Read Children of the Atom by Wilmar H. Shiras Online


This limited edition facsimile reprint volume is a complete reproduction of the original first edition (published by Gnome Press in 1953) and includes a full-color dust jacket, protective slipcase, and biographical information about the author.Hidden throughout a future America of 1972 are a group of incredibly gifted children. All roughly the same age, all preternaturallyThis limited edition facsimile reprint volume is a complete reproduction of the original first edition (published by Gnome Press in 1953) and includes a full-color dust jacket, protective slipcase, and biographical information about the author.Hidden throughout a future America of 1972 are a group of incredibly gifted children. All roughly the same age, all preternaturally intelligent, and all hiding their abilities from a world they know will not understand them. They are Wilmar Shiras Children of the Atom, the results of an unintended experiment in genetic mutation. Born to workers caught in an explosion at an atomic weapons facility, these remarkable youths were orphaned just a few months after birth when their parents succumbed to delayed effects from the blast. Now they are in their early teens, scattered across the country, each unaware of the others existence.But beginning with the introduction of 13-year-old Timothy Paul to school psychiatrist Dr. Peter Welles, all that is about to change. After identifying Timothy and his fellow prodigies for what they are and for what their potential might be Dr. Welles commits himself to gathering these Wonder Children into an experimental new school, both to harness their intellectual abilities and to protect them from the jealous suspicions of the normal population. At this new Academy, teachers and students alike throw themselves into discussion and learning, laying the groundwork for what they hope will become a rich new chapter in human history. But once the Children of the Atom are all in one place, keeping their existence a secret becomes more and more of a challenge, and escalating events soon force a reckoning not only among the Wonder Children themselves, but also with the larger society that lies just outside their sanctuary's walls.Wilmar House Shiras was born in 1908 in Boston, Massachusetts, where she spent her formative years before moving west to attend the University of California at Berkeley. After completing four years of graduate studies in history, she settled in the neighboring city of Oakland with her husband Russell, where they proceeded to raise five children. It was for her family's entertainment that Shiras first began to create stories. In 1948, at the insistence of her small but loyal audience, she submitted the story "In Hiding" to editor John W. Campbell Jr's groundbreaking magazine Astounding Science Fiction, which published it in that year's November issue. "In Hiding" proved to be one of those rare works with which readers felt a deep identification, and over the next two years Shiras built on her success with the sequels "Opening Doors" and "New Foundations" (both also published in Astounding Science Fiction). Those three pieces became the first three chapters of Children of the Atom, published by Gnome Press in 1953. Over the decades that followed, this eloquent portrait of gifted children confronting a hostile world proved itself to be an enduring classic. (It has also been credited -though never officially confirmed- with providing the inspiration for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby s world-famous comic book creation, The Uncanny X-Men.)And although it was to be the only book that Shiras would publish in the genre, Children of the Atom has earned its author an honored place among science fiction's pantheon of creators in 2002, the Science Fiction Book Club named it one of the Most Significant Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years. Shiras passed away in 1990....

Title : Children of the Atom
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780899683645
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 182 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Children of the Atom Reviews

  • Mary JL
    2019-01-25 22:19

    This book is actually five short stories liked together. the five stories are: In Hiding; Opening Doors;New Foundations; Problems and Children of the Atom.Published in book form in 1953, these stories concern a group of incredibly gifted children. Their parents were caught in an atomic experiement in 1958, and all died with two years. But all the surviving children of these parents are so intelligent that no Iq test can measure their level of intelligence.Many of these children, in their teens have written adult books; pateneted ideas; learned college level subjects and so on.The stories are character driven; and a bit talky. Also, somewhat dated. Still the premise is interesting and there are some interesting ideas here.The book is quite short---182 pages--most SF readers could finish it in one evening and I do strongly recommend at least one try. It has always been a favorite of mine.Note: If time is pressing or you are uncertain, I recommend you read the first 34 pages--the short story "In Hiding". Then if you are not interest, quit--if you like it, finish the book. "In Hiding" is the best written of the five parts, imho. It is also the best known of the five stories, having been in various anthologies.Recommended for any SF fan; those with an interest in pyschology, and anyone who like books about unusual children.Read before I joined Goodreads, so date unknown.

  • the gift
    2019-02-16 22:49

    of its era late 1940s-early 1950s. didactic, dialogic, monologic. portrayal of gathering, education, psychology of exceptionally intelligent children in america imagined as liberal/democratic and caring society. series of linked short stories. faith in intelligence as solution/understanding of human problems, creation/tech and art for general welfare. faith seems somewhat naive but pleasant: everything solved if we just got together and... talked? i am not overwhelmingly convinced intelligence is always answer, but then ignorance is definitely not...have to say i prefer 'more than human' by sturgeon, as a portrayal of super human beings:

  • Richard
    2019-02-10 19:13

    What I am reviewing here is not actually "Children of the Atom". Rather it is the three linked novelettes published by Shiras in "Astounding Science Fiction" between 1948 and 1950. In 1953 the author integrated new material and this volume became "Children of the Atom" I have ordered a copy and will review it when it arrives in a month or so. The three novelettes first published were "In Hiding" (1948), "Opening Doors" (March, 1949) and "New Foundations" (March, 1950). All three are well-written, but the first is an acknowledged classic and has frequently been anthologized separately. The plot deals with children whose intellects have mutated to super-human levels. The adults in the story are involved in attempting to help the children find their places in human society. The setting is in the fifties and this naturally conditions the types of decisions, motives, and assumptions within the story. The writing is very delicately controlled and the over-all effect is gentle and sensitive. The characters are well-drawn and have psychological depth. The three stories do create a logical cycle but there is little doubt that the readers wanted more and three years later Wilmar Shiras obliged with the novel.UPDATEI have finished the full novel and have consequently upgraded the rating to five stars. Whether or not this book was the initial inspiration for "The Uncanny X-Men", it has its own quite distinct character. It is an engaging and rather gentle story, though the darker aspects of human nature are not altogether ignored. The author seems to have a distinct interest in Thomistic scholastic philosophy as well as Jungian psychology--and a clear understanding of children. While the setting is the world of America in the mid-twentieth century, the novel as aged well and deserves its high reputation.

  • Nicholas Whyte
    2019-02-01 20:13[return][return]On that list of the 100 most influential sf books that was going round a year or so ago, this was the only one whose author I simply had never heard of. It is set twenty years in the future (ie 1973), and revolves around the assembling of a group of children whose parents all died after a nuclear accident in 1959, and who all display exceptional intelligence. At the end of the book, the children decide that they must integrate into the mainstream of society.[return][return]It's obviously at least in part a parable of fandom / geekdom, but a rather effective one. Definitely an under-rated classic.

  • Merrill
    2019-02-23 20:11

    A small group of super-intelligent children try to start their own school with the help of a few adults who know their secret: their parents died from an atomic blast, but not before giving birth to these extraordinary babies with super talents (not superheroes). They're all terribly lonely because they have to hide their intellect from others lest they be labeled freaks. This ends when one of the boys meets a psychiatrist who agrees to help launch the school.Good study in human nature. Supposedly, the X-Men derived from this story, though no one has super powers here.

  • Steven
    2019-02-02 23:16

    Excellent story and very intelligent. Shiras gave a lot of thought to the science as well as the emotional side of the story and it come off very ahead of it's time. I think it would make a great movie but everyone would think it's an X-Men ripoff, even though the opposite is somewhat true. I appreciate the personal touch of the doctor's interactions with the kids and their sophisticated minds but always knowing they are still children.

  • Tina
    2019-02-09 21:16

    Rated G for clean. If you liked Flowers for Algernon because you could follow one man's journey to genius, you will like this book about a group of genius children. The dialogue got very technical at spots, which made the book seem to drag, but if you were in an intellectual mood and wanted to learn things indirectly about psychology then you'd enjoy those parts.

  • Brad Clarkston
    2019-02-05 23:08

    This is a great light read that is almost as relivent as it was in 1950. It is a character driven book based aroun a group of "gifted" children with amazing IQ's and there teachers.I'd recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in psychology or with the X-Men comic books, cartoons, and/or movies.

  • Cathy
    2019-02-22 16:02

    Interesting premise: an atomic accident creates a group of super intelligent children. It's also interesting to consider in what ways the story is reflective of the 50's and in what ways it explores constants of human nature.

  • Will Boncher
    2019-02-06 16:07

    Cute story about development in some hypersmart children. Could have used a little more development and a less rushed ending though.

  • Timothy Boyd
    2019-02-14 22:53

    A very good early 1950s SiFi book. Rumor has it that this book was some of Stan Lee's inspiration for creating the X-Men. Great read and a good plot. Very recommended

  • Rachel Jaffe
    2019-01-29 19:09

    I remember reading this book as a kid. Is its literary value four stars? No, not really. The set up is simplistic, as is the resolution, and the manifestation of the children as distinct individuals with passion and genius is unrealized. But I can't separate it from my warm memories of reading it as a kid, so four stars it gets.

  • Morgan Dhu
    2019-02-07 23:00

    Wilmar Shiras' Children of the Atom is in many ways a classic 1950s sf "thoughtpiece" novel. There's a great deal of dialogue, not a lot of action, and it is unashamedly didactic. Even so, I enjoyed it very much, for reasons which may be somewhat idiosyncratic.The plot of the novel is quite simple. School psychologist Peter Welles is called in to talk to a young teenager, Tim, who seems to be completely ordinary in every way - but his teacher senses that something is not quite as it seems and is worried about him. Welles quickly discovers that Tim is in fact a super-intelligent and very lonely child pretending to be normal - that this is in fact his survival strategy, but what he needs most is friendship and real intellectual stimulation. Having learned that Tim, an orphan raised by his grandparents, was born shortly after his parents were exposed to high levels of radiation in an explosion in a nuclear weapons plant, Welles reasons that there are others like Tim, and the two set out to find them.Not al the children have been as lucky in finding ways to avoid drawing attention to themselves - the first child they find, Elsie, is a patient in a mental hospital - nor have all the children grown up as well-adjusted - one child, Fred, displays a serious lack of empathy and emotional affect, having devoted himself entirely to intellectual development. These issues, however, are addressed with relative ease once Welles manages to bring all the children he can find together in one community under the guidance of several well-chosen adults unthreatened by the extreme abilities of these "Children of the atom."Late in the story, the children and their community are threatened by a rabble-rousing preacher who has heard some of the details about the children and launches a pogrom against these "malevolent mutants" - but the mob that attacks the school is quieted when they see Tim, a boy that many of them have known in their community as the classmate of their children and the boy who delivered their evening paper for some years. They also recognise Pete Welles, the kindly school psychologist and another of the adults, who was a local teacher. This incident brings the children to a realisation that the only way to avoid future threats is to integrate themselves into the larger community, which they decide to do by attending "normal" school but continuing to live in their own community until they can go out into the world as adults.Several things struck me about this novel. First, the powerful "cult of psychology" that was such a key element of middle class culture in the 1950s, and how the novel could never have been constructed as it was without this. Second, the focus on Jungian rather than Freudian psychology - rather a departure from the norm, although it's possible that Shiras did not want to have to deal with Freud's theories of psychosexual development in astory dealing with young teens. Since I personally prefer Jung to Freud, this was part of what I enjoyed about the novel - seeing the children apply Jung's thinking about the anima/animus and the four basic personality functions to their own development as balanced human beings.I was also struck by the resolution and its belief that if the different among us become integrated into the overall community, that difference will cease to be seen as threatening or evil. It reminded me of the frequently cited finding that one of the key factors in acceptance of marriage equality is knowing someone who is gay. The thing that made this story so very real and resonant for me, however, is that to a les extreme degree, This was one big part of my life story. I know that IQ tests are inherently flawed in many ways, but the fact that I topped out of the Stanford-Binet superior adult battery of tests at age eight is an indication that there was something not quite normal about me as a child. I knew it, the adults around me knew it, and above all,the other kids knew it - and they were none too pleasant about it. My social development was awkward and delayed, to say the least. I ran a real risk of becoming all intellect and nothing else, because my mind was what made me important enough to adults that they protected me from the other children. And then I and a few others like me were saved, quite literally, by a group of educational psychologists who were trying to figure out how to teach the gifted child, and picked eight of us who tested the highest in our grade in the whole city to be their guinea pigs. It only lasted a few years, but the wide-open curriculum, the total acceptance, support and emotional guidance of the adults looking over us (there was little need to teach, just to let us loose in libraries, museums, laboratories, and make sure we didn't accidentally harm anything) and the utter bliss of being able to play as a child with other children in ways that were true both to our developing social natures and our advanced intellectual accomplishments - these things are a large part of what made me the at least somewhat well-adjusted person I am today, and helped me learn to move comfortably in the midst of people who had once tortured me for being different.I saw a lot of myself, magnified by the lens of science fiction, in Wilmar Shiras' Children of the Atom.

  • Kristen
    2019-02-07 20:58

    This book has all the things I like: gifted kids, cats, and a heavy dose of theistic philosophy. That last one caught me off guard because it is so not the norm in gifted children discourse. This book probably will get its own chapter because it is so unique from other gifted books as a pre-Sputnik portrayal of gifted kids. Post-Sputnik gifted discourse is primarily concerned with science and training children to be national scientific resources, perhaps weapons. But this book is a post-WW2 pre-Sputnik portrayal, and, as such, it condemns over reliance on science. As it says, people who reason only based on science brought about the Bomb, so we need to be wary of that. The biggest threat to this pre-X men school for gifted youngsters is a gifted child who reasons by science/ intellect alone and gives no credence to feeling, intuition, or sensation. The other children treat him as a psychological project and give him assignments to develop his psyche more fully. This is where the book gets most bizarre because the child is assigned to stare at an apple seed in imitation of early Mystics and own a pet to teach him how to love. These exercises are combined with reading assignments by CS Lewis, Aquinas, and Aristotle. On the other side, the second threat to the school is a television pastor who condemns them as abominations of Satan. He is quickly dismissed as a fool who relies on feelings alone without intellect. The message of the book is clear: we should not rely on intellect, feelings, intuition, or sensation alone, but instead need to be fully developed thinkers who give equal credence to science, philosophy, languages, the arts, and mathematics. Is it a little heavy handed in its endorsement of Thomism or Thomistic Philosphy? Absolutely, but I loved it, mostly because it is totally bizarre and unusual to read about a group of gifted kids sitting around debating Poe's Philosophy of Composition and Aquinas' Summa Theologica. Also, the cats.

  • Teresa Carrigan
    2019-02-09 19:55

    Takes place in the early 1970s. I had forgotten some of the common details of American culture back then. Lots of smoking of course. Telephones weren't found in every office, you went out in the hall to answer it. A single TV not only for a family but for a group of families. Sending telegrams when you needed to communicate quickly in writing.I still find the story worth rereading. It's not really a novel, but more of a set of stories about the same characters. IMO it does a realistic job of showing how extremely intelligent children struggle to grow up among those of more average intelligence.

  • Tim
    2019-01-31 17:53

    REALLY disappointing. The book started off so well - great premise and the writing was good - then it just turned into one talk after another and a repetition of introducing new students, getting their background. etc. Just tiresome after a while and worse ye the story doesn't proceed while this is happening. Then finally near the end a great twist is introduced that should have happened in the second part of the book (no spoiler) and it just fizzled. So much potential wasted. Makes me kind of sad all things considered. It should have been a great novel but just isn't.

  • Rich Brown
    2019-01-28 18:19

    The obvious inspiration for the X-Men comics, which don't interest me much. No special effects or retractable laser claws here, just an interesting idea- some brilliant teenagers (all mutated in the womb by their parents' work at Oak Ridge) gathering on a farm/boarding school, with good intentions of leading the rest of us to a brighter, better nuclear future. 1953 must've been awesome: 'Better Living Through Chemistry' and all that.

  • Bob Rust
    2019-02-19 21:02

    Children of the Atom (1953) The narrative concerns a number of radiation-engendered child geniuses who initially hide their abilities from the world then reveal themselves taking the risk that in trying to help normal humans they may end up as a martyred Pariah Elite. The story is sensitively told avoiding most of the Clichés of Pulp-sf stories about persecuted children who are destined to rule the world.

  • Stefan
    2019-02-07 15:16

    I've been hearing about this book since the early 90s. It was an early inspiration to the X-Men (along with DC's Doom Patrol). Well, I can cross it off my list now. It's very dry and very plainly written which made it difficult to motivate me read. I finished it finally and really didn't find it worth my time.

  • David Szondy
    2019-02-20 18:53

    One of the joys of hunting down obscure books is sitting down of an evening to read some delight that I've stumbled across in a dusty secondhand book shop. One of the disappointments is discovering that said delight is actually a thundering letdown. Such is The Children of the Atom.Read more

  • Carol
    2019-02-18 18:10

    One of the first "sci fi"/" what if" books I read as a teen. It was given to me by a friend that like me that had skipped a grade and was younger than the other kids in school. It is hard to describe but it was story that made me feel more normal but yet could express my extra-ordinariness in constructive ways that I'd not diminish others but let me realize my full potential.

  • Ben
    2019-02-07 16:08

    Pretty boring book, but not totally terrible.

  • Theodore Wilson
    2019-02-11 17:14

    An unfolding story about protégé children possessing unfathomable intelligence. Some of which are capable of fitting in with society while others tragically don't figure it out fast enough.

  • Lisa
    2019-01-28 15:54

    I remember reading this when I was about 13 or 14 and very impressionable and staying with my grandparents in New Mexico. It scared the wit's out of me!!

  • Russell Nicholas
    2019-02-19 15:13

    Good read. I felt character development could have been better. Ending not so epic, but an enjoyable weekend read.

  • Cesar Erwin Magnaye
    2019-02-06 22:57

    Extremely anti-climactic, but a good read. A must on lazy Sunday read trips.

  • Maggie Salisbury
    2019-02-02 22:05

    Very dated and dull. Purely of historical interest as a marker in the history of sci-fi.