Mad Science is fascinating. It’s the best of three worlds alien to most– hard science (generally chemistry, for whatever reason), evil, and crazy.
While many geeks have experience with hard science, it’s a smaller group that has truly gone mad in the process. However, as you’ll see in this anthology of short stories (edited by John Joseph Adams; written by many), madness takes many forms; from the crazy-haired “Doc Brown” style of mad scientist, to the behind-the-scenes and well-dressed political scientist.
Why is this on our bookshelf?
Years ago, as our modern version of science was just beginning to come into its own, “mad science” as we might envision it today, was commonplace (if you have any doubt, see my review on The Clockwork Universe).
Today scientists operating outside of the realm of peer review and the commonly accepted means of doing things become outcasts among their peers. Add to the mix a scientist with means that is particularly brilliant and you get—no, not Tony Stark—but mad science.
Rating (4 stars)
The stories in this anthology progress from our perhaps stereotypical view of a mad scientist (“your puny human weapons are powerless…”) through stories that are becoming increasingly less about crazy hair and white lab coats and, in fact, barely resemble our view of mad science at all.
It’s a powerful collection of stories, though I do wish for more at the front-end of that spectrum. Perhaps the “mad scientist” genre provides for a thin plot, or perhaps I just yearn for more Dr. Horrible, or perhaps I wasn’t ready to accept those latter short stories under the banner of Mad Science.
Clearly, Adams has put a lot of thought into what it means to be a mad scientist. This comes through in the assembled collection of stories and the short forwards he wrote for each of them. I had the opportunity to meet Adams and two of the authors at a book signing. The panel discussion that ensued could be proxy for a writer’s forum on “how to develop a mad scientist character.”
I’ve also heard David Levine read his short story, Dr. Talon’s “Letter to the Editor” twice. I must say, it was one of the best author readings I’ve ever experienced:
Read this book:
If you’re concerned about the (potential or very real) alter-identity of someone close to you.
Don't Read this book:
if you are expecting steps to reproduce this; if you were hoping this was a technical manual. Also don’t read this while wearing thick electrical rubber gloves and a white lab coat.
Once you're done, do this:
Put your newfound skills to good use and “save” the world.