After spending some quality time with space opera, Peter F Hamilton returns to the near future for Misspent Youth. It’s 2027, and the bio-sciences have advanced to the point where it’s possible to completely rejuvenate someone–but only one person, and at enormous expense. Jeff Baker is the 80-year old scientist chosen to undergo the pioneering treatment. He spends eighteen months unconscious as his body is rebuilt cell by cell, and awakens as a young man. Hamilton builds on this premise by giving Jeff a wife, Sue, forty years his junior, and a son, Tim, who at eighteen is only a few years younger than Jeff’s new biological age. In addition to the personal issues Jeff has to face, he also has to deal with being a celebrity and a figurehead for the policies of a prime minister with ambitions to become president of Europe.
I found Misspent Youth a suprisingly bleak novel. The personal story deals with a broken family that never gets fixed, and with the inevitable victory of base human impulses over rational thought. The future society Hamilton paints is filled with glorious technological advances, but also with desperately unhappy and fearful people. Domestic political violence and terrorism is rife. Europe has pulled away from an insular and impoverished USA, but despite increasingly close political ties, European cultural and fraternal unity is further away than ever. The book ends with twin climaxes that resolve superficial crises, but signal no more than a temporary ceasefire on the battlefield of the underlying political and personal issues. It’s an interesting read, but far from an uplifting or inspirational one.