A collection of essays and short fiction (and fictional short essays), A Method to the Madness: A Guide to the Super Evil is edited by Jeffrey A. Hite and Michell Plested. YA to adult; 196 pages. I was sent a free advance review copy of the e-book in exchange for my honest review.
(I'm posting a larger-than-usual version of the cover so you can enjoy the complex picture, which alas is less interesting in black-and-white on my Nook).
This collection of short works is presented as a set of essays meant to guide the young would-be Evil Genius or super-villain through the intricacies and challenges of his or her chosen field. Contributions from more than 20 authors range from "Cognitive Perspective in the Pursuit of Evil," through "The Art of Minionizing Marine Life" (tip: small prey fish are prone to being eaten just when you have them trained. Larger predators may eat you), to "The Importance of Date Night to the Married Super Villain."
The essays are categorized in 8 groupings, "Advice," "Education," Fashion," "Henchmen," "Lifestyle," "Mad Science," "Marketing," and "Help Wanted," some of which probably overlap. These are indicated by icons at the beginning of each essay, which unfortunately were a bit too small to see clearly on my Nook, and the meaning of which often eluded me. It didn't really matter, though, as I was not reading for any particular information, merely to gain an idea if a career in the Super Evil might be for me. If I had been trying to address particular needs, however, I would have found it more helpful if the essays had simply been grouped together in the categories, rather than scattered throughout and merely identified by icon. As many of the essayist note, efficiency is important in an Evil Organization.
The quality of the essays varies. Some read rather like conference papers, which is to say, a bit on the dry side. Others might more accurately be labeled "short stories" ("Confessions of a Young Mad Scientist," by Julian Kaiser, PhD., MD, MSD [doctor of mad science] [a.k.a. Scott Roche] falls into this category), and are enjoyable reads. Quality of editing is also inconsistent, with some clearly very carefully prepared and others in need of, at least, a good proof-reader. A few rose to the level of annoying me with mistakes, as I'm a bit of a stickler for getting the language right. Logistically, I would also have liked an easier way of connecting the stories to the actual authors (easy enough with the paperback to look in the back where all is revealed, but more awkward with an ebook. A hot link from the Evil Genius to the less evil writer would solve that problem and allow readers to make a note of any they wish to follow up on, either to read their fiction or to put an FBI watch on).
It isn't completely clear what the intended audience of the book is, but I would say that young adult readers who are fond of tales of superheroes and villains, as well as fans of speculative fiction in general, would enjoy dipping into this and sampling the wit. Above all, of course, the entire book is tongue in cheek, with a few good zingers directed at current events and political absurdities, so anyone who likes humor will find something to chuckle at. I did find that the concept grew a little tedious when reading through in one fell swoop, but as the majority of the essays were diverting when not taken in such large doses, I can recommend it for browsing.
Three stars, knocked down from 3.5 by the editing issues.