The best sci-fi books about world destroyers, egomaniacs, and mad scientists

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been drawn to mad scientists since watching Looney Tunes cartoons. Marvin the Martian and Wile E. Coyote (who always emphasized his middle initial and title: Genius) were always my stars. And those Acme gadgets! I thought, One day, Coyote will get that pesky Road Runner! Fast forward to adulthood, and I’ve figured out I’m not only queer but on the spectrum. I’ve channeled my atypicality into my nerdy writing—queer teens who develop superpowers in Queeroes, a superhero-obsessed “DNA normal” heroine in Generation Manifestation, and a neurodivergent time-looper in The Timematician. One day, with the right Acme device, I still plan to rule the world. Genius!


I wrote...

The Timematician

By Steven Bereznai,

Book cover of The Timematician

What is my book about?

With his unique abilities, Doctor BetterThan has all the power (and gadgets!) he needs to thrash pesky superheroes intent on thwarting him—and make them pay for decades of disrespect. “Triumphi!” Destroying the world solves everything. Until she comes along. On the cusp of total victory, fellow tech maniac Mairi Lin Monroe plays her surprising hand, and sparks fly as she and her cybernetic lady-matons threaten to transcend Doctor BetterThan’s grand plan. Can he achieve new depths of deceit to defeat her and be the last person standing? Can he become The Timematician? Or has he finally met his match?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Soon I Will Be Invincible

Steven Bereznai Why did I love this book?

I really connected with evil genius Doctor Impossible and his whacky world of superheroes. In grade and high school, I felt like I was the one who was overlooked, which was often the good days; getting noticed generally meant I was being made fun of and bullied. But to take revenge, to show my plebeian classmates the (imagined) might that lay within me, how glorious that would be! Hahaha! Evil laugh aside, as Doctor Impossible does just that, I also enjoyed his vulnerable needs, longings, and regrets. And the lives of the heroes are not all they are cracked up to be. While not as stark (or violent) as The Boys, Grossman also exposes the toll superhero biology can take on the mind and body. A fun and poignant read.

By Austin Grossman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soon I Will Be Invincible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Doctor Impossible—evil genius, would-be world conqueror—languishes in prison. Shuffling through the cafeteria line with ordinary criminals, he wonders if the smartest man in the world has done the smartest thing he could with his life. After all, he's lost every battle he's ever fought. But this prison won't hold him forever.

Fatale—half woman, half high-tech warrior—used to be an unemployed cyborg. Now, she's a rookie member of the world's most famous super-team, the Champions. But being a superhero is not all flying cars and planets in peril—she learns that in the locker rooms and dive bars of superherodom, the men…


Book cover of Frankenstein

Steven Bereznai Why did I love this book?

I went into this with a vision of the classic Frankenstein monster in my head from the James Whale movies—a square head and sparkplugs poking out of his neck. I love Whale’s aesthetic (especially his Bride of Frankenstein), but it doesn’t do justice to Shelley’s prose as Dr. Frankenstein looks in horror upon his creation. “I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.” This lyricism drew me in and made me realize that’s why I love to be a writer: like Dr. F., I get to play god—no matter the unhealthy obsession nor the horror of some of the monsters I create.

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

43 authors picked Frankenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…


Book cover of The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination

Steven Bereznai Why did I love this book?

Given my belief that Thanos had a point (what science-math-oriented person can’t tremble at the algorithm of over-population?), it’s no surprise I enjoyed an anthology of different takes on mad scientists and what drives them. I got my fix of humorously boastful ego-maniacs, such as Professor Incognito’s itemized “apology” to his girlfriend (with attempted sincerity because of their couple’s therapist). And the variety of these tales exposed me to a bevy of villainy, from a psychologist who uses the “soft” sciences to unleash the insanity within stable scientists because “everyone deserves the opportunity to go mad” to a side-hustling villainy coach whose budget forces her to choose between new tech plating or weapons-grade plutonium. What’s a would-be world conqueror to do? Relatable.

By John Joseph Adams (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses - from their own wonderfully twisted point of view. An all-star roster of bestselling authors - including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire...twenty-two great storytellers all told - have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour…


Book cover of Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain

Steven Bereznai Why did I love this book?

Emperor Mollusk is the evil genius I’ve been waiting for—having conquered earth (and alienated the rest of the galaxy), he’s retired from world domination to pursue (mad) science for the sake of science. He’s got just enough sense of responsibility to stick around to protect earth’s denizens while his inflated ego allows him to ignore that his creations are often what’s putting the planet in peril. Arguments over nomenclature (is it a reverse temporal receiver or an anti-time radio?) made this lol funny, and the fast pace kept me turning pages. I love a good mashup, and this had the right mix of sci-fi archetypes, including a lizard warrior, a Tarzan-like alien in a dinosaur land, an Atlantean goddess, and of course the mysterious “Brain” in an exosuit. 

By A. Lee Martinez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who says supervillians can't retire? EMPEROR MOLLUSK has done it all. Sometimes twice. He's destroyed Saturn (well fine, not all of it---but 2/3rds!), created giant monsters, and until recently he was the Emperor of Earth. Yes, he still has the titles and the people are always looking to him for salvation when the aliens attack, but really, he keeps telling everyone he's retired. He's got better things to do...Like feed his pet ultrapede, Woola. Or buy groceries. But now, he's been marked by a legendary death cult for reasons unknown. And, honestly, feeding an ultrapede wasn't really utilizing his enormous…


Book cover of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Steven Bereznai Why did I love this book?

Dr. Jekyll’s point of view triggers so much in me, I couldn’t leave his story off the list. I’m currently obsessed with Integrated Family Systems (IFS) therapy, which is all about everyone having different parts. IFS posits that none of these parts are bad, but when Dr. Jekyll cleaves himself into disparate halves, his Mr. Hyde runs amok and is very much characterized as evil. Hyde’s a clear allegory for addiction and rage. Other qualities, like sex, are unfortunately largely ignored. Reading this through a modern lens, I longed for messages of integration (rather than the judgey disintegration that follows). As an author, maybe that’s what draws me to this story—a desire to rewrite it with a healthier (woke?) ending.

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Dr. Henry Jekyll is a well-liked and respected physician. When he calls upon his lawyer, Mr. Utterson, to draw up a new will to include a strange new beneficiary, Mr. Utterson takes it upon himself to investigate the identity of this strange man. But nothing sufficiently prepares him for the truth he will uncover! Classics Illustrated tells this wonderful tale in colourful comic strip form, offering an excellent introduction for younger readers. This edition also includes theme discussions and study questions, which can be used both in the classroom or at home to further engage the reader in the work…


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The Last Whaler

By Cynthia Reeves,

Book cover of The Last Whaler

Cynthia Reeves Author Of The Last Whaler

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Arctic adventurer Eternal optimist Unrealistic realist Foodie Teacher

Cynthia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This book is an elegiac meditation on the will to survive. Tor, a beluga whaler, and his wife, Astrid, a botanist specializing in Arctic flora, are stranded during the dark season of 1937-38 at his remote whaling station in the Svalbard archipelago when they misjudge ice conditions and fail to rendezvous with the ship meant to carry them back to their home in southern Norway. 

Beyond enduring the Arctic winter’s twenty-four-hour night, the couple must cope with the dangers of polar bears, violent storms, and bitter cold, as well as Astrid’s unexpected pregnancy.

The Last Whaler concerns the impact of…

The Last Whaler

By Cynthia Reeves,

What is this book about?

The Last Whaler is an elegiac meditation on the will to survive under extreme conditions. Tor, a beluga whaler, and his wife, Astrid, a botanist specializing in Arctic flora, are stranded during the dark season of 1937-38 at his remote whaling station when they misjudge ice conditions and fail to rendezvous with the ship meant to carry them back to their home in southern Norway. Beyond enduring the Arctic winter's twenty-four-hour night, the couple must cope with the dangers of polar bears, violent storms, and bitter cold as well as Astrid's unexpected pregnancy. The Last Whaler concerns the impact of…


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