Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Three Viewpoint Thursday: Evil Genius

It's Three Viewpoint Thursday, where Aly, Renee and I sit down to chat about one book. This time around, we got to read Evil Genius, by Catherine Jinks.

Cadel is a genius. He lives with his adoptive parents, who have never shown him much concern or care. When he's forced into counseling after disrupting a complex system, Cadel meets Thaddeus, a man that changes his life. For better or worse? Cadel doesn't know until he attends the Axis Institute, where people are eccentric at best and evil at worst. He can never be sure who to trust, and it takes all of his brainpower to get himself out of the biggest mess of his life.

Vilate: So, this one was a long book - kind of difficult to finish, but was it difficult to stay interested?

Renee: I didn't think it was difficult to stay interested. I think that the first chapter, where Cadel has his first meeting with Thaddeus about his computer hacking problems and Thaddeus' only comment is, "Don't get caught," was a great way to start the book. I think that chapter could have been a prologue though and then we fast-forwarded to Cadel going to the institute -- the 60-70 pages in between talking about Cadel's life at 11, 12, 13... was a little unnecessary...

Aly: I kind of agree. I feel like the book could have been cut down by 100-150 pages and not have lost anything. I know that at first I just really didn't like Cadel and so it was hard, but by the end I really liked him.

Vilate: I also agree that the first little bit of the book could've been condensed, at least. On the other hand, though, the characterization would've been different if we didn't have his history, too. But the plot itself didn't seem like it would've been all that affected by chopping the beginning down a bit.

Vilate: On that note, what did you think of the plot?

Aly: I think I got confused at several points and had to figure things out. There were a lot of characters and some technical stuff and also a lot of things that you weren't sure what you could believe or not believe. But overall the concept of a school to train people in all those skills that are deviant by nature... kind of interesting.

Renee: I agree. I like how appropriately everything matched up at the school (Psychology was "Manipulation", etc.) and that aspect of it was interesting. There were parts where I wasn't sure if the message of the book was about being a genius, or if it was a greater comment on people with special needs, because several characters were either mentally handicapped or exhibited strange symptoms that could be special needs, so I wasn't sure if there was a deeper message I should have been looking for.

Vilate: I'm not sure about a deeper message, although, there was a clear theme to me. Plot-wise, I loved seeing how things twisted and turned in the school. I also enjoyed seeing the details come clear at the end. It didn't turn out quite the way I thought it would, and that was nice. I loved how the plot was directly related to Cadel's development and that even when he tried to do the right thing, it was clear that he wasn't a genius in everything. He needed the help of other people in the end.

Renee: I did like that aspect about intelligence not being everything, and how Thaddeus kept repeating that you cannot predict or formularize human behavior. That bit about morals and humanity was nice.

Aly: I liked the transformation process for Cadel throughout the book. In the beginning he relies on his intelligence and is completely arrogant but by the end he recognizes the mistakes he has made and is much more contrite.

Vilate: That was one aspect I really loved, Aly. Cadel's character development is key to this book. There was a lot of the technical stuff that I didn't really understand, but I felt like Cadel's character transformation was the real gist of the story. And he didn't have the greatest role models. It takes him a while, but he realizes that he doesn't feel right living his life the way Thaddeus wants him to, and he does his best to get himself out of the situation. I felt bad for him and wanted him to come out okay in the end.

Renee: That was where I found some tension in the story, because for the longest time I couldn't decide whether Thaddeus was good or bad, and when it became clear that Thaddeus was really manipulating Cadel into doing bad things... I don't know. I was really charmed by Thaddeus' character, even though he was obviously a criminal.

Aly: Well, Thaddeus had always said from the beginning not to trust anyone and I guess he always creeped me out from the start of the book. So I wasn't really surprised that he was manipulating Cadel.

Vilate: I can't say I was surprised, either. Thaddeus was definitely charming, though. I know that he was very smooth. I feel like he had to be in order to corral Cadel's intelligence. He had to coax Cadel. I like that Cadel really only ever liked the complexities of systems and once he found out about his father, he just wanted to please him. He craved the guidance and love of a parent. Thaddeus knew that and used it to his own advantage. Creepy, indeed!

Aly: Did anyone ever watch the TV show La Femme Nikita from the 90's? The Axis Institute remind me a little of the whole Section One hing. The smoothness of Operations and Madeleine and how one minute they could seem so nice and then the next minute they had no qualms about torturing someone or manipulating a situation. I just kept thinking of that show in relations to this book. LOL!

Vilate: That's so true! I hadn't thought of that before, but it's definitely similar. The author did a great job portraying all of the characters, I think.

Vilate: So, I know that Aly's got limited time... so we'll go right into whether or not you enjoyed the book.

Renee: I enjoyed it. It was very different (kind of like X-men, but less honorable) and I liked the twists in the characters -- like how you never could take anything at face value and all the characters you thought you had figured out (like Kay-lee and Thaddeus) reveal something about themselves that makes you reconsider everything. I think it could have been a novel that made you distrust other people, but the author made it more about relying on the help of others, which was very nice.

Aly: I liked it more than I thought I would. I think there were some things about it that really helped. As I said before I liked the transformation that Cadel goes through. Also, I liked what happened to Cadel as a result of people like Kay-lee/Sonja and Gazo. I think from those situations/relationships some of his "humanity" comes through. I wondered if he hadn't had those kinds of things if he wouldn't have changed as much. So aside from length, this one was much more enjoyable than our last read. :)

Vilate: I enjoyed the story, myself. Definitely better than the last one... It was slow going, but it kept me interested. I wanted to see what happened to Cadel in the end, so I was invested in him as a character. I even found myself wanting some kind of redemption for Thaddeus and the rest of the Axis crew. But I liked it all well enough that I've even contemplated getting the sequel and reading it.

Renee: I did also want to see some sort of redemption for Thaddeus, because I really liked him as a character (although I am still the black sheep who enjoyed our last book). I didn't realize this was a series...

Vilate: I'm not sure it's a "series" but I know there's a sequel.

Vilate: In terms of recommendations - would you hand this book over to anyone? Boys? I thought it would be a good one for boys, although the pace is a little slow, I think, for them.

Aly: Hmmm... I think if I knew boys who would stick with it then I could recommend it to them and maybe some girls. I think this might be a hard sell with some teens. It would definitely be to a specific type of reader. I would like to try some of Jinks other books so I can see what she is like.

Renee: Yeah... I don't think its YA, but I don't know if many middle grade readers would have the patience to stick through it, because it isn't as immediately grabbing as other long books, like Harry Potter or Eragon, so it wouldn't be for reluctant readers definitely.

Vilate: I'd say that any recommendation on my part would come with the reservation that it's not as fast a read as, say, James Patterson. It could work for more mature young readers. I probably would've been able to read it as a child, since I spent a lot of time in the adult racks, myself. And I felt like the life lessons that Cadel learned are very similar to those that young readers might be in the process of learning. So I'd say it's YA, but recommend it sparingly.

Thanks for joining us on another TVT! Until next time, laugh like an evil genius and go read a diabolical book!

~ Vilate