The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination | Multiple Authors

The Mad Scientists Guide to World Domination, Edited by John Joseph Adams, is a collection of short stories concentrating on the villains side of the story.

From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses—from their own wonderfully twisted point of view.

An all-star roster of bestselling authors—including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire…twenty-two great storytellers all told—have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour of high-octane entertainment born of the most megalomaniacal mayhem imaginable.

Everybody loves villains. They’re bad; they always stir the pot; they’re much more fun than the good guys, even if we want to see the good guys win. Their fiendish schemes, maniacal laughter, and limitless ambition are legendary, but what lies behind those crazy eyes and wicked grins? How—and why—do they commit these nefarious deeds? And why are they so set on taking over the world?

If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck: It’s finally time for the madmen’s side of the story.

My review copy was an eARC provided for free by Tor through Netgalley.

Reviewing short story collections is tough. No matter how much work the collector put into it, there’s always going to be one or two that you don’t think work. I can’t give a rundown review of all of them, so what I am going to do is discuss a few I thought were good, a few I thought… weren’t, and then talk about how well the collection works together.

The first story (Professor Incognito Apologizes: An Itemized List by Austin Grossman) is a strong opener, which is always necessary in a collection. Witty, amusing and a nice riff on the supervillain theme, as well as on the nature of the lies we tell about ourselves to the people we love.  Also, I jsut love the writing. Grossman is a strong writer, and does humour well.

In three more weeks I had a working blaster, and we met to see Hannah and Her Sisters at the Regent. I fell asleep on your shoulder, dreaming the genetic code for a race of sentient tigers.

Wonderful. But as well as being funny, it’s also quite an honest and touching look at a troubled and turbulent relationship, where both parties have been lying about something big. I’m sure there’s more than one reader that can relate.

From that onto another story about villains and love, except this one is by Harry Turtledove and there’s not much to say except the fact that I’ve never really liked his writing and this short didn’t convince me otherwise. That may be heresy, but I am what I am and I’ve never been keen on that sort of self-conscious trope acknowledgement.  Far too arch and knowing. Clever, but in love with its own cleverness. Blah. Not for me.

There are a couple of good-but-not-great pieces before we get to the next one I really liked – Instead Of A Loving Heart by Jeremiah Tolbert, a story about artificial intelligence and true, uncaring evil. It’s very sad, and bleak, and it makes my heart hurt to read.

I simply do not have enough space to review the entirety of the rest of the collection, but in all I was pretty impressed. There were plenty of good stories, a few great ones and very few bad stories – though there were a couple I thought were mediocre, or that I thought didn’t fit.  In general, it’s a well-curated collection, with most of the stories being above average and working together very well to increase the strength of the whole. I may have to track down a physical copy for dipping in and out.

Have you read this collection? Did you agree or disagree with me about the stories I liked and the ones I didn’t?

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