Sunday, March 8, 2020

Review: The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams

Sometimes friends press books into my hands despite the book not being my usual kind of read. A collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories is definitely one of these kinds of books. The title of the book, giving away the thematic link through all the stories, made me think of Pinky and the Brain and their plans to take over the world. Of course, my friend loaned the book to me specifically for the Diana Gabaldon story in it, a story adjacent to the Outlander world, focused on Master Raymond and the Compte St. Germain. But because I am a completest of the worst sort, I had to read all of the stories, not just the one she thought I'd be curious about.

As in all collections, some of the stories were more entertaining than others. I particularly like the ones that were comedic in tone with bumbling super villains but then I always liked the campy "Kapow" and "Bam" of the 1960s era Batman tv show too so my taste may be a tad suspect. I am certain that there were many stories that allude to characters or novels in the genre that I completely missed, not being much of a sci-fi or fantasy reader, which those who catch the references will probably find enhance the stories. My level of familiarity is with The Incredibles, the aforementioned Pinky and the Brain, Dr. Doofenshmirtz, and for a non-cartoon reference, the baddies in James Bond.  Hardly a breadth of literary knowledge of the genre.

Each story in the collection starts with what appears almost to be a case file written by the editor. It summarizes the category of the story, who tells the story, the rule of supervillainry that the story illustrates, and who the story is about. Sometimes these little intros are fun and other times they are too much, giving away more than should be told in advance of the actual story. The stories themselves are of varying lengths and varying seriousness. Some appear to be part of their authors' larger universes while others seem to be stand alone. A unique idea for a collection, I'm not sure this necessarily made me any more likely to read some of these authors but for the most part, it was a fun and unlikely bit of reading for me.

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