enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Wilmar H. Shiras, Children of the Atom

I read this book about 21-Feb-2005. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1948. This note was last modified Wednesday, 23-Feb-2005 16:22:17 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Well, reread is mixed. The first story in this collection, "In Hiding", is an old favorite (most often read, I think, in Asimov's anthology Tomorrow's Children). The only problem with this memory is that the story doesn't appear in that anthology, at least according to ISFDB. Well, I certainly read it somewhere! It's been anthologized a number of times in places I think I read.

I read a Pennyfarthing Press edition from 1978; the first illustrated edition, they claim. I must have owned this pretty much since it came out, since there was a 1979 Guthrie ticket stub in it (The Beggar's Opera); but I don't recall having read the rest of the stories ever. I also don't remember discovering that Wilmar is a woman (clear both from the dedication and the afterword). Since I liked the original story so much, I'm puzzled how this came about. I guess it just got lost in the library.

I'm completely in agreement with Marion Zimmer Bradley, in the afterword, about how important a story this was for SF fans. She talks about a generation older than mine, but roughly the same issues applied. This is a story about a super-intelligent child growing up among normal people. In the first story, Tim grows up among reasonably intelligent and quite reasonable people, and he still has great stresses on him. Most of us weren't as intelligent as Tim; I for example was never in danger of writing real scholarly works before I was 10. But the feelings of alienation were widely similar for many people. (I actually got off fairly easy; I grew up in an academic family in an academic town.)

As is often true with the early atomic mutation stories, the biology is crazy. Stupid, even. Crazy and stupid in ways that they had to know about then. There's just no reason an atomic accident would cause dozens of women to all produce children with the same mutation.

In the later stories, religious issues start to raise their heads somewhat; they take it far too seriously for my taste, though I suppose the author thought she was being terribly open-minded. And at least in the last story, the televangelist is a bad guy.

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David Dyer-Bennet