Review Blog

Feb 18 2011

The genius wars by Catherine Jinks

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Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 978 1741758542.
Recommended for 14+. Genius wars follows two previous titles in the series - Evil genius and Genius squad. I imagine that readers familiar with these novels will enjoy reacquainting themselves with familiar characters and discovering how events from earlier plots lead to this finale. Newcomers should not consider that reading the earlier tales is necessary however as Jinks cleverly sets the scene and provides character narratives which enlighten the uninitiated, allowing this story to stand solidly by itself.
As a child, the central character Cadel had been exploited and manipulated by adult criminals who engaged in high technology escapades detailed in the first title. In the second book, Cadel and his friends pool their knowledge and experience to assist authorities to locate and prosecute criminals.
At the start of Genius wars, Cadel finds himself in a happier place, living with foster parents who love him and look out for his welfare and best interests, in contrast with previous 'parental' figures whose motivations were selfish and actions abusive. Fifteen year old Cadel attends University with the intention of formalizing his considerable I.T. skills and his few close friends are similarly gifted. Sonja, a girl with multiple disabilities is rightly presented as a maths genius and a vital team member, rather than a sundry character who happens to be confined to a wheelchair. Similarly Cadel's hacker friend Hamish, an annoying but likeable character drawn with realistic flaws and traits is someone whom we might all know.
Cadel's foster father is a detective and his foster mother a social worker. With their protection and support from his loyal friends, Cadel engages in a virtual 'war' with Prosper English, a sinister father figure from earlier times who seeks to harm him.
Cadel must pit himself against Prosper, testing his intelligence and endurance and it is gratifying to read a story which celebrates cerebral powers over physical violence.
It was pleasing to relate to characters which are boldly different from those routinely employed by some authors to plod through their sometimes hackneyed dramas depicting contemporary teenage life. Jinks' idea is fresh and her topic challenging as wildly complex technology features prominently amongst the action. The communications, surveillance and security technology described is so advanced that one is never sure if elements stray beyond current reality, however within the framework of the tale, this is entirely acceptable.
Jinks has successfully created a story containing action and suspense in a familiar Australian setting and whilst hyper technology is involved, absolute understanding of every detail is not vital as the reader is soon caught up and carried along with the pace.
Rob Welsh

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