Science fiction/superhero novel, written by Brenna Raney and published by CamCat Books in 2023.
Rex Anderson is not a mad scientist. But she's angry fairly often, and she has some impressive neuroses to deal with. She's also the Meister of Decimen City; this doesn't seem to be an official title, she's not in charge of the city, but everyone refers to her as the Meister. She's also very likely the smartest scientific super-genius on the planet. That doesn't make her a superhero or a supervillain -- but everyone kinda considers her a budding supervillain, and Decimen City's foremost superhero, the Lightning, considers her right on the edge of supervillainy.
Yes, she cured cancer. She created the most advanced AI on Earth, her faithful assistant Aya. She also accidentally created a zombie virus and accidentally released it into the population. But she helped get it under control! She also cloned some genetically-engineered, intelligent dinosaurs, and it's absolutely not her fault that her lab techs released them into the city. Again, she helped corral them all!
Earth's most powerful superhero is Vivid Blue, and the most powerful supervillain is Last Dance. Blue is Rex's older sister. And Dance is Rex's twin brother. And Rex is responsible for giving both of them their powers, in two different lab accidents, and for not being able to cure them afterwards. This is a very big reason why Rex has so many neuroses.
Well, unfortunately for Rex, the latest stunt with the dinosaurs has convinced the government to put her under observation by Oversight -- the second highest tier, in fact, any higher, and she'd be in prison. That means Oversight agents living in her home, monitoring her work, snooping into everything. Her attorney (and P.R. specialist and best friend) Flora is working to get Rex out from under Oversight monitoring, but it's going to take a lot of work in both courtrooms and TV studios. And she's going to have to learn how to work with Oversight agents, some of whom are very hostile, and some, like taciturn Lewis and much more friendly Peter, are more willing to help her.
But Rex's problems really multiply when she learns that Last Dance has been seeding a virus through the population -- a virus Rex originally designed! And then he sends her a note asking her to build a helmet to block his own crippling telepathy. Can Rex make up for her mistakes by helping her brother overcome his powers? Is this just another of his villainous schemes? Can she keep the authorities and the nation's superheroes from learning about her own plans, or will they throw her in jail for life? And what's to become of Rex's cloned dinosaurs, rapidly getting more intelligent and more adorable, as they work to build their own dino-nation and help their beloved Mom?
The best thing about this book is that it's a lot of fun. It's stuffed right up to the ceiling with fun. There's mad science of every kind, asshole superheroes, asshole supervillains, schemes and plots and subterfuge, plane crashes that barely hurt anyone, and the mystic dimension that cats pass through when they disappear.
Characterization is great, particularly for Rex. She's a super-genius who still kicks herself for being dumb more often than she should. Somehow, she's only just now figured out she's asexual, which is surprisingly common. And she loves her siblings fiercely, while also wishing they'd just leave her alone and stop bothering her, partly for dragging her into their schemes, partly so she won't have to confront her guilt about how she failed them in the past. The other main characters get a decent amount of characterization, too -- Flora's frustration and affection for Rex, the conflicted but steadfast friendship between Lewis and Peter, Blue's exhaustion with having to deal with her sister's tendencies toward mild criminality, her anger at Rex for refusing to live up to her responsibilities, and her willingness to look the other way for the sake of family.
The superheroes and villains are a bit hit-or-miss. My favorites were Pixie, who seems to be the only hero who's entirely good-hearted and who loves to call her attacks, the Cat, who is incredibly and entertainingly weird, and Evertrue, a villain whose only power is lie-detection and who spends his short time in the book being an amusing irritant to Rex while she's trying to keep her secrets.
Far and away the most fun? The dinosaurs. What seems like a minor gag at first -- talking dinosaurs who call Rex "Mom" and like to play baseball -- soon becomes one of the best parts of the book as they win the hearts of the city with their occasionally drunken antics, develop their own super-intelligence, and become a powerful mind-linked fighting force -- while still calling Rex "Mom."
If the book has a weakness, it's that it's a bit too long and is overstuffed with extra plot points. And unfortunately, I never bought into the idea of grumpy-gus Lewis as a potential love interest for Rex.
But those are pretty minor concerns for a book that's just a metric ton of fun. If you love superheroes, supervillains, SCIENCE!, and lovable, media-savvy, hyper-intelligent dinosaurs, this is a book you're going to want to have in your life.