My life in outer space

Misspent Youth – Peter F Hamilton (2002)

Misspent Youth

‘It is forty years into the future and, following decades of research and trillions of euros spent on genetics, Europe is finally in a position to rejuvenate a human being. the first subject chosen for treatment is Jeff Baker, the creator of the Datasphere [which replaced the internet] and philanthropist extraordinaire. After eighteen months in a German medical facility, the seventy-eight-year-old patient returns home looking like a healthy twenty-year-old.

Misspent Youth follows the effect his reappearance has on his family and friends – his considerably younger ex-model wife Sue, his teenage son Tim, and his long-term pals, now themselves all pensioners, who start resenting what Jeff has become.’

Blurb from the 2003 Pan paperback edition

I can’t quite work out why this novel doesn’t work. It doesn’t. That is clear. I find it quite surprising that Hamilton, having successfully produced two really good trilogies, should then produce this singular and rather dull piece of work. Admittedly, it is well-written in Hamilton’s usual page-turning style. There are his ubiquitous uberbabes, bursting out of every conceivable piece of erotic fashion on every other page. There are some interesting political developments, and the action is set very solidly in Hamilton’s beloved Rutland, now part of a Federal Europe where the Separatists are on the rise against the unification of Europe.
Jeff Baker is the inventor of a crystal data technology which produced the Datasphere, an enhanced internet where any information is accessible.
Brussells has now rewarded the seventy-eight-year-old scientist with rejuvenation treatment which leaves him with the body and libido of a twenty-year old.
Some way into the novel one can be forgiven for thinking that Hamilton was working on a modern twist on Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ since the rejuvenated Jeff, far from acting with the wisdom and maturity of his years, abandons all morals and goes on a viagra-crazed rampage through the female population, beginning with his best friend’s grand-daughter and ending up with his son’s girlfriend. Hamilton may have had something if he continued the Dorian Grey theme through to Jeff’s destruction of himself and his family, but alas, that does not happen. Alas, because I suspect the reader would not give a damn about Jeff’s family.
And here is where the problem lies. There is no one to like in this novel, apart from Jeff’s sister Alison, who is written as a kind of elderly rebel, and whose character seems far more real than the selection of cardboard cut-outs who share the novel with her.
There is also a real problem with dialogue here, and the ending is pure schmaltz. One might almost suspect that this was an early Hamilton novel that didn’t make the grade at the time it was written and was released only to cash in on the now best-selling author’s name. Or is that just my cynicism kicking in?


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