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Children of the Atom (1953)

de Wilmar H. Shiras

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2009138,314 (3.72)10
Children of the Atom is a 1953 science fiction novel by Wilmar H. Shiras, which has been listed as one of "The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953-2002." The book is a collection and expansion of three earlier stories, the most famous of which is the novella "In Hiding" from 1948, which appeared on several "Best SF" lists. The book's plot focuses on superhuman children with immeasurably high intelligence who have to hide their youth, and work from hiding in order to get along in the less-intelligent world. "What we find here is an inventive updating of Stapledon's famous Odd John (1935) in very sensitive, unsentimental terms, with the addition of a sense of community, a benefit that Stapledon's protagonist never got to fully experience. Shiras tells her story in simple yet affecting prose, a kind of blend of Sturgeon and Simak."--Science Fiction Weekly… (mais)
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Classic 1950s science fiction (in fairness however it began as a series of three novellas in 1948, the most famous of which was In Hiding, and was later expanded into a book in 1953).

I went into this blind having picked up the Science Fiction Book Club 1959 hardcover edition which does not contain any blurb or description, so all I new was it was published in the 50s and science fiction, probably involving atomic energy on some level. With memories of the faction by the same name in the Fallout game series I thought I'd give it a look and see if there's any relation - there's not.

The book centres around a school psychologist Peter Welles and a student who a concerned teacher refers to him, Tim. It turns out that Tim's problem isn't a problem per se but rather that he's extremely intelligent and unable to relate to others well, spending a good amount of time hiding his true intellect. It's from here we learn that Tim's parents were killed in an atomic explosion and he's somewhat of a mutant with the side effect of his radiation exposure being a higher than usual intellect.

The story then goes on as Peter Welles forms a school for these mutant gifted children (bit of xmen deja vu here) and collects other children who were effected by the atomic explosion and are mutants also.

Overall, it was alright, not particularly enthralling and the dialogue is cumbersome in parts with the author becoming a little preachy at times. I found the first chapter In Hiding was the best part of the book, with the final chapter being my least favourite chapter. If you like classic science fiction it's worth reading just for completions sake as it was ranked as the 14th most significant science fiction books by the SF Book Club. ( )
1 vote HenriMoreaux | Apr 23, 2020 |
Very dated and dull. Purely of historical interest as a marker in the history of sci-fi. ( )
  jillrhudy | Mar 3, 2015 |
A gifted psychologist and his trying-too-hard-to-be-normal patient, an adolescent boy who turns out to be of off-the-charts intelligence, discover that the boy is not alone—he is one of dozens of children whose parents were involved in a nuclear accident, lived long enough to bear them, and then died of delayed effects of radiation. One is in an insane asylum; the others are living with various relatives or adoptive parents and getting along the best they can, which is not always very well. Joining forces with an experienced junior high school teacher and another psychologist. Peter Welles and young Tim spearhead a school for “gifted children,” where they can finally be themselves. But for how long can they pass as merely “gifted”?

This novel is considered a groundbreaking work of science fiction, both for the early example of the idea of the radiation-induced mutant and for its more intellectual, thought-provoking style. An aggressive, 1950s wholesomeness permeates the whole thing. Any threats to their enterprise, whether from within (a budding sociopath) or without (crackpot televangelist) are quickly and easily defanged. There is no Magneto here; all of the children are basically good and none wants to take over the world. Indeed, their acceptance that it is their responsibility to prove their good intentions and make the rest of the world comfortable is somewhat disheartening. (Today, particularly urged by the autism spectrum community, there is more awareness that those of us perceived as “normal” have a responsibility to accept those who, for whatever reason, are not.) A quick read that, despite its limitations, will get you thinking about what it means to be “different.” ( )
1 vote jholcomb | Feb 15, 2015 |
How would children who were extra-ordinarily intelligent but lacked any real life experience deal with their peers, and more importantly, adults? A novelization of 'In Hiding', Children of the Atom expands on the theme of that story, as Tim (the protagonist from the first story) finds his true peers and begins to interact with them, and society at large. Some nasty observations about how people deal with those perceived to be different. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Apr 24, 2014 |
I've always liked *Children of the Atom*, though the final story, the one in which the children and their adult guardians suddenly and inexplicably decide that it would make sense for them to waste several years of their lives trying to fit in in a normal high school, represents a 180-degree turnaround from the assumptions and statements made in the other stories. Ignore it, and you have a good, solid fix-up novel, though the first story, "In Hiding," is the best. ( )
  dixonm | Jul 23, 2012 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Shiras, Wilmar H.Autorautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Anton, UweTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Bacon, C.W.Artista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Bradley, Marion ZimmerPosfácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Dowling, LelaIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Fiyalko, TonyArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Freas, Frank KellyArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Sussman, Arthur, 1927-Artista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Children of the Atom is a 1953 science fiction novel by Wilmar H. Shiras, which has been listed as one of "The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953-2002." The book is a collection and expansion of three earlier stories, the most famous of which is the novella "In Hiding" from 1948, which appeared on several "Best SF" lists. The book's plot focuses on superhuman children with immeasurably high intelligence who have to hide their youth, and work from hiding in order to get along in the less-intelligent world. "What we find here is an inventive updating of Stapledon's famous Odd John (1935) in very sensitive, unsentimental terms, with the addition of a sense of community, a benefit that Stapledon's protagonist never got to fully experience. Shiras tells her story in simple yet affecting prose, a kind of blend of Sturgeon and Simak."--Science Fiction Weekly

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