss off a saint. And if you are currently visualizing a pissed-off saint in a bridesmaid’s dress, you are indeed the kind of person for whom this tale is intended, you poor sorry sod, you.

I liked this one quite a bit as well.

“Laughter at the Academy: A FIELD STUDY IN THE GENESIS OF SCHIZOTYPAL CREATIVE GENIUS PERSONALITY DISORDER (SCGPD) by Seanan McGuire takes a look at the evil genius personality type–as well as what researchers will do to get their work published.

“Letter to the Editor” by David D. Levine is another evil genius explaining why he’s not really evil.

In real life, the most important moments in science are not greeted by the exclamation “Eureka!” but by a puzzled frown and the words “That’s funny…”

Mind you, “that’s funny” is very different from “Watch this!”

It also rings quite true. I mean really, Superman IS an illegal alien.

“Instead of a Loving Heart” by Jeremiah Tolbert is one of the stories told from the point of view of the evil overlords minions. It’s one of the sad stories, although not one of the horrible ones I disliked.

“The Executor” by Daniel H. Wilson was one of the dystopias and not particularly an evil genius story. As I dislike dystopias, this story was not for me.

“The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan” by Heather Lindsley is the story of a woman who counsels supervillains. I quite liked this one. Plus, it has the line, “His grin is as infectious as a well-designed bioweapon.” Who can resist that?!

David Farland’s story “Homo Perfectus” was another of the stories I didn’t care for. Pretty much any story where I thought, “what a dick” about the main character was one I didn’t like. There’s evil, and then there’s assholes. I really don’t like assholes.

“Ancient Equations” by L. A. Banks is the story of a genius who has set himself aside from the world, in hopes of saving the world. It also has the PERFECT line. (rot 13) ‘”Lbh zbgureshpxref ner nyy gur fnzr. Lbh jnag fbzr nff naq gura lbh jnaan tb gnxr bhg gur thlf jub hfrq gb trg nyy gur onorf.”‘

Alan Dean Foster’s story “Rural Singularity” isn’t an evil overlord story at all. It isn’t even a mad genius story in vein of the other stories, but instead is the story of a journalist going out to cover a story on two headed chickens and finding a hidden genius instead.

“Captain Justice Saves the Day” by Genevieve Valentine was another of my favorites. Again, we see the Evil Genius from the point of view of one of his minions.

It seems something is wrong with your address book because you erased it trying to password— protect it. I am on my way in to repopulate your address book from my computer. Please do not try to fix it until I get there.

For obvious reasons, this cracked me up. That scenario went exactly as expected.

Theodora Goss’s story “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” is the tale of the daughters of famous madmen: Dr Frankenstein, Dr Moreau, Dr Jekyll, etc. They live together because, as the author notes, “Science does not pay well; mad science pays even worse.”

“The Space Between” by Diana Gabaldon was one of the stories that disappointed me. I’ve liked her other short stories very much, but with this one, I felt like I was missing something–backstory perhaps? I liked the characters of Joan and Michael, but the bad guy–I just didn’t understand him, what he was doing, and what he was looking for.

“Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution” by Carrie Vaughn was a fun steampunk romp. Harry and Marlowe are visiting Doctor Carlisle, who has been under house arrest at his castle since The Incident. Harry believes he has been up to something, but wants proof. I liked both characters and I liked the story idea but I also liked that it was a well done short story.

“Blood and Stardust” by Laird Barron is another story from the point of view of the mad scientist’s minion, in this case, a created minion, who eventually learns and develops a conscience, of sorts, of her own. I quite liked this story.

“A More Perfect Union” by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is the story of a mad political scientist. Not one of my favorite stories, but that’s possible because it was pretty much a dystopia.

“Rocks Fall” was unexpected, in that it didn’t feel like a Naomi Novik story. A super hero and super villain are trapped by a rock fall, and this is their conversation while they are trapped. I liked the story , even if I found it rather depressing.

Mary Robinette Kowal‘s story “We Interrupt This Broadcast” is set right after WWII, in an alternate history where Dewey DID defeat Truman. I didn’t find the end particularly surprising, but I liked it just the same.

I generally like Marjorie M. Liu‘s short stories, and I enjoyed “The Last Dignity of Man”. An accident of naming makes Alexander Luthor become obsessed with Superman, and the forces of good or evil in the world. There were so very many lines in this story that I liked.

It is not enough to say one supports science. The real test is to see the finished product, fat and glistening, and not flinch.

I think those to sentences sum up many of the stories here–that evil men aren’t necessarily evil, but are sometimes men doing what they believe needs to be done to make the world a better place.

I really really liked this story–it’s one of my favorites from this anthology.

“The Pittsburgh Technology” by Jeffrey Ford is a sad sort of story.

“Why is it The Pittsburgh Technology?”
“Have you ever been to Pittsburgh?”

I think that sums of the story pretty well.

“Mofongo Knows” by Grady Hendrix was on I did not care for. Mofongo is a genius gorilla trapped as a side-show freak. It was just as sad and depressing as that sounds.

“The Food Taster’s Boy” by Ben Winters was the concluding story, and probably my least favorite story. C. is a despot who rules absolutely. He feels very much like Sadaam Hussein, only worse. Why why why end the anthology on such a dark and depressing note? I don’t LIKE ending a book with a feeling of despair and misery.

Aside from the anthology ending on several depressing notes, this was all-in-all a varied and very good collection of stories, with something for everyone. After all, the stories I disliked were not bad, they were just not my type of story.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Tor Books

 
 

Categories: 8/10, Alternate History, Anthology, Fantasy     Comments (0)    



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