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Readers have learned to expect the unexpected from Peter F. Hamilton. Now the master of space opera focuses on near-future Earth and one most unusual family. The result is a coming-of-age tale like no other. By turns comic, erotic, and tragic, Misspent Youth is a profound and timely exploration of all that divides and unites fathers and sons, men and women, the young and the old.
2040. After decades of concentrated research and experimentation in the field of genetic engineering, scientists of the European Union believe they have at last conquered humankind’s most pernicious foe: old age. For the first time, technology holds out the promise of not merely slowing the aging process but actually reversing it. The ancient dream of the Fountain of Youth seems at hand.
The first subject for treatment is seventy-eight-year-old philanthropist Jeff Baker. After eighteen months in a rejuvenation tank, Jeff emerges looking like a twenty-year-old. And the change is more than skin deep. From his hair cells down to his DNA, Jeff is twenty–with a breadth of life experience.
But while possessing the wisdom of a septuagenarian at age twenty is one thing, raging testosterone is another, as Jeff discovers when he attempts to pick up his life where he left off. Suddenly his oldest friends seem, well, old. Jeff’s trophy wife looks better than she ever did. His teenage son, Tim, is more like a younger brother. And Tim’s nubile girlfriend is a conquest too tempting to resist.
Jeff’s rejuvenated libido wreaks havoc on the lives of his friends and family, straining his relationship with Tim to the breaking point. It’s as if youth is a drug and Jeff is wasted on it. But if so, it’s an addiction he has no interest in kicking.
As Jeff’s personal life spirals out of control, the European Union undergoes a parallel meltdown, attacked by shadowy separatist groups whose violent actions earn both condemnation and applause. Now, in one terrifying instant, the personal and the political will intersect, and neither Jeff nor Tim–or the Union itself–will ever be the same again.
British space opera author Hamilton (The Dreaming Void) isn't quite up to his usual standards in this cautionary tale about tinkering with the human body. Several decades in the future, life has been revolutionized by the datasphere, the Internet's successor, made possible by the memory crystal. Its inventor, Jeff Baker, has been universally lionized following his altruistic refusal to patent the design. Baker, now 77, is selected by the Eurohealth Council as the guinea pig for a new biotechnology that replaces his aged genes, giving him the body of a 20-year-old. Unfortunately, the goal of the experiment to have Baker's genius applied to energy conservation is derailed by his raging hormones, which lead him to hit on every attractive woman in sight, including his teenage son's girlfriend. The predictable ensuing scenes of passion and parent-child conflict are not particularly interesting, and the unconvincing sentimental ending likewise disappoints.