Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mad Science Institute - Sechin Tower

    2011; 310 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre :  Action-Adventure, YA.  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    16-year-old Sophia “Soap” Lazarchek is has a flair for innovative science experiments.  Unfortunately, they usually blow up or catch fire, both at home and at science fairs.  Which gets expensive for her dad, who has to pay for all the damages.

    So when something called the Mechanical Science Institute invites her to apply for admission, it’s a golden opportunity for Soap to go off to college and focus on her projects, withiout sending her Dad to the poorhouse.  Who cares if she’s never heard of the place?  Or that it’s located in some godforsaken town called Bugswallow, Minnesota?  Or that there may be an ulterior motive for the offer?

What’s To Like...
    The chapters alternate between Soap and her cousin, Dean.  Soap’s chapters are first-person POV; Dean’s are third-person.  This works reasonably well, unless you develop a preference for one or the other protagonist.

    This is a YA novel.  So there’s no nudity or cussing; and the closest we come to sex is Sophia’s first-ever kiss, about halfway through the book.  There is one somber death, but the rest of the violence is rather toned-down, sometimes with a hint of comic relief woven in.

    The book will encourage kids – especially girls – to consider science as a career, and that’s always a plus.  Mad Science Institute is also a tribute to Nikola Tesla and his inventions, both theorized and realized.  It’s fun to read about some neat gizmos spawned by the discovery of an imaginary new element, christened Teslanium.

    The storytelling is uneven.  There are ample plot twists, but they feel arbitrary and telegraphed.  Soap’s roommate is a riot, especially her “Conversation Matrix”.  But the whole college ambiance is underdeveloped, and there are some tangents (such as a brief exchange about Mandarin Chinese) that don’t add anything to the story.  OTOH, Sechin Tower keeps the story moving at a crisp pace, even allowing some science fantasy to enter into the storyline.  The characters aren’t compelling; but neither are they boring.  You’ll enjoy meeting Rusty and Choop.

    The ending wraps the storyline up nicely, and points to this becoming a series.  The author adds an appendix to discuss the various Tesla ideas he incorporated into the book.  It is worth reading; among other things, you’ll learn why the main MSI building is called Topsy House.

    Victor shook his head.  “People don’t last.  People grow old and they die, and all their brawn goes away.  Only their knowledge endures as it is handed down to others.  Knowledge is the only thing that doesn’t ever have to die.”
    “That’s a nifty argument,” Dean snorted.  “When we get out of here, we’ll have a fifty yard dash and see which is better, brains or brawn.”  (loc. 6638)

    “I’m just in it for the money,” Brick chuckled and took a menacing step forward.  “Bought me a badass hog – which you wrecked.  So now, I’m gonna wreck you.”
    “I warn you: I’m pre-med,” Victor said, stepping backwards.  “I’ll be able to name each and every bone you break.”  (loc. 7815)

Kindle Details...
    Mad Science Institute sells for $2.99 at Amazon.  ANAICT, this is his only published book, although I’m led to think he is working on a sequel to this.

“…every mad scientist creates a monster sooner or later.” (loc. 3172)
    There are some technical lapses.  The explosive TNT is identified as being tri-nitro tetroxide, when in fact it is tri-nitro toluene.  Ouch.  And a surge of lava flowing into a room only raises the temperature 10 degrees.  Um, I think it’s gonna get a lot hotter than that.

    There are some YFKM moments.  A gang of nasty bikers stage an all-out assault on a college building, yet this apparently is no cause for alarm for the local police.  Soap can be annoyingly stupid at time, such as when she gives away her security code to the obvious baddie.  I wonder what harm could come of that?

    I don’t think these weaknesses will stop the target audience – YA’s – from enjoying Mad Science Institute.  But adults might not be as entertained as their kids would be.  7 Stars.  Add another half-star if you’re a science geek, and/or a full star if you’re a teenager.

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