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Misspent Youth
Peter F. Hamilton
Pan Macmillan, 440 pages

Misspent Youth
Peter F. Hamilton
Peter F. Hamilton was born in Rutland, UK in 1960. In addition to the three Greg Mandel novels, Mindstar Rising, A Quantum Murder and The Nano Flower (all from Tor), he is the author of the UK bestseller, The Reality Dysfunction, which, along with The Neutronium Alchemist, form volumes 1 and 2 of Night's Dawn trilogy.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Reality Dysfunction
SF Site Review: A Second Chance at Eden
SF Site Review: Greg Mandel Trio
SF Site Review: A Quantum Murder
SF Site Review: The Neutronium Alchemist
Mark/Space: The Nano Flower
Peter F. Hamilton Tribute Page
Info on Peter F. Hamilton

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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At 78, Jeff Baker is not only a rich man, but a legend. In the early 21st century Baker invented the memory crystal, and then stunned the world by refusing to patent it. Instead he published its structure freely on the internet, sparking a global "free source" revolution in information and economics.

So when the European Union's massive DNA re-engineering project is ready, Baker is chosen to be the first man in human history to be rejuvenated to the physical age of eighteen.

The successful rejuvenation feels like a miracle -- or is it? Jeff's relationship with his gorgeous trophy wife, and his viagra child (18-year-old son Tim) is drastically changed, and even his oldest friends seem suddenly... well, old. And the whole world is watching via the Datasphere (a vastly expanded internet), expecting him to pay back this huge medical expenditure with brilliant new research.

The premise of Misspent Youth is intriguing, and author Peter F. Hamilton peoples his story with strong characters in a believable milieu. In particular, he catches the arrogance and uncertainty of teenagers raised in wealthy, gated suburbs by cynical, narcissistic parents. (As Tim's mother puts it: "I've learned how to be a fully fledged modern bitch, which is the only survival trait that counts in this world.")

The technology these people consume seems real -- from avtxt messages sent via datasphere to the genoprotein treatments which stave off the effects of aging. And, finally, Hamilton has thought through the implications of a radical "free source" economy (including the impact of loss of copyright on writers, artists and musicians).

But after a few chapters, looking through the eyes of these shallow, self-centred people began to feel like wading in foetid water. Jeff Baker is a crass, immature nerd, sheltered by his fortune and largely indifferent to other people. His socially backward son Tim is even less engaging. Ultimately, although Hamilton has good points to make, I found it hard to work up much interest in the lives of the rich and petty.

Misspent Youth is a clever and sharply observant book, but not an endearing one.

Copyright © 2004 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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