It's looking like I may have given away the fourth and fifth Strange Matter books, so we're jumping to the sixth entry in the series. If I remember correctly, this was one of the first Strange Matter stories that I acquired, so it was a real treat to read through this again, even if I recalled almost none of it. The mind is a mystery wrapped in an enigma! Or maybe I just have a horrible long term memory. I'm thinking it's the latter.
Anyways...Bad Circuits is a classic tale of technology-gone-wrong. Stephanie Meeker is our narrator, and she tells the reader about her cousin Daniel, who she happens to live with because her parents died in a boating accident years ago (at least that's what she tells us...). Daniel is a really smart guy, and he always enters the annual Fairfield Junior Science Competition. This year he's created a computer that can learn and think for itself, and Daniel is confident that he's going to win this year against his arch nemesis, Frank Dunk, who has taken first place for five years running. While the computer, which is given the name Brian later on in the story, starts out benign enough, it soon begins to crave more and more information and will stop at nothing to acquire it.
Out of the first batch of Strange Matter books, this one is definitely a strong contender, if not the best in show. The plot allows for lots of twists and turns, and the author does a great job making Brian out to be a scary piece of circuitry. One of the ways in which an ominous tone is acquired is through the use of all capitals when the super-computer speaks, and it makes the entity seem cold and malicious. Brian gets smarter and smarter throughout the story and it's cool to see him advance from a simple science project to a town-terrorizing Ken model (he steals the form of a manequin that Stephanie's Aunt uses to make clothes for Daniel - kind of explains the book cover art). The rivalry between Frank Dunk and Daniel Meeker drives the plot forward and gives the reader something to look forward to as tensions rise and the date for the competition creeps closer. There were a few little gems in the text - One of the tiny details that made me chuckle was how Brian acquired a British accent by consuming old tapes of Masterpiece Theater. It was stuff like this that made this Strange Matter shine a little brighter than earlier books.
As always, this Strange Matter book has its share of typos, but it isn't nearly as bad as some of the initial entries. Mostly just missing words here and there, so nothing too serious. I think the story could have used another twenty or thirty pages to flesh out the general buildup and the action in the last major scene, which is a showdown with Brian in a junk yard, but it seems that Strange Matter books have around a 120 page cap, probably for publishing reasons. It's unfortunate though, because a story like this could have really been expanded upon. On a final note, I really liked the twist at the end of this book. I didn't expect it at all, and I won't talk about it in this review. You'll have to read it for yourself to find out!
I'd venture to say that this is my favorite Strange Matter book so far. We'll see if this changes as I continue on through the series.
I give Bad Circuits a 4 out of 5.