This latest offering by Peter Hamilton, left me wondering where Science Fiction might be headed. Of course it actually has been on a wrong course since it was clumped together with fantasy way back when. And Misspent Youth is more fantasy than science. Basically it pulls more from Greek Tragedy than putting forward and exploration of the future.
The only problem with the hopelessness and angst evident in its pages is that it is used badly. Blending those ingredients with the sexual dysfunction of a rejuvenated jerk turned this book into a geek tragedy.
I find it hard to fathom where Hamilton thinks the future is going from many of his novels. This one makes it clear where he sees things developing in Britain and it is obvious that he is not happy.
His tendency to blend the mystical with the far future science of his dreams is evidently over for now. This book is social commentary in the most Orwellian vein. Amazingly Hamilton has never found this approach before while injecting his ideas into the heart of scientific inquiry. Perhaps he should abandon it before it ages him badly with his audience. There is evidently no return from the process of aging if he is to be believed.
Instead of one central theme the reader is left with a mix of: Here the theme is the destruction of intellectual property, there it is the destruction of freedom by the European central nanny state, next it is the innocence of real youth versus the decadence of false youth. None of these themes ever really take over and this book stumbles from Geek Tragedy to Morality Play to the sadly inevitable failure of science in rebuilding youth in an aged human body.
I think it is interesting in the way most morality plays turn out to be interesting in what it tells us about the author and his times. His characters left me as cold as his denouement for Jeff, his main victim. His plot mumbled when it did not shout. His themes rambled and his grasp of the future failed to inspire anything but despair for his future as a writer of Science Fiction. I do not recommend this book especially for fans of Hamilton who deserve better.
The publisher says:
Readers have learned to expect the unexpected from Peter F. Hamilton. Now the master of space opera focuses on near-future Earth and one most unusual family. The result is a coming-of-age tale like no other. By turns comic, erotic, and tragic, Misspent Youth is a profound and timely exploration of all that divides and unites fathers and sons, men and women, the young and the old.
2040. After decades of concentrated research and experimentation in the field of genetic engineering, scientists of the European Union believe they have at last conquered humankind’s most pernicious foe: old age. For the first time, technology holds out the promise of not merely slowing the aging process but actually reversing it. The ancient dream of the Fountain of Youth seems at hand.
The first subject for treatment is seventy-eight-year-old philanthropist Jeff Baker. After eighteen months in a rejuvenation tank, Jeff emerges looking like a twenty-year-old. And the change is more than skin deep. From his hair cells down to his DNA, Jeff is twenty–with a breadth of life experience.
But while possessing the wisdom of a septuagenarian at age twenty is one thing, raging testosterone is another, as Jeff discovers when he attempts to pick up his life where he left off. Suddenly his oldest friends seem, well, old. Jeff’s trophy wife looks better than she ever did. His teenage son, Tim, is more like a younger brother. And Tim’s nubile girlfriend is a conquest too tempting to resist.
Jeff’s rejuvenated libido wreaks havoc on the lives of his friends and family, straining his relationship with Tim to the breaking point. It’s as if youth is a drug and Jeff is wasted on it. But if so, it’s an addiction he has no interest in kicking.
As Jeff’s personal life spirals out of control, the European Union undergoes a parallel meltdown, attacked by shadowy separatist groups whose violent actions earn both condemnation and applause. Now, in one terrifying instant, the personal and the political will intersect, and neither Jeff nor Tim–or the Union itself–will ever be the same again.