Recently I picked up the Artemis Fowl series, and made a few remarks about it in my Evil Boy Genius post. When Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius (2005) crossed my path last week, therefore, I felt compelled to read it. Here, I thought, here is a knockoff Artemis Fowl – another boy genius, obsessed with computers and mathematics, but in this book he gets the chance to be mentored, to go to university (he graduates from high school at age 13, as any self-respecting evil genius would), to be trained in world domination. This time the story is set in Australia rather than Ireland. And sans fairies. So there are a few small differences.
Although protagonist Cadel is clever and ambitious, he turns out to be just a very intelligent, otherwise normal teenage boy who wants to belong to a family and to prove himself. Stifled at every turn by his adoptive parents the Piggotts, psychologist Thaddeus, and the man he is told is his biological father, Dr Darkkon, Cadel soon feels trapped and attempts to escape Darkkon’s plans for Cadel to build some sort of malicious empire by staging a controlled collapse of the microcosm he has been placed in at the Axis Institute, a secret university for people with special abilities or weird gene mutations, causing symptoms like smelling really bad or having silvery skin like a fish. And gills. Apparently, author Jinks got started on the idea for the novel when she got curious about how characters similar to Professor X of the X-Men series got their degrees from.
Though Cadel is obsessed with systems of all kinds, he is too young to understand that people will never react as you expect them to, and the situation soon spirals out of control.
Where Artemis Fowl often seems to be even more abnormal because he doesn’t react in an emotional way to almost anything around him, Cadel Piggott has totally normal reactions to the bizarre developments in his life. He gets upset, breaks down, acts out, and forms a relationship with an equally intelligent girl (though she certainly has problems of her own). She is put in danger, and Cadel has to decide what means more to him: family or friendship. Many teenage readers should be able to relate.
Overall, this appeared to be a more detailed story about a teen geek taking over the world than the Artemis Fowl series, but that series is more clever and appealing in its dialog and action. Plus, Artemis is almost totally independent and fully aware of the implications of his actions, always a few steps ahead. Meanwhile, Cadel of Evil Genius finds the systems he thought he understood imploding while he looks on in despair, and that story is just not as entertaining.
Any good reads out there over the US holiday weekend?
// Short Ends and Leader
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