Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: How to Succeed in Evil by Patrick E. McLean

How to Succeed in Evil by Patrick E. McLean


Everyone can't be a superhero or supervillain. There just aren't enough powers to go around. For Edwin Windsor, he'd gone on to the next best thing: being a consultant for villains. Edwin offers his services to make villains more profitable, essentially doing their evil plotting for them. What good is being an evil villain if you can't make money while doing it?

That’s my summary. Here’s one I pulled from

How to Succeed in Evil is the story of Edwin Windsor, Evil Efficiency Consultant. He tries to help supervillains be more villainous. Or at least more profitable and sensible about the business side of Evil.

Along with his very proper and English secretary Agnes and his hench-lawyer Topper, he struggles to make the world of superpowered people make sense. But this is very difficult because, while Edwin’s advice is excellent, all of his clients are too egomaniacal to listen. There is, it must be said, a bit of comedy in this work.

Edwin struggles with a cast of characters including, Dr. Loeb, a trust fund child who desperately wants to be an Evil Genius, but has none of the talent. Dr. Loeb’s hideous mother, Iphagenia – who’s evil scheme is to foment a second Southern Rebellion, beginning with Lower Alabama. And the Cromogoldon, a brute with forehead villainous low and quite possibly the strongest creature on the planet.

Inevitably, Edwin’s unique clientele lead him into direct conflict with the greatest superhero of them all, Excelsior. And so, the quiet, restrained intellectual is pitted against heroic force.


This novel is such a fresh idea. I wouldn't say that superheroes are overdone, because they're not, but McLean twisted the trope to focus instead on a backup player, a man who is not super-powered, but who knows how to use the powers he doesn't have. Edwin is a man of amazing mental prowess, whose sense of business turns wanton destruction into profit. But he doesn't just manipulate the villains that come to him; he thinks towards the heroes too, specifically a hero called Excelsior, to build up his business. Everything is broken down into numbers for Edwin, effectively turning crimefighting (and crimestarting) into a disjointed corporation.


I listened to the audio version of How to Succeed in Evil, and the performance by the author was great! I had moments thinking it was a full cast production, because his characterizations were so different and so spot-on for his characters. Just going by the content, not by the performance, I wanted to strangle Topper, the lawyer. McLean's vocal performance made me twitch every time Topper opened his filthy little mouth (in a good way!). McLean clearly has such a strong understanding of his characters that I don't know if another reader would have done this book justice. Even straight-laced, barely-emotional Edwin's voice was summarily different from the others'. That's something I don't know if would have come across as well from reading the text.

That said, I do think this is one novel I would enjoy reading a paperback copy of, but that's just because I like the idea of sitting in public, out in the open, with the words How to Succeed in Evil clear on the cover of my reading material. This would be a fast read, I'm sure. It was a very quick, very engaging listen, too.

My thoughts

I loved this book. There was so much thought, so much action, so much reaction, that I can easily believe Edwin's consulting firm would have a place in real life. If superheroes made an amazing entrance into real life. The cast of the book was so human, so painfully true to life, that it is very easy to lose yourself in the plot, the world, and the schemes. I was upset when the novel ended. I got attached to the characters in an amazing way, considering this was only one book. I usually try to avoid attachment like that when I'm not settling in to read a whole series. It's too much like losing friends. How to Succeed in Evil made me get attached to the characters.

The plot... I was so involved in it. Edwin's logic, his reasoning, was spectacular. The pitches he gives for business make so much sense, I wonder how on earth any villain has ever gotten along without him! I honestly could not get enough of this novel. I strongly suggest it. It will be well worth your time!

Would I Recommend This Book? Yep! This is some good stuff, and it brings a side of thought to superheroes and villains that one might never consider. The logistics of evil are brought into question, and the big questions here are why and how, as opposed to the usual what. The deed doesn’t mean anything if the reasoning behind it isn’t solid. I give How to Succeed in Evil a logistical 3 out of 5 stars.

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