With the end of summer approaching, why not we begin fall with Leopoldo Gout’s “Genius: the Con”?
Rex Huerta, Tunde Omi and Cai (aka Painted Wolf) are now on the run. The three online friends have participated in Kirian Biswas’ Game, with Tunde as the winner, and Rex may have found his older brother’s location, but at a price. He is wanted across the globe for a cyberattack done by Kirian, and so are his friends for assisting the world’s now most wanted teenager.
However, things become complicated when Tunde must return to Nigeria and meet with General Iyabo. Returning home though, he and his friends are horrified to find Akika Village being mined by the general, with Cai’s reluctant father working by his side. Impressed by the jammer he was forced to build during the Game (even having his own daughter Naya test it in the middle of an airport), the ruthless general now wants to use the fourteen year-old prodigy for more.
With the world against them and Akika Village on the verge of revolt, Tunde and his friend have but one option: to trick the general and have him captured by the United Nations. Even so, can they pull off this con and save Tunde’s home from the greedy, ruthless warlord, find Rex’s brother, save Cai’s father from himself and clear their names while also finding out and stopping Kirian’s sinister plans of igniting a digital revolution and creating a new Internet for a new world?
I can give nothing but praise for the sequel to Leopoldo Gout’s “Genius: The Game”, and how to does everything to show the creative ambition and ingenuity our characters possess. Seeing how they think their way through each and every obstacle while trying to survive is fascinating to watch, and all of it comes from Rex, Tunde and Cai’s constructive personalities. One might argue that their planning, in regards to the severity of their situation, is TOO perfect and I can certainly understand. However, Rex, Tunde and Cai have proven beyond themselves that they’re very intelligent and you enjoy seeing how they crack a code or sneak through security while also hatching a plan to con a maniacal warlord. So when they succeed, you feel nothing for them but accomplishment, and like I said it has everything to do with their actions and personalities.
Rex is hopeful to find his hacktivist brother, save his family and clear his name of Kirian’s major hack, and you feel how much he wants to see his parents and siblings again. I especially love the no-nonsense attitude he gives Kirian after what he put him and his friends through, going so far as to try and get under his skin.
Tunde is certainly optimistic in the face of such adversity towards the treatment of his village. This is a boy who loves to build things and improve his home’s way of life, yet not only has it put his entire village in danger, but it may lead to other lives being lost in the process. You’re impressed by how he can act calm during this crisis, you feel sad when something goes wrong, and you feel joyous when the plan and build succeeds.
You laugh and applause at how Cai socially engineers herself and her friends out of jams that’d make Sherlock blush. You also feel sympathetic for her towards wanting to simply to see her parents again (if she can after all that’s happened and how much she’s lied to them).
Like I said in the last review, our prodigal protagonists don’t just sound intelligent, but also act intelligently while also still being teenagers. They can be serious in the face of danger, but there’s a sense of balance when it comes to their age. They can have fun, they can joke with each other, and they can have crushes like teenagers should at their age. I’ve even noticed how the characters have developed a slightly cynical sense of humor towards humanity’s reliance in technology, similar to that in ‘Fight Club’ or ‘Mr. Robot’. Hell, the theatricality and creative planning Rex, Tunde and Painted Wolf do is reminiscent of ‘Terror in Resonance’ almost.
When it comes to the side characters, Leopoldo Gout has certainly improved in that department. Because the focus is more on our three protagonists getting a project done rather than being in a friendly competition, there’s more leeway towards the other characters. However, I’ll give props to Gout for writing them in a way that’s simple but you understand them.
I enjoy learning about Kirian’s ideologies on the world (and laugh at how Rex points him out as one giant trope XD), I smile at the façade Naya Iyabo gives to get her father captures while also working for Terminal, and I’d love to see that fanboy of the LODGE from the earlier chapters get some more time in the next book.
However, the one side character I think that got the most justice is Cai’s father, a Chinese businessman named Deiwei Zhang. It would’ve been easy just to make him a greedy businessman who didn’t care about his daughter, and I would’ve been okay with that. Instead the guy is very complex. He is a man who wanted the best for his daughter and wife, but became conflicted by his own greed for power. And when he redeems himself in the end by turning himself in as an accomplice so General Iyabo can see justice, knowing he’d probably never see his family again made my heart ache.
Deiwei Zhang loves his daughter, and wanted the best for her while trying to stick to a moral code, and to see him in such agony after realizing what he got himself into is truly heartbreaking. I especially love how, when he learns that his own daughter is Painted Wolf—a notorious hacker who he used to bash because he had to in front of his employers—he doesn’t berate her for it. Instead, he simply hugs her and asks how he can help with Tunde’s project and manipulate the general.
Overall, the sequel to Leopoldo Gout’s breathtaking series is an adventurous, poignant novel about determination and changing the world. Rex, Tunde and Cai are what makes these novels so much fun, from how they solve a complex problem to finding Rex’s brother and saving a family. I can go on and on about how I cannot wait to see the next installment, but I’ll have to wait. Meantime, grab yourself a copy and throw yourself in a world of creative ambition.
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