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Genius Squad
Catherine Jinks
Harcourt, 438 pages

Genius Squad
Catherine Jinks
Catherine Jinks was born in Brisbane, Queensland, in 1963. She grew up in Papua New Guinea. Her high-school years were spent in Sydney, NSW. From 1982 to 1986, Catherine studied at the University of Sydney, graduating with an honours degree in medieval history. She then worked on Westpac Banking Corporation's staff magazine for approximately seven years. In 1992 she married Peter Dockrill, a Canadian journalist; in 1993 she and her husband left Australia for a brief spell in Nova Scotia, where she began to write full time. They returned to Australia in 1994. She has garnered many awards, including the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award (three times), the Victorian Premier's Award, the Aurealis Award for Science Fiction, the Australian Ibby Award, and the Davitt Award for Crime Fiction.

Catherine Jinks Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Evil Genius

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

This sequel to award-winner Catherine Jinks's excellent, and very dark, YA novel Evil Genius begins a few months following the destruction of the infamous Axis Institute, the university for young villains-in-training created by international mad scientist and all-around bad guy Phineas Darkkon. At present, Darkkon is missing, his nefarious right-hand-man Prosper English is sitting in an Australian jail cell, and their unwilling protege (and possibly Prosper's son) fifteen-year-old computer genius Cadel Piggott, has been dumped in yet another foster home. Adding to Cadel's unstable life, he's living in legal limbo, his citizenship as uncertain as his parentage, under the constant shadow of police surveillance -- for his own protection, and the world's safety as well. Cadel knows too much about Darkkon and his plots. But as far as Cadel's concerned, he doesn't know nearly enough, otherwise he'd know how to find Darkkon and turn him in.

With no leads on Darkkon, and limited computer access to learn more, Cadel tries to locate other survivors of the Axis Institute. His search leads him to Dot, sister of a classmate, and to a group of brilliant teenage misfits called the Genius Squad, gathered together at Clearview, a sham "youth refuge" for wayward teens, by a smooth-talker named Trader to dig up the truth about GenoME, a vast biotech company with links to Darkkon.

For a smart kid who's been bounced from house to house for most of his life, the offer of a safe place to live with like-minded souls, unlimited computer access, and a chance to strike back at Darkkon doesn't sound too bad, especially since Clearview is also recruiting Cadel's best friend Sonya, a mathematical genius severely afflicted by cerebral palsy who has had her own problems with the limits of foster care. Sonya's ecstatic about Genius Squad, but Cadel has doubts, especially about Trader, whose determination to bring down GenoME by any means includes an uncomfortably casual attitude toward violence and collateral damage.

Cadel's not entirely on his own. His social worker Fiona Currey, and Saul Geeniaus, the Detective Inspector investigating Darkkon, are doing their best for him, but they haven't seen what Cadel has, and his doubts about their ability to survive against Darkkon's vast resources are sensible and very human. Cadel may be only fifteen, but he's shouldered the moral responsibility of someone four times that age.

Jinks's characters move through a tangled plot of suspicion, deceit, and entirely justified paranoia, where hope flickers wanly but never quite goes out. This second book in the series continues to raise hard questions about family and loyalty, about personal honor and self-reliance, in a society whose best and brightest are no less -- and maybe more -- vulnerable than anyone else.

Copyright © 2008 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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