I've gotten through a few villain books (H.I.V.E., Council of Evil) but didn't think too much of them, even if they were entertaining. Then I got Evil Genius, and it sat on my shelf for a long, long time. It shouldn't have. It sits head and shoulders above the others.
Cadel Piggott is a systematic genius. Well, actually Cadel Darkkon is a systematic genius. When he was just a little guy, Cadel found out that he is the son of famed bad guy, Phineas Darkkon, now in jail for crimes of many sorts.
Cadel learns this from his therapist, Thaddeus Roth - who has also been grooming Cadel's genius at systems to cause mild but noticeable havoc throughout their hometown. Now, at the tender age of fourteen, Thaddeus suggests sending Cadel off to Axis Institute, a sort of specialist college for 'unique cases.' Cadel agrees to go and finds out that 'unique cases' may as well be read as 'psychopaths,' and that 'specialist college' means that the institute has classes like embezzlement, disguise, and (my favorite) Pure Evil.
Cadel at first loves his studies. But when he meets a brilliant, engaging young woman named Kay-Lee over the Internet, he starts to wonder whether he wants to be an evil genius at all...
Evil Genius is a thick book. At 500 pages, there's a lot of plot to cover. And yes, it drags a bit towards the front, what with the build-up of Cadel's motivations and story. But once it gets started... it's really tough to put it down. I've met few books that I really dislike to put down, and this is one of them.
It's not an action book. It's definitely a 'thought' sort of book. But that doesn't keep it from being so awesome. Cadel is a great main character - propensities toward both 'evil genius' and 'good genius,' with neither exaggerations or excuses for either. I'm firmly of the belief that 98% of all books can be amazing if they have a great main char, and this book did.
The real villains, too, were good. I really had no idea who the main villain was, though I had my suspicions and I really should have known all along. The supporting cast wasn't as great - they were mostly there to further the plot and nothing else - but they were hardly stock characters, and all were interesting.
What I liked best, though, was the sheer number of surprises. I've rarely been as surprised at the plot twists in one book as with Evil Genius. Foreshadowing could have been stronger, but I'm really not sure how one could foreshadow most of what went on without giving it away. So it's not a big deal.
I'm really not sure that any of that review made sense, but if it didn't, then here's the bottom line: Great characters. Great plot. Great ideas. Great twists. Great book. Read it.