This anthology features 22 short stories (well, some of them are novellas) about mad scientists and all the different aspects of being a mad genius. The stories vary greatly: some of them are fairly terrifying, while others are laugh-out-loud funny. You probably won't like all of those stories, but you'll still get a great bang for your buck in terms of value and thought-provoking goodness.
Here are brief, spoiler-free descriptions of every story:
"Professor Incognito apologizes: an itemized list" by Austin Grossman - even supervillains have girlfriends, and they have as many relationship problems as regular people. This story features a pretty entertaining apology to a supervillain's girlfriend, written in a hilarious, itemized way.
"Father of the groom" by Harry Turtledove - I think Turtledove got tired of writing alternate history "what if" fiction, which is why he wrote this story to break the mold. It's a short goofy story about a goofy scientist. It's written almost like a fairy tale, which may be a turn-off for a serious reader. Kids will probably like it, though.
"Laughter at the academy" by Seanan McGuire - one of my favorite stories in this anthology. In this world, every brilliant scientist sooner or later succumbs to the Schizotypal Creative Genius Personality Disorder (SCGPD) and becomes a supervillain. Not all mad scientists are physicists or chemists, though. Behold the wrath of Liberal Arts!
"Letter to the editor" by David D. Levine - the story's character is an awful lot like Lex Luthor and his nemesis is as close to Superman as you can get without violating copyright laws. Here, the villain explains what he did, why he did it and why he's not really a villain after all.
"Instead of a loving heart" by Jeremiah Tolbert takes place during World War II. There's a typical mad scientist, a castle on a mountain peak, death rays and a lonely robot who once used to be human...
"The Executor" by Daniel H. Wilson - nice piece of futuristic sci-fi. It doesn't feature a mad scientist per se, but it shows how his actions can change the world for centuries to come.
"The angel of death has a business plan" by Heather Lindsley - fun, short and creative. The protagonist is a motivational coach who helps struggling supervillains get their act together. Her high fees are used to fund a very special project...
"Homo Perfectus" by David Farland - not so much a fictional story about a mad scientist as an all-too-realistic "holy crap, that might really happen" look at the dark side of the pharmaceutical industry, which is shady enough as it is.
"Ancient equations" by L.A.Banks - not all mad scientists are suave charismatic individuals. This story is about a mad scientist who is a gold-hoarding conspiracy theorist and who can't find a woman of his dreams. But what if he can make one?
"Rural singularity" by Alan Dean Foster is a story about a journalist who discovers something entirely unexpected when he drives out into the middle of nowhere to investigate a lead about two-headed chickens. The story had some potential, but the ending was a tad abrupt and disappointing.
"Captain Justice saves the day" by Genevieve Valentine - even supervillains need secretaries. The protagonist of this story is a secretary with a criminally insane boss and a pretty good instinct for self-preservation. This is one of the shorter stories in the anthology, but it's pretty funny. For some reason it reminded me of "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog."
"The mad scientist's daughter" by Theodora Goss was one of the two stories I couldn't finish. It features a club of young women whose fathers (or creators) were supervillains from the 19th century: Dr Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc. The exposition is nice, but there's not a lot of action... The story might end up with an amazing heist for all I know, but I just couldn't get past the middle.
"The space between" by Diana Gabaldon - ditto. This is by far the longest story in the anthology. It had something to do with 18th-century alchemists, immortality, a young woman who leaves her homeland forever, etc, etc. I know I'm being an impatient male here, but I like my science fiction to take place in modern times and have action, not feelings. I didn't get very far in this story since it just wasn't my cup of tea.
"Harry and Marlowe meet the founder of the Aetherian revolution" by Carrie Vaughn could use a better title, but the concept is brilliant: what if the Roswell UFO crash happened in the Victorian England? And what if the English adapted the unimaginably complex alien technology for their own uses?
"Blood and Stardust" by Laird Barron - a pretty unusual story about a mad scientist from Eastern Europe who lives in Seattle and uses lightning for his heinous experiments (free electricity - hooray!). An odd twist on the classic Frankenstein story, with a little genetic engineering and time travel thrown in for good measure.
"A more perfect union": by L.E.Modesitt, Jr. is a story that features not just any mad scientist, but a mad political scientist! The story is an all-too-realistic description of the way a mad genius can consolidate political power with just a few well-timed decisions.
"Rocks fall" by Naomi Novik was probably my favorite story in the entire anthology. An enigmatic supervillain and a run-of-the-mill superhero are trapped together after a cave-in. A very interesting dialogue ensues. The main character is extremely well written - I hope Novik writes a book featuring him. *hint hint nudge nudge*
"We interrupt this broadcast" by Mary Robinette Kowal - not all mad scientists have giant death rays and armies of minions. Sometimes all it takes is a small glitch introduced in the missile defense system... A short love story featuring a brilliant young man and his relationship with his assistant.
"The last dignity of man" by Marjorie M. Liu - what if your parents named you Lex Luthor? Would you shrug it off or try to emulate your namesake? The multifaceted and talented protagonist of this story does the latter. Great breakdown of the superhero/villain archetypes.
"The Pittsburgh technology" by Jeffrey Ford - what would it be like to have a mad scientist in our average, everyday world? An intriguing story told from the perspective of an average guy down on his luck.
"Mofongo knows" by Grady Hendrix - what happens to the heroes and villains of the Golden Age when they grow too old to be of any use? The super-intelligent ape Mofongo has the answer. A bit longer than other stories but a great read nonetheless. In a way, it resembles "Watchmen."
"The food taster's boy" by Ben H. Winters - what do you do for fun after you take over the world, kill all your enemies and run out of challenges? Create your very own nemesis, of course!