By Peter F Hamilton
Misspent Youth is a stand alone science fiction novel by the acclaimed British author Peter F Hamilton.
Misspent Youth – try saying it to your self – Misspent Youth, not exactly catchy is it?. It sound so much like a story about maladjusted working class youngsters in some large industrial town or the title of a Bruce Springsteen track. I’m still undecided on which idea is making me the most nauseous. Anyway, this is a Hamilton novel, so there’s a reason for the title and as it turns out it’s actually quite good.
It’s fourthly years in the future and eighteen year old Tim has a lot happening for him, he has managed to get a girlfriend (and a hot one to), he has nearly finished school, he’s having a wonderful time with his friends and he father is soon to return from eighteen months of rejuvenation treatment in Germany. Tims father, Jeff, is a bit special – he developed the technology that allowed the Internet we know today to expand into the “Datasphere”, so he’s rather famous and rather rich. Not as rich as you might expect, you see, he didn’t patent this technology, but give it away for free. What a guy. So the European Union decides to let him be the first to try their new, extremely expensive (multi-billion) rejuvenation technology. So Tim goes to the continent, with his mother, to pickup his rejuvenated dad. A dad who now appears to only four or five years older then Tim. What do you get when you put a seventy year old man in a body that, is only a twenty three years old? A very experienced bag of hormones. So if you add money and fame to the mixture? A babe magnet. So Jeff is off to babe-land, shagging everything that shakes it’s tail at him. It’s gets bad, really fast. Jeff manages to, literally and metaphorically, fuck-up everything around him. So suddenly Tim isn’t having the best time of his life. Now, maybe, you are starting to see the title in another light…
Misspent Youth takes place in an England where global warming has started to make it’s mark, where everything is controlled by Brussels, where personally owned cars is nearly a thing of the past, where copyright laws are a thing of the past. It’s a bit like Hamiltons earlier novels, but better thought out. Hamilton uses a fairly large part of the book describing this world, there’s some really interesting angles on things and I was especially liked the take on copyright law and the thoughts on what a United Europe could turn into. The really incredible thing that Hamilton manages to make these things important to the story, not just using the story as a sounding board for his opinions.
At only a bit over threehundred pages in the hardcover version this is a rather short novel, compared to what we are used to from Hamilton, but I really don’t mind. It’s really nice to see an alternative to the eternal page creep that seem to be the norm in this business. Hamilton tells Jeff story from Tims angle, making this story Hamiltons strongest book to date. The real story is the rejuvenation story, but by telling it through Tim, we get a much better view of the dark side of the ultimate prize. Tim is so incredible real, he may not be Hamiltons strongest character ever, but he is definitely the one that I’ve felt the most for.
Written on 4th March 2002 by TC .