Sophia “Soap” Lazarcheck is a girl genius with a knack for making robots—and for making robots explode. After her talents earn her admission into a secretive university institute, she is swiftly drawn into a conspiracy more than a century in the making. Meanwhile and without her knowledge, her cousin Dean wages a two-fisted war of vengeance against a villainous genius and his unwashed minions. Separately, the cousins must pit themselves against murderous thugs, experimental weaponry, lizard monsters, and a nefarious doomsday device. When their paths finally meet up, they will need to risk everything to prevent a mysterious technology from bringing civilization to a sudden and very messy end.
Fast-paced and entertaining, this modern take on the mad scientist is a love letter to Nikola Tesla. I loved this book, the characters, and the action. I’d call it a wonderful summer beach read, something to delight without heavy, thought-provoking content.
Soap is enchantingly naive and full of frenetic energy. She makes a charming narrator, one whose mistakes are so painful to watch that I wanted to smack her at times. Dean, the firefighting action hero, provides an excellent foil for her youthful idiocy. They’re well matched as a team, and it’s great to see a buddy story (they’re cousins and have a wide age gap) instead of a romance as the central relationship.
The supporting cast holds up their end, too, with a collection of astoundingly brilliant scientists who all manage to be human and relatable, even the villains. I could wish for the main villain to be shown more, but there’s only so much that can be depicted with someone whose identity is unknown through most of the book.
Only one problem marred my enjoyment of this madcap take on a Bond-style adventure: editing. It could have used one more read-through by a proofreader for a few too many minor problems like missing words and mismatched plurals. The author’s voice, however, is terrific, and I’ve put the second book of this series, The Non-Zombie Apocalypse (Mad Science Institute Book 2), on my to-read list.