A common trope in science-fiction, and perhaps other genres as it originated in Gothic Fiction, is that of the mad scientist. It’s essentially a character who is obsessed with experimental science, trying to invent something that has never been tried and society may frown upon trying due to ethical reasons. This scientist may be truly mad–crazy, bonkers–or their madness could just be a label society gave on them to describe their nonconformity.
Though this is a common trope, recognized in the likes of Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll, since those classics I have seldom come across it. Here is a list of books that play upon the mad scientist trope and create a hopefully enjoyable read.
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Rhine lives in a world where all men will die at twenty-five and women at twenty, due to a failed experiment. Not only does she feel her own life ticking away but the world is in chaos. Poverty, crime, and stolen child brides who can be married and enjoyed before their death. Rhine just happens to become on such bride, discovering a world of wealth she never had. But when she discovers her father-in-law is keeping corpses in the basement in attempts to find the cure, Rhine realizes her fate may come sooner than she thought.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Studying at Oxford, Diana Bishop finds an old alchemical manuscript. Though she is descended from witches, Diana doesn’t want that kind of life so she stuffs the manuscript away. But her discovery alone is enough to shake the underworld awake. As monsters soon roam the city, she realizes she’s the only want to break the curse, with the help of vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Professor Dr. Ransom is abducted onto a spaceship headed towards Malacandra, AKA Mars. They plan to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the Martians so that they may plunder the planet’s treasures. Soon, Ransom discovers his own origin from ‘The Silent Planet’ and its own tragic history.
Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain by Richard Roberts
Penelope Akk descends from superheroes and she wants to be just like them. She has her own mad science power and two super powered best friends. But as she begins middle school, the line between good and evil is blurry. When her friend picks a fight, they find themselves labeled as supervillains. And Penelope learns she is good at being the villain. Still, she should probably clear her name before mom and dad find out. Perfect for the sci-fi middle-grade reader.
The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Juliet Moreau tries to rebuild her life in London after her father ruined it. She is determined to be normal since no one proved that her father actually conducted those grotesque experiments. Then, she hears a new rumor. Her father is still alive and still experimenting on an island, and she needs to find out if this is true. Accompanied by her father’s old assistant, Montgomery, and a castaway, Edward, both of whom she is attracted to, they find the depths of her father’s madness. The island is full of animals who can behave like humans and are prone to murder. As she tries to stop this, Juliet learns a bit about her own madness.
Oh No! or How My Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett
For the younger readers out there–here’s some sci-fi in picture book form. The main character creates a giant robot for the science fair, but it starts destroying the city.