Misspent Youth

The Peter F. Hamilton series continues with a retro review, from February 20, 2011, of one of Hamilton’s more obscure works.

Like the jihad mentioned in the past of Hamilton’s Greg Mandel, this one, in the wake of the Brexit movement, has a bit of a predictive air about it.

This is a review of the 2002 UK edition. Hamilton has said the 2008 US edition is noticeably different and better.

This concludes the Peter F. Hamilton series for now until I read his two most recent works which should be soon.

Review: Misspent Youth, Peter F. Hamilton, 2002.Misspent Youth

This is probably, not considering The Web: Lightstorm [which I don’t plan on reading], Hamilton’s most obscure and least respected work despite it being the first novel in his recent Commonwealth Saga. I myself read all the other Hamilton first.

In some ways, this novel returns to the beginning of Hamilton’s career and the Greg Mandel books which made his reputation. Like those, it is set in the near-future and in Hamilton’s hometown of Rutland, England. However, the usual detailed combat sequences, the crime, and the espionage usually in his books don’t show up here though the book does end with some riots.

While he has said that some characters from later Commonwealth books show up here very briefly, I must have blinked because I missed them. Some technologies central to the series do show up here.

Those technologies are tied to the life of the novel’s protagonist Jeff Baker. In his younger days, he invented the solid-state crystal method of storing huge amounts of information and, incidentally, helping to destroy large sections of the entertainment industry via piracy. Respected for his abilities as a physicist and loved for not patenting this invention, Baker is chosen to be the first subject of the European Union’s massive science project to rejuvenate the human body. And it’s just in time too because, in the year 2036, the health of 77 year old Baker is failing.

He gets that rejuvenation and much of the rest of the novel is the playing out of those two old laments: “Youth is wasted on the young” and “If I only had it to do over again.” Well, Baker’s biological clock is set to his early twenties, and he, now handsome, famous, and rich, uses the opportunity as many a man would: to bed as many women as possible and live out his sexual fantasies. The consequences for his marriage to an ex-model and his relationship with his teenage son are not good.

Despite large amounts of sex, Hamilton usually isn’t very explicit in describing the various encounters, only their preludes, the descriptions of his characters’ bodies and clothes. And the concerns about family are a fitting opening to the Commonwealth Saga. Those books are full of family dynasties, and readers of the Void trilogy know that one of its heroes, Eduard, laments most the loss of a grandchild.

Like most near future science fiction, this one has dated some already. The entertainment industry, so far, hasn’t collapsed from piracy and disregard for copyright whereas, in Hamilton’s book, “pre10” entertainment is all that’s really available. Still, some of the political and social problems in this novel’s world are still with us – the tax load needed to sustain pensions in European countries, the consequences for Europe’s elderly as the continent goes through a demographic contraction, and the resentment of some countries’ populations at Brussels’ negation of national sovereignty.

Like everybody else, this is not my favorite Hamilton book, but it is enjoyable considered on its own terms.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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