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The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius
Edited by John Joseph Adams
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765326454
Date: 19 February 2013 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Editor's Website / Show Official Info /

Mad scientists seem to achieve notoriety in cycles. In the late 1800s, demented scientists like Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and Captain Nemo of the Nautilus sought to impose their visions upon the world--or at least their corner of it. More recently, atomic horror in the '50s gave rise to a new breed of madmen, and comic books boasted of maniacal inventors like Lex Luthor, Dr. Sivana, and Dr. Doom.

Now, in the 21st century, it's time for a new breed of mad scientist to take center stage.

John Joseph Adams has brought together some of today's top writers in The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination, a wonderful anthology full of tales about the men who bend science to their iron wills...and make the world a much more interesting place to live.

After a foreword by X-Men scribe without peer Chris Claremont, Austin Grossman's "Professor Incognito Apologizes" leads off. It's a lengthy confession from a mad scientist to his beloved and conveys all of his regrets, including the multiple lies, betrayals, even her incipient death, as his latest fiendish plan reaches fruition. Witty, dry and funny at unexpected junctures, it is a great start.

Harry Turtledove brings more of the funny with "Father of the Groom", wherein Dr. Tesla Kidder decides that wedding preparations might be a little more interesting with some mad science thrown in. A debacle at Bed Bath and Beyond certainly gives a new meaning to the word 'bridezilla'.

"Laughter at the Academy" by Seanan McGuire might be the best story in the book, following a series of inexplicable cases of Schizotypal Creative Genius Personality Disorder--which results in spontaneous mad science of all kinds. McGuire makes the argument very effectively that a mad social scientist might be the most dangerous kind of all.

Daniel Wilson's "The Executor" is a bitingly clever look at problems of entrusting one's affairs, post-mortem, and the byzantine complications that arise thereby. It is also a rather poignant tale of a father looking out for his daughter and doing whatever it takes to assure her survival.

"The Angel of Death has a Business Plan" by Heather Lindsley is about a world-conquering supervillain who's learned from the mistakes of his colleagues...and has a way of getting the job done without undue risk. It is also an examination of the dangers of trust among mad scientists. A stand out.

"Homo Perfectus" by David Farland asks the question, "What happens when you get what you want most... and discover you need something more?" A dinner conversation that is so much more, animates this tale of a mad scientist who finds achievement can be hollow under the wrong circumstances.

The farmer's daughter is a source of much comedy, but in Alan Dean Foster's hands, a "Rural Singularity" shows that these innocent rustic maidens can be far more than they appear. When a reporter investigates the doings of a girl named Suzie, he finds that looks can be very deceiving, and not all mad scientists are out to conquer the world. Some just want to breed mutant chickens.

All these and more are collected in a neat package with a cover by comic book artist Ben Templesmith. Some are stories about mad scientist-as-supervillain, others are more retro and hark back to the B movies of the '30s to '50s, and some bring the mad scientist trope into the modern world. What they all have in common is a fascination with insane genius, its effect on the world (and often on the genius him/herself) and what spirals out from there.

Adams has become a leading anthology editor of science fiction and fantasy, and for good reason. Books like this are to be found and treasured by those who love good stories, and Adams delivers by the bushel here. For any readers who enjoy tales of science (and scientists) gone wrong, there's no better book to have.


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