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Misspent Youth by Peter F. Hamilton

01/05/2010. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Misspent Youth in the USA - or Buy Misspent Youth in the UK

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pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 403 page hardback. Price: $26.00 (US), $30.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-46164-3.

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Jeff Baker could have been the richest man in the world when he invented data crystals but he refused to patent them and put the information on his website for everyone to use. Even so, as a top physicist he was still pretty rich. After a failed first marriage, he took a pretty young wife later in life and, with technological help, they had a baby, Tim. When Tim is about eighteen and interested in what all young men are interested in - girls with big chests, Dad becomes the first man to get very expensive rejuvenation treatments all paid for by European Government. He comes out of it with the body of man in his twenties and similar interests to his son.

It's not possible to say much more about the plot without giving it away but essentially this is a soap opera. The premise of a man restored to youth is hard Science Fiction so the book is definitely in that category. The consequences are mostly relationship difficulties. This type of SF is quite rare. Robert Heinlein's 'I Will Fear No Evil' is a novel about the problems of an old man's brain being transplanted into a young woman's body. Heinlein centred on sex being great as the main theme of his book. Hamilton has a similar focus with a bevy of lovely young women queuing up to bed the newly vigorous celebrity scientist. A splendid time is had but feelings get hurt.

Peter F. Hamilton is a good Science Fiction writer, though, not just an 'Eastenders' scripter, so there is an interesting and well-realised near future background, too. Our hero is English and the issues raised are relevant to our little island which is here a fully-fledged member of the European Union and ruled by bureaucrats in Brussels. There is an English Independence Council and a terrorist group that aims to be worse than the IRA. They manage, I think. Only the very rich can afford cars and the roads are slowly falling into disrepair as everyone takes the train and the kids use e-trikes. Jeff's invention has meant huge capacity on the Internet which has killed off Hollywood, television companies and the music industry as any content they produced was immediately downloaded somewhere and spread all around the world for free within hours. Writers only do it for fun now, as the same happens with their books. All this was already happening (is already happening!) but Jeff's invention speeded it up.

None of the characters are very loveable but I guess that makes them realistic. The political background and developments are interesting. I enjoyed the book because Hamilton writes well and there are a few surprises along the way. All in I prefer his big, galaxy-spanning space operas set in the far future, such as 'The Dreaming Void' but this earlier work, re-written and re-published afresh is still a good read.

Eamonn Murphy

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This book has 139 votes in the sci-fi charts

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