It's unexpected that a nice guy like Richard Paul Evans — probably best known for his sweet little book "The Christmas Box" — would have it in him to create such chilling cruelties as he does in the Michael Vey books.
But he's a master at it using electric rats and gifted children with unusual powers to create an absorbing, different kind of story, a story that may well challenge other popular franchises.
"It's the boy in me," Evans said in an interview with the Deseret News. "I've always been a superhero fan. And the darker the evil, the brighter the hero."
In "Michael Vey 2: The Rise of the Elgen" (Simon & Schuster, $17.99), which was released last week, the villainous Dr. Hatch imprisons and tortures. He feeds whole bulls and even people to ravenous hordes of rats. He uses mind control to make his victims become his devout followers.
He deliberately and ruthlessly sets about creating a dependency on the new super power company Elgen's Starxource (can you spell "rats" backwards?), an energy company that ultimately puts an entire country at his mercy.
He's the epitome of the stranger who bears free gifts who will demand more in return than one can give.
"Dr. Hatch is kind of based on Satan," Evans said. "When I sat down to write this took, it took me 45 minutes to figure out how to take over the world. Fortunately no one has this ability or the technology Elgen has."
Evans has read extensively about cultist mind control and researched successful mind molding techniques used in Vietnam and Korea so his evil character's methods of brainwashing are realistic and chilling.
It's almost painful to read as the young characters involved have to deal not only with the extraordinary powers that set them apart from other teenagers, but with a greedy organization trying to grab the world's power and wealth using such tools.
It's also exciting, interesting reading. The story is well written and creatively told. It moves right along without feeling illogically rushed or frenzied.
Evans said fans — both young and old — are reading and rallying to the books and to the hero Michael Vey's cause with some actually calling themselves "Veyniacs."
The dilemmas are paced so there's time to recover from one before the next one even though the enemy is uncanny in its ability to track every move Vey and his friends make.
The evil doctor has met his match in Vey as early on he's thwarted on every turn as he tries to keep Vey and his friends in his clutches.
Vey and his friends are ingenious as they escape the Elgen traps and use their powers to melt, blast and heat their way through a series of dilemmas. They not only use their powers but their brains and they help each other.
Then, just when things look like they are getting better, Vey's little group is separated and a new "enemy" arrives — thus setting the stage for the third book. It is expected to be a seven-book series,
"The Board realizes they've been tricked," he hints. "It begins with a confrontation between Hatch and them. What Michael has done, what he's accomplished halts Elgen, shuts down a country's power. There's a price to pay.
"This is a franchise," Evans said. "We're building this piece by piece. We've already had seven inquiries about movies and merchandising. Right now, we're laying low. We'll let it build on its own power."
Although the publisher suggests an age range of 12 and up, because of the intensity of parts of "Rise of the Elgen" it is better suited to those 16 and older.
Evans plans to release a Michael Vey book every year while keeping up with his other series as well.
The 49-year-old Evans has written 18 best-seller novels.
If you go ...
What: Richard Paul Evans book signings
When: Saturday, Aug. 25, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Deseret Book, Fort Union, 1110 Fort Union Blvd., Midvale
When: Saturday, Aug. 25, 4 p.m.
Where: Deseret Book, University Village, 1076 S. 750 East, Orem
'Michael Vey 2: Rise of the Elgen' book trailer
"Michael Vey 2: Rise of the Elgen" is by Richard Paul Evans.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.