Book Review – Mad Science Institute by Sechin Tower
I like the idea of this book — a YA story premised on science rather than magic, with smart, young adult heroes, passionate about learning and discovery who find themselves in an environment where they can pursue their interests. It reminded me a bit of another book I read and reviewed not long ago, Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks. There should be more stories in settings like this.
The plot of this one is the classic ‘good guys versus bad guys bent on taking over the world.’ The pacing is good, with discoveries and events leading incrementally to a satisfying and logical conclusion.
I was less taken with the characters.
The star of the story, Sophia “Soap” Lazarcheck, is a 16-year-old science geek, brilliant but socially awkward. Her ability to invent and build truly amazing gizmos is offset by a lack of appreciation for how these inventions might go wrong. Explosions and fires tend to be the result. For the most part, I found her an endearing character, but my ability to suspend disbelief was breached in her first encounter with the antagonist. She was far too trusting of this mysterious and clearly untrustworthy voice on the phone, and I could not accept how easily she sold him the key code for her new, and otherwise impregnable, school.
Her cousin, Dean, is the character that most failed for me. He plays the part of the well-muscled and well-intentioned but intellectually uncomplicated knight in shining armor. He’s not quite dimwitted enough to be a comic character, but I found him far too simple to be either likeable or believable in his role in this story.
The mysterious antagonist, always in the background and pulling the strings of his minions, is a recognizable James Bond type villain. The biker gang that serves as his muscle is a group of unwashed, uneducated, and thoroughly unpleasant individuals. They were not inept enough to be funny but too (unjustly) stereotypical to be believable. (I’ve known a few bikers, and most were nice people.)
The chapters with Soap providing the point of view are written in first person. The other chapters are written in third. This can be a bit jarring when you’re reading. I would have preferred third person throughout, with chapter or scene breaks for changes in POV. Otherwise, the book is well written, although I did spot a few typos. The ending is set up for a sequel.
The book is an enjoyable departure from more common magical or mystical YA stories, and I can recommend it as a quick, light read.
(Loosely) Related Post: Book Review – Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks