Monday, July 2, 2012

Mad Science Institute by Sechin Tower

Title: Mad Science Institute
Author: Sechin Tower
Length: 3475 Kindle units
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Plot

Sophia “Soap” Lazarchek wanted to go to MIT, and she might have gotten in, too, if her science projects had less of a tendency to go explosively awry. But after her latest experiment fried the cell phones of everyone at the science fair, she could pretty much count out a scholarship to any respectable school. So when the Mechanical Science Institute at Langdon University, Minnesota, offers her a full scholarship, she jumps at the chance. But she is about to find out that getting an education might be more dangerous than she would have ever thought.

The Good

I enjoyed Mad Science Institute a great deal, even though it is not the kind of book I usually read. It is definitely more sci-fi than paranormal/fantasy, and there is more in the way of action and explosions than character development. Which is not to say that the characters are not interesting, because all of them are, from our heroes Soap and Dean to science students Victor and Nikki to the minor characters like Soap’s girlie roommate Hannah. There are quite a few of them to keep track of, and keeping in mind who knows what and who is good or evil at any given time keeps readers on their toes.

In spite of being an action-adventure book, Mad Science Institute managed to have a number of cerebral ideas as well. The characters had a number of discussions about the relative merits of brain vs. brawn, which played out in various aspects of the story. Similarly, there were demonstrations of the relative benefits and disadvantages of being book-smart rather than people smart.

The Bad

The story is told from the point of view of Soap and her cousin Dean, firefighter by trade and new dean of students at Mechanical Science Institute for reasons more to do with his danger fighting skills than any academic prowess. I don’t really have a problem with the dual perspectives, and I think the story is better told from their two different viewpoints than it would be from either one alone. What does annoy me is that we get Soap’s sections from first person and Dean’s from third person. This always makes me think that one of the characters is supposed to be primary and one is secondary, which makes me wonder why I’m reading about the secondary one at all. The narrative style is especially problematic when Dean’s third person is occasionally used as an excuse to jump to someone else’s viewpoint.

Other than that, my only complaint is that sometimes Soap is a little TOO clueless. Like, when a guy calls you up on a brand new cell phone that he has given you and offers you $10,000 to do anything? Yeah, he’s probably evil. And her complete inability to turn her roommate’s conversation algorithm into something approaching Gricean norms was a little unbelievable.  I assume it was done primarily for comedy, so I forgive it, even though it fell a little flat.

The Romance

Dean’s entire purpose throughout the story is to avenge the death of the former dean of students of Mechanical Science Institute McKenzie, who is also, coincidentally, the great love of his life. So while he does not encounter any inappropriate new romance in the course of the novel, his motives are sufficiently sentimental to win over most readers. (And the explosions and high-speed chases are there for everyone else.)

Soap, on the other hand, meets two attractive boys upon arriving at college: Brett, the school’s new quarterback who is at least smart enough know that a girl who can make robots is way more interesting than her manipulative roommate, and Victor, one of only two other students currently matriculating at Mechanical Science Institute. Of course, Soap is far too busy trying to save the world from the bad guys to have time for dating, but just in case things ever slow down, it’s good to know that she has options.

Will I read more?

I do not know whether there will be any more books in the series, but I certainly hope there will be. There are some loose ends left open and lots of interesting places that the story could go. Regardless if, at any point in the future, there are sequels to Mad Science Institute, I have every intention of reading them.

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1 comment:

  1. I have to admit, I am going to buy this book....great post...but there is something about this novel that makes me want to read it....