on 11 May 2009
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?
on 6 March 2003
In Misspent Youth Peter Hamilton tackles a potentially fascinating subject, and a likely possibility in the future, when introducing the rejuvenated Jeff Baker. Baker, a philanthropist who developed the 'datasphere' was chosen by an evolved EU as the first lucky recipient of this highly expensive rejuvenation technology.
After a period of time in treatment he emerges, a lean, handsome youth, with the wisdom of an 80 year old, plenty of money, the sex drive of an 18 year old and the inhibitions of a randy mongrel. The driving force behind the rejuvenation, for the EU, seems to be a desire to better the USA, rather than to provide a technological benefit to better the individual citizens of the EU. The futuristic, undemocratic and totalitarian EU comes in for much critisism.
The book does not challenge the moral aspects of the technology, however. European reasoning behind the rejuvenation is that as more people undergo the treatment, so the cost of treatment will decrease. How the EU plans to accommodate these people, for example, is not touched.
The political situation, in a book set within the lifetimes of most of us, (forty years hence) could have made this book. Instead the book seems to descend into a teenage mini soap, where their sex lives become the chief focus of the story, as does Jeff Baker seeming to become an eighteen year old alongside his 'genuine' eighteen year old son. There is plenty of casual sex, plenty of high jinx, and a little background information on a potentially explosive situation among a deeply unhappy citizenry across the country.
Alas, the initial promise of the book is not fulfilled, it simply teases the reader as the story unfolds. Hamilton has at least moved away from the deus ex machina at the ending of the story, which so marred the Nights Dawn Trilogy and Fallen Dragon. But the story weakens as it progresses, and the end disappointed. It is hard to believe that the writer that wrote this also wrote the Night's Dawn Trilogy.
Unlike the Night's Dawn Trilogy, the technology is rarely explained, the plot seems more about teenage sex than rejuvenation, and Mr Hamilton would do well to concentrate on his strengths, such as the brilliant Night's Dawn Trilogy, rather than Misspent Youth, which in reality seems to be a small diversion of a book.
on 15 August 2003
Classifying this book as science fiction would seem to be against the Trade Descriptions act. It would seem to belong in a genre that has more to do with xenophobic old men's sexual fantasies. I had read and enjoyed all of Peter Hamilton's books up to this one. His usual story telling style was absent. No captivating threading of the story and no substance to the story by the way of clever science fiction props and setting. Right up to the end I kept hoping the story would get going but it just didn't. Very disappointing but I'll allow him this one based on past performance.
on 20 September 2003
I'm just going to make this short to save you the trouble:
If you read the night's dawn trilogy and thought Mr Hamilton was a pretty good writer, I would strongly advise you to not read the utter waste of paper that "Misspent Youth" is...
It's shock full of sex-fueled-teenage-angst-soap-opera-isms and (regrettably) very short on actual content...
Plese, if you will, stay very, very far away from this travesty...
on 14 September 2003
This is one of the worst books I have read all the way through in a long time. In a perverse way that's a compliment to the author: it was only my faith in Peter F. Hamilton from my enjoyment of his previous books that kept me going.
I've read and enjoyed the rest of Peter F. Hamilton's output, starting with the epic space opera of the Night's Dawn trilogy and working back through the near-future Greg Mandel series. Most recently Hamilton returned to space opera with the excellent Fallen Dragon.
Misspent Youth is set around 40 years in the future. Septuagenarian Jeff Baker, inventor of the "Datasphere" which replaced the Internet, has been chosen as the first recipient of a rejuvenation treatment. The book tells the story of his return after an 18 month hospital stay as a newly-invigorated 20 year old.
An interesting premise, I suppose, though not exactly a novel one (I couldn't help remembering "I Will Fear No Evil" by Robert Heinlein). But that's about as far as it goes. Hamilton seems to have no clue how to take that theme and turn it into something interesting. We have a set of dull characters (Jeff himself, his teenage son Tim, a gaggle of Tim's schoolfriends and various of Jeff's friends and family) to which basically nothing happens. Nothing. For 439 pages. The tedium is indescribable.
All right, there is a bit of action. Jeff's newly-regenerated nadgers mean he's a sex-crazed teenager with the mind of a dirty old man. So the main suspense in the book is whether he'll be able to get two of Tim's girlfriends into bed at once. (I'll save you the trouble - he does). While there is apparently a lot of sex in this book, it's long on teenage wish-fulfilment and short on detail.
It is hard to feel sympathy or even interest in any of the characters in this book. We don't get inside their heads and the only motivation is teenage lust. The female characters are particularly wooden. Tim's female schoolfriends are distinguishable only by breast size (Annabelle, let's see - ah yes, she's the one with "tits like melons", isn't she?)
Not only are plot and characters deficient, but Hamilton's futurology is pretty suspect too. For example, Jeff's world-changing invention was a memory storage module which changed the world and destroyed the publishing industry. It's pretty obvious from today's post-Napster world that it is bandwidth, not memory, which is the determining factor in file copying. Another howler talks about how easy is was for Britain to rejuvenate its railway infrastructure by reversing the Beeching cuts. Hamilton is quite willing to share his ignorance of science, technology and economics. For a "hard" science fiction writer - and one whose future vision is normally quite compelling - this is pretty shameless behaviour.
The word count is just staggering for a story in which so little happens. The action such as it is could have been edited down to perhaps one quarter of the book's length. It is padded out with turgid, mundane descriptions (do we really need to know exactly how Jeff cooks barbecue food, with his "oversize tongs"?). Is Hamilton being paid by the word perhaps?
There's a twist ending, of course, which is telegraphed clearly about 150 pages out and salvages little as the book builds to a crescendo of banality.
Misspent Youth is in a different league than Hamilton's earlier books, and it ain't the Premiership. I find it impossible to believe that this is truly a recent novel from a writer who otherwise seems to have been getting better and better. I can only assume that this is a piece of juvenilia, written probably at the beginning of his career in the late 1980's, and hastily dressed up for publication on the back of his recent successes. That's a shoddy trick on the part of both author and publisher. No one would have published this drivel had it been a first novel by an unknown author, so as a loyal fan of Peter F. Hamilton I am being taken for a ride.
Well, I fell for it. At least I didn't buy the hardback...
on 24 February 2003
Rarely have I been so let down by the new works of one of my favourite authors. This book fails on many levels: The characters are unbelievable and shallow. Our Hero, like previous Hamilton heros, is highly charged but lacks any of the humanity which the previous characters fell back on. The plot is thin, without any surprises or turns and it all leads to a dissapointing fanale.
Hamilton has been a fantastic SF writer - previoulsy his books have felt more like rock videos than films. But take away the excitement, guns and spaceships and youve just got the rich people having sex, which reads more like Jilly Cooper. I dunno, perhaps hes intentionally switching audiences - I certainly will be casting a more cynical eye over his next work before it reaches the checkout.
on 21 January 2003
Why is this book so dull? The characters are dull, the setting is dull, the concept is dull, the execution is VERY dull and the prose near unreadable.
In short, elderly man gets rejuvinated by the government, discovers he has a whole new set of interests more akin to those of his (dull) teenage son and not his (dull) friends. There is a subtext about an overbearing pan-European government, but the political insight offered is of a sub 'Daily Mail' level and unlikely to interest anyone.
And that's really it. This is the usual teenage 'I'm all alone, no one cares about me' plot with a limp science fiction twist.
None of the teenagers come across as remotely believable, the writing is so stilted and the characters so stereotypical that you couldn't care less about them. The adults - well they're not even *that* interesting.
The whole thing screams middle-aged crisis with the author trying to remember their youth and throwing in a touch of 'Mrs. Robinson' wish fulfillment. When you pay this much for a book, you expect better (especially from an established author).
You also expect that the manuscript has gone through a rudimentary grammar and spell-check. This book is littered with errors that should have been picked up at the proof-reading stage. Why they remained uncorrected - who knows, but I assume publishers do still employ editors?
'Misspent Youth' has little or nothing to recommend it - apart from its merciful brevity.
With this and 'Fallen Dragon' both being highly disappointing perhaps its time the author took a little longer to hone his ideas into readable books. Had he done so, he would have realised that 'Misspent Youth' wasn't worth the time.
on 22 November 2002
As an avid fan of Peter Hamilton I grabbed at his latest offering only to be sadly disappointed. He places the story in Rutland again and immediately one expects a prequel to his earlier books in themes and intricacy if not in detail. This shared nothing of the excitement of his previous works.
There is a single plot with a guessable but disappointing finale. The characters lacked substance and believability. Sadly the past identity of the hero did not come through to contrast with his new one. His sexual desire dominated but I wished there had been more to Jeff Baker. An opportunity missed with an interesting theme.
Whilst this book failed, my anticpation for new Peter Hamilton work is not diminished. We all have our "bad days".
on 15 August 2003
Having reviewed and highly praised Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy for The Times (those are my quotes about 'interstellar overdrive' and 'recapturing the high ground for British scifi), I picked this up expecting more of the same. Instead, this is a simplistic plot with a predictable denouement and some trite generalisations about humanity, all as a thin disguise for a rant about Britain and the EU, and Hamilton's dearly-beloved Rutland. In short, it's not science fiction at all; in fact, it's barely fiction, and certainly not readable, unless you want a political pamphlet with a shabby story line. Disappointing. He might be better advised to give up writing and start a fringe political party.
on 21 August 2012
I'm baffled at the hate being directed at this novel.
It's loads different to the rest of the things Hamilton has written but that is by no means a bad thing. It's certainly not sci-fi as we have come to understand it but rather a decadent, heartless story about a futuristic humanity. I really enjoyed it.
Hamilton himself described it as "an unpleasant story about unpleasant people". I personally found it interesting and compelling and a showcase of the darker, less classy side of human nature.
It is definitely worth reading if you have enjoyed other books by the same author, although this one is written in a completely different tune.