Being a boy genius can have lots of benefits, but also drawbacks. If you don’t believe it, just ask Cadel Greeniaus of Catherine Jinks’ The Genius Wars, the third novel in her trilogy about Cadel. Using one’s knowledge for evil, as Cadel did in Evil Genius, the first book in the series, can lead one into a life of crime, and possibly jail time, but Cadel was a young boy who’d been fooled and tricked his entire life. Despite his brilliant intellect, he was a pawn in the schemes of Phineas Darkkon, a mastermind who thought Cadel was his son, and also of Prosper English, who worked for Darkkon and believed that he was Cadel’s real father.
Poor Cadel never really knew who his parents were for most of the first two novels in this series. The people who raised him (who told Cadel that their–and thus, his–last name was “Piggot”) were actors, paid by Phineas, who directed his world-wide criminal empire through the use of advanced technology from prison. Phineas saw to it in Evil Genius that Cadel, who’d demonstrated a bent towards using computers for evil by figuring out the weaknesses of the Australian railroad, traffic, and banking systems, and demonstrating a desire to seek revenge on anyone who gets in his way, would attend the Axis University, an institute devoted to teaching all sort s of criminal subjects. Thaddeus Roth, his analyst, is actually also someone paid by Phineas. He is not interested in getting Cadel to stop his involvement in crime, but rather to continue in it, “but don’t get caught.”
Prosper English is the main villain of the second novel in the series, The Genius Squad. I’m not going to get into it very much, but if you haven’t yet read these first two novels in Catherine Jinks’ awesome series–truly one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read–you owe it to yourselves to read them all, and the interview I did with the author here. In the second Cadel is living in a safe house, so that Phineas Darkkon won’t be able to get to him as easily as he has in the past. He’s there with a bunch of other young teens who are also geniuses, and experts at hacking and other sorts of computer mayhem. They work together, or so Cadel believes, to find out more about Darkkon’s schemes and to bring down his evil criminal empire.
Sonja, a teen with cerebral palsy, is one of Cadel’s best friends, but she lives elsewhere, and though he gets to visit her occasionally, he generally can only interact with this mathematically gifted young lady via the computer, using coded messages so that Darkkon will hopefully not be able to understand what they’re discussing. She and other friends Cadel has made both at the Axis University and at the safe house don’t realize it at the time, but they are being used yet again. With the cops closing in, and Prosper getting more and more unstable–though retaining his extreme intellect–Cadel is ready to work with the forces of good, with the police now, instead of against them.
Which brings me finally to The Genius Wars. In this exciting, page-turning conclusion to the trilogy, Cadel is living with his new foster parents, his social worker, Fiona, and her husband, Saul Greeniaus, who was the main detective in The Genius Squad who worked with Cadel to try to bring Prosper English down. Though they had some degree of success, and Prosper’s gone into hiding, Cadel has learned that Prosper is not his real biological father. Instead, Chester Cramp, who at the start of The Genius Wars is “sitting in an American jail,” is, but Cadel has no emotional connection to him at all, and has never even seen him. Cadel has had more of a connection and feelings towards each of the other “fathers” in his life, than with Chester Cramp:
Only Chester Cramp had displayed a complete lack of interest in his own flesh and blood. Though a brilliant scientist, he was also (in Saul’s opinion) “a totally deficient human being.”
Now, Cadel has begun to make a new life for himself, with parents who love him, and are planning to make the adoption final. He’s fifteen, and attending school at the University of New South Wales. Though he knows much of what he’s being taught already, he’s learning it from a different perspective, in that he is not being taught to use the knowledge to cause chaos, disrupt society, and make money illegally, but is being taught to use the knowledge for good, and for the benefit of society.
But, no matter how hard he’s tried to leave his old life behind him, Prosper English is bound and determined to get revenge on Cadel. Prosper shows up on CCTV–the cameras you see all around the world nowadays, on the sides of buildings, etc., or Closed Circuit Television cameras–in different cities in Australia. Cadel believes that Prosper is out to get him and his friends, and he is, overriding Sonja’s wheelchair by sending it a signal through Cadel’s cell phone and directing it towards Cadel to run him over. He steps out of the way in time, but Sonja and her wheelchair crash down a flight of stairs.
Cadel’s foster father, Saul, tells him he should leave things up to the police, but Cadel points out that they haven’t found Prosper yet, and he knows more about how Prosper’s mind works. Eventually, he grudgingly wins over Saul and Fiona to his side. He feels terrible about what happened to Sonja, blaming himself for her accident. He knows Prosper, working with Dr. Vee (or someone equally talented at hacking), really is responsible, but he believes he should have been able to prevent the accident from having happened.
I won’t get into the plot of The Genius Wars much more, because I don’t want to reveal to many things that might spoil the story for you. However, besides Sonja’s wheelchair going down the stairs, another highlight for me is when Cadel and some of his friends–including Gazo (a guy Saul assigns to him as a bodyguard, because his weapon is extremely powerful body odor he has learned to control, that he can use against multiple people at once), Hamish, Egon, and Duke–hot on the trail of someone working for Prosper, get involved in a car accident. Well, not an accident, but a wreck, caused when two lights turn green at the same time due to the traffic system having been taken over by Prosper and company. Cadel definitely knows then, if he hadn’t before, that to defeat Prosper once and for all will take an all-out war, and he can’t succeed alone, despite his being a genius.
The Genius Wars is a thrilling conclusion to Catherine Jinks’ trilogy that I’d highly recommend to anyone who loves dark humor, technological thrillers, and action-packed plots. Just when I think there’s no way Catherine Jinks can top herself, she comes out with a new novel that takes me be surprise. I’m very glad to have gotten a chance to interview her, and I hope that everyone who reads her novels based on my recommendation will feel the same. All you geniuses out there, check out The Genius Wars today!