Misspent Youth

Peter F. Hamilton's novel Misspent Youth (2002, 439 pages) is set in the near-future, and describes the story of Jeff Baker; an inventor who revolutionizes the world by creating the ultimate method of information storage and instead of selling it, offers it open source. Because of this act, he is chosen as the candidate for the first use of rejuvenation technology which leaves him with the body of a young man. Hamilton forms a picture of a famous man with a troubled family, living in a troubled Rutland, England - also Hamilton's home county. This is very much a character driven story and focuses on the effects that Jeff's rejuvenation has on his family.

The novel has received mixed reviews, with Hamilton himself best describing why: "I could see why it didn't appeal to a lot of people. It was an unpleasant story about unpleasant people. With hindsight, it was never going to be as popular as my other works."

The story is set around 2040. It envisions that after the invention of the "datasphere", traditional publishing industries finally lost control on their copyright, and the development of new novels, music and movies collapsed. The United Kingdom remains a part of a more closely integrated European Union, with violent separatist movements in many member states.

The novel was first published in the USA in August 2006 in a new edition which had been re-edited for the US market.

Plot summary

Seventy-eight year-old Jeff Baker has revolutionized the world by inventing the ultimate method of information storage and allowing free use of it with no profits going into his own pocket. Because of this generous act, he is chosen by the European Union to be the first recipient for rejuvenation technology, which will leave him with the body of a young man. As part of the deal, he will support the re-election of the EU president.

Jeff's son Tim has a fairly typical frustrated life as a rich teenager, living with his famous father and distant mother. Tim is extremely happy when he starts going out with gorgeous Annabelle. She likes him, but she has a troubled home life and Tim's drug problem reminds her of her father.

When Jeff comes home from the rejuvenation he is in a 25 year old body. Energised by his new youthfulness, he has a series of affairs, but is most attracted to Annabelle. They start a tawdry affair and fall in love. Their passionate relationship is only a secret for a short time before Tim finds them in bed together. His life falling apart, Tim runs away.

Jeff and Annabelle are happy together, travelling around the world and experimenting with menage a trois. However, they are sad that they have hurt Tim. After Tim is hurt in a reckless accident, Jeff tells Tim that the reason he gave away the information storage technology was so his ex-wife could not get any royalties. The amazing act of charity he is famous for was motivated by spite, not goodwill.

Tim talks with his aunt about the situation. He stops drinking and doing drugs, and makes friends with his mother. He finds a new romantic interest in Vanessa, one of the girls from school.

Jeff and Annabelle both attend a controversial EU conference in London so Jeff can speak supporting the EU. Tim and some of his friends are in a protest in the streets below the conference when huge riots begin. Jeff changes his mind about supporting the EU, leaves the conference behind and charges through the riots to find his son.

In the end, Jeff is dying because the rejuvenation treatment is not yet a properly functional technology. On a live broadcast, he reveals the lies of the EU government and rescinds his support for the presidential campaign. It is revealed that Annabelle is pregnant with Jeff's child. Jeff reunites with Tim, and Tim tells him that he loves him.

Misspent Youth is set in the same universe as Hamilton's later Commonwealth Saga, consisting of Pandora's Star (2004) and Judas Unchained (2005). Jeff Baker is mentioned in the prologue to Pandora's Star and Annabelle Goddard is also mentioned in Judas Unchained. In addition, the rejeuvenation and datasphere technologies established in Misspent Youth are shown in a vastly more sophisticated form in this series. Pandora's Star is set in 2380, approximately 340 years after the events of Misspent Youth.

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