Here at Mad Scientist Journal, we were very excited to learn that John Joseph Adams would be editing an anthology titled The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. With a title like that, we knew it would right up our alley. So when the nice folks at Tor asked if we’d be interested in reviewing the anthology for our journal, I jumped on the opportunity to do so.
The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is a collection of twenty-two short stories about many different sorts of mad scientists and their diabolical plots. In many cases, the mad scientists themselves are the narrators of their stories, but in other cases, the stories are from the perspective of someone who has been affected by the mad scientists and their plots. Two of the stories, “Instead of a Loving Heart” by Jeremiah Tolbert, and “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” by Theodora Goss, are reprints, but they fit in seamlessly with the original stories.
A good number of the stories involve superheroes (some recognizable, others not as well known) as the nemeses of the mad scientists. By focusing on the mad scientist as the protagonist, some of these stories present the traditional villain as a sympathetic character. For example, Naomi Novik’s story “Rocks Fall” features a mad scientist villain who I was rooting for by the end.
There are a also handful of stories with steampunk elements to their mad science, like the action-packed “Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution” by Carrie Vaughn. Some of the authors provide mad scientists whose accomplishments are in the so-called “soft” sciences, like political science or psychology. But “A More Perfect Union” by L. E. Modesitt, Jr., will convince you that there’s nothing soft about a mad political scientist bent on world domination. Similarly, Seanan McGuire’s mad psychologist in “Laughter at the Academy” puts her education to good use in her maniacal plots.
Overall, there’s a nice mix of humor and darkness in the collected stories. Hands down, however, my favorite story of the anthology was “Letter to the Editor” by David D. Levine. This story tells the tale of the sacrifices that the protagonist, Doctor Talon, has endured for the good of the world. True, it does just so happen that these “sacrifices” are largely in the arena of opposing the superhero Ultimate Man, but as Doctor Talon explains, he’s done everything that he has done for a reason. (And if you’d like to hear a dramatic reading of this story, it’s available here.)
As is the case with most anthologies, this collection includes a little bit of something that is likely to appeal to every reader. The length of most of the stories was such that I could read a couple of stories in half an hour or so, though there are some considerably longer stories as well. All in all, I found all of the stories interesting and a good read.