For the video game and comic book series, see X-Men: Children of the Atom. Template:Infobox book 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."[1] 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. 

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==Plot summary==== Edit

In the novel, much of which was originally published in serial form in Astounding Science Fiction magazine, hidden throughout a future America of 1972 are a group of incredibly gifted children — all approximately the same age, all preternaturally intelligent, and all hiding their incredible abilities from a world they know will not understand them.[2]  These children were born to workers caught in an explosion at an atomic weapons facility, and orphaned just a few months after birth when their parents succumbed to delayed effects from the blast. Like the characters in the better-known X-Men series, these children are mutants, brought together to explore their unique abilities and study in secret at an exclusive school for gifted children, lest they be hated and feared by a world that would not understand them.

The Oakland Tribune described it in 1953 as "the invevitable adjustments and maladjustments of minority genius to majority mediocrity".[3] In Shiras' book, none of the children are given paranormal super powers such as telekinesis or precognition—their primary difference is simply that of incredible intellect, combined with an energy and inquisitiveness that causes them to figuratively devour every book in their local libraries, to speed through university extension courses, and to publish countless articles and stories all over the world, but all done carefully through pen-names and mail-order, to disguise their youth, and protect them from the prejudicial stereotypes that less intelligent adults continue to try and enforce on children.  


The book was hailed as another step in science fiction's coming of age, as it focused more in intellectual analysis and less on gadget-driven "space opera"[3] One reviewer wrote, "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. " 

The story, about the incompatibility between the superman and normal humans, strikes a chord with many children, who feel "different from the common herd, neglected, ridiculed, ignored, only to triumph when allied with others of our kind."[4] Groff Conklin praised the novel for its "richness of character development."[5] Boucher and McComas, however, were disappointed by it, saying that while the stories it was based on were first-rate, the novel-length expansion had become "talkative, oversimplified, lacking in suspense or conflict, and, in short, just not adding up to an adequate novelistic treatment of a splendidly stated theme."[6] P. Schuyler Miller, despite acknowledging that the expansion was less effective than the original work, still concluded that it was "representative of the kind of thing science fiction does well."[7] 


  1. Top 50 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, list by the Science Fiction Book Club
  2. Children of The Atom - Information on the novel and author Wilmar Shiras
  3. 3.0 3.1 Template:Cite news  (note: Article includes photo)
  4. Review by Science Fiction Weekly (dead link)
  5. "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1953, p.85
  6. "Recommended Reading," F&SF, September 1953, p. 101.
  7. "The Reference Library", Astounding Science Fiction, March 1954, p.154


  • ==Further reading==
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  • {{cite book | first=Robert | last=Heinlein | authorlink= | date=1980 | title=Expanded Universe | edition= | publisher=Ace Books | location=New York |  


==Red Jacket Press== Edit

Write the first section of your page her CHILDREN OF THE ATOM by Wilmar Shiras Originally published by Gnome Press in 1953 Jacket design by Frank Kelly Freas Copyright © 2010 Red Jacket Press, LLC unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved.

Red Jacket Press Kerry Kyle | Brian Pearce 3099 Maqua Place Mohegan Lake, New York 10547

224 Pages | $39.95 | Limited Edition Hardcover | ISBN 0-9748895-0-4

Imagine a group of incredibly gifted children — all roughly the same age, all hiding amazing abilities from a world they know will never accept them, and all the result of genetic mutation. One man commits himself to the task of gathering these extraordinary children into an experimental new school, both to guide them in the use of their unique abilities and to shield them from the jealous suspicions of the “normal” population.

You may already be familiar with the saga of The Uncanny X-Men — but this is the tale of Wilmar Shiras’ Children Of The Atom, first published in 1953 by pioneering SF publisher Gnome Press.

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 school, both to harness their intellectual abilities and to shelter them from the world they've left behind.

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.

Over the decades that followed, this eloquent portrait of gifted children confronting a hostile world proved itself to be an enduring classic. It has often been credited with providing the inspiration for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s world-famous comic book creation, The Uncanny X-Men.




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