Tell me if you’ve heard this story before: a well-meaning man founds a school for gifted youngsters. The gifted youngsters are mutants, children of the atom, each with their own gifts. They are mutants to whom the world will react with fear and anger when their existence is revealed.
Like most well-read SFF fans, I’d heard of Wilmar H. Shiras’ 1953 classic Children of the Atom . I had a vague idea what later works
plagiarized … were inspired by Shiras’ collection. I had never actually read Children until I discovered that an ebook edition had been published. Knowing when the original text was written, where it was published, and the works it inspired, I thought I had a pretty good idea how the plot had to play out.
I was wrong.
There will be spoilers.
By 1973, the 1959 accident that left the staff of an atomic reactor dying of radiation poisoning is long forgotten. When child psychologist Peter Welles is asked to examine fourteen-year-old Tim, the accident seems to have no relevance to his patient. At a first glance, Tim seems like a perfectly normal young boy. At second glance, it becomes clear that Tim is concealing a great secret. He believes that if anyone were to learn his secret, he would become a pariah.
He’s not wrong.