Review – Misspent Youth

A disappointing introduction to a widely praised sci-fi author.

I finished The Judging Eye about a month ago, and when I did I felt I needed a change of pace from my usual epic fantasy fare.  I looked up some sci-fi reviews on the internet and found a review of a recent book by Peter Hamilton.  I found many people praising him for his Commonwealth Saga books.  I figured I’d start with the prequel to that series, Misspent Youth.

The story is about a world famous humanitarian, Jeff, and his family in the near future.  He invented a method that allowed for incredibly high data storage, changing the way technology works for the entire planet.  At the end of his life, he is living with his trophy wife and son.  He volunteers for a rejuvenation experiment, which changes his body from that of a mid-70’s man to a 20 year old man.  The novel follows his change and the fallout, and how it affects his wife Sue and their son Tim.

I did not enjoy this novel very much.  I was excited for a hard sci-fi space opera, but what I got ended up being a melodramatic soap opera with awkward and gratuitous sex scenes.  Jeff is rejuvenated and most of the novel is about how he sleeps with his son’s girlfriend and their ensuing relationship.  The sex scenes really stood out to me, in a very bad way.  For whatever reason, I’ve always struggled with sex in literature.  I’m not a prude by any means, but it always feels awkward to me when an author describes the act of sex.  This novel had a large number of these scenes, and none of them felt natural.  Most of them didn’t feel necessary to the story either.  I could understand maybe including one, because the stories linchpin is Jeff’s rejuvenation.  Including one sex scene to demonstrate how Jeff’s rejuvenated body responds to physical intimacy makes sense.  But there were far too many such scenes for me, and many of them felt out of place.  On top of that, Tim and his friends constantly talk about sex in that same unnatural way.  I don’t want to harp on the sex stuff for too long, but it definitely took me out of the book.

Jeff starts out as a likable enough character, but ultimately becomes a very difficult character to sympathize with.  He seduces his son’s girlfriend and has a baby with her.  His son Tim is understandably outraged, and the resolution between them felt forced.  I can’t imagine anyone resolving such a colossal betrayal so simply, especially when Hamilton spends a good amount of time describing their relationship as “distant.”

There is some cool, if very subtle world building.  There is a constant political struggle happening in the background of the novel that comes to a head at the climax.  And the data storage and human rejuvenation are a cool sci-fi set up for the future novels in this series.  However, I just could never get into this book.  I was constantly hoping it would get better, and Hamilton never turned it around for me.  If I hadn’t read such great things about the future novels, I would have put this book down in the first couple of chapters.

I’ve since gone back and looked at Goodreads for this specific book, and a lot of the community reviews echo my feelings on this book.  They also say that this book is not at all representative of Hamilton’s other works.  I’m going to try the next book in the series and give him one more shot, but if I’m not hooked right away I’m not going to move forward.  I don’t have much free time and I’ve already pushed myself to read one book I didn’t enjoy, I’m not going to keep doing that.  If you’re a Hamilton fan already, you might find something to enjoy here.  But if you’re not, I would advise you to steer clear.

1.5 Gibson’s out of 5.



Author: Ben Jones

Blogger. Husband. Doofus.

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