Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Evil Genius
Catherine Jinks
Harcourt, 486 pages

Evil Genius
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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

Seven-year-old Cadel Piggott is a genius without direction. Cadel LOVES systems: studying them, analyzing them, and -- best of all -- breaking them. His adoptive parents don't know what to do with him, and neither do his teachers. The local police just have one suggestion: find something or someone to keep the boy occupied and too busy to hack the government's computers, or he'll end up in jail, no matter his age. A referral leads Cadel's desperate parents to Dr. Thaddeus Roth, a somewhat unorthodox, reputedly brilliant, psychologist. Cadel has been to so many shrinks, one more doesn't make much difference -- but Roth is different.

For one thing, Roth lets Cadel use his computer unsupervised, and encourages his hacking by pointing him toward some less obvious targets. For another, Roth reveals that the boy is actually the son of notorious mad genius Dr. Phineas Darkkon. A geneticist convinced that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because of all the junk DNA in the gene pool, determined to reshape the world according to his vision by whatever means necessary, Darkkon is now ready to take his son under his wing and train him to follow in the old man's footsteps.

Sick of always being hated by his classmates, the brunt of every bully's attacks, Cadel initially embraces Darkkon, Roth, and their philosophy. At fourteen, Cadel enters the Axis Institute (full name: the Axis Institute for World Domination), largely endowed by Darkkon, where he attends various classes in the nefarious arts, from computer science (a.k.a.: "Infiltration"), Accounting ("Embezzlement"), and Applied Physics ("Explosives") to Psychology ("Manipulation"), Media Studies ("Misinformation"), and Pragmatic Philosophy ("Pure Evil"). The golden rule here is "Never take anything at face value." Students are encouraged to undermine, even murder (but not in the classrooms, please), their rivals. Most of the professors are being blackmailed, either by each other, or by the Institute to keep them on staff.

Cadel's classmates are just as unnerving. Abraham Coggins seems nice enough, except for his obsession with creating a race of vampires. Then there's Gazo Kovacs, whose body odor is reputedly so foul that he has to wear a special self-containment suit with its own air supply when in public. Then there's the pyrogenic thug Clive Slaughter (who's working on picking a good nom de guerre and hasn't quite settled on the Scourge) and dour Doris Deauville, a master poison-maker.

Cadel's only true friend is Kay-Lee McDougall, a brilliant misfit like himself, whom he has never met face to face. Their online relationship leads Cadel to question his father's intentions, as well as the morality of his own actions. But the Institute isn't the sort of place one can just leave, not if your surname is Darkkon. His father's spies are everywhere, and if Cadel wants to survive, he'll have to walk a fine line, pretending obedience while using every dirty trick he has ever learned to secure his escape -- while making sure that the few friends he has, especially Kay-Lee, don't get caught in the crossfire.

Catherine Jinks's work is well-known in her homeland of Australia, where she's won several prestigious awards. Here she's created a compelling black comedy which is part thriller and part coming of age story which reminds readers that "People aren't... like chemicals -- they don't always respond the same way when you mix them, no matter how precisely you might have measured and calculated." A sequel, Genius Squad, is also in the works.

Copyright © 2007 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.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide