by Peter F. Hamilton
Review by John Berlyne
Tor Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0333900707
Date: 08 November 2002 List Price £17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Article /
Misspent Youth comes across as something as a departure for Hamilton - an author more likely, it seems, to offer us hard-boiled SF detective stories (i.e. the Greg Mandel books) or enormous sweeping militarist space operas (The Night's Dawn Trilogy). From official release/information:
Amazon.co.uk Review: Peter Hamilton is famed for SF blockbusters of far-future interstellar adventure. By contrast Misspent Youth is a social comedy set in the year 2040 in England. When gene therapy rewinds Jeff Baker's age back to his early 20s he finds that wisdom and experience are no match for hormones...
The rejuvenation treatment, developed by federal Europe to impress laggard America, is so complex and expensive that only one person every 18 months can receive it. Jeff is the first because he's a celebrity inventor, father of the "datasphere" which superseded the Internet.
Family upheavals follow. An "arrangement" with his much younger, still beautiful wife Sue lets her enjoy lovers while the aged Jeff turns a blind eye: now things are different. Meanwhile their 18-year-old son Tim is struggling ineptly with teenage sexual pangs and the impossibility of understanding girls. All part of growing up, but Jeff's renewed youth brings farcical complications.
It's not just that Jeff now fancies Sue again. He can't resist even younger women. An early one-night stand is publicised all over the datasphere. Embarrassment escalates when he's seduced by the granddaughter of a long-time pub companion. Worse, several of Tim's ravishing female schoolmates are interested in Jeff the celebrity stud. The dishiest of all is Tim's latest, most hopelessly adoring girlfriend.
Can it be coincidence that the action mostly happens in Rutland?
This comedy of embarrassments and revelations has a darker background: Europe is plagued by separatist movements whose terrorist habits make the old IRA look like pussycats. The turning point in Jeff's tangled relationships comes when he attends a London conference surrounded by protest that breeds riot--with Tim among the protesters.
A foreshadowed twist leads to a finale that mixes cynicism with sentiment. En route Misspent Youth is a lot of fun. --David Langford