Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Children of the Atom” as Want to Read:
Children of the Atom
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Children of the Atom

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  137 ratings  ·  33 reviews
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
Hardcover, Limited Facsimile, 182 pages
Published by Nelson Doubleday, Inc. (first published January 1st 1953)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Children of the Atom, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Children of the Atom

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  137 ratings  ·  33 reviews

Sort order
Mary JL
Jun 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: SF fans; psychology; unusual children
Shelves: main-sf-fantasy
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 h
the gift
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 i ...more
Tom Britz
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Children of The Atom was written as a series of short stories beginning in 1948. However it never really read like it was dated at all. The basic story, which is rumored to be a precursor to The X-men(minus the super powers other than intellect). I found the stories to be prescient and the characters to be fully formed and believable. This was one of the better books I've read this year.
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Nicholas Whyte[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 mains ...more
Feb 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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. Supposed
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi-i-ve-read
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.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Cute story about development in some hypersmart children. Could have used a little more development and a less rushed ending though.
Timothy Boyd
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike Stone,
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good 1950s SF.

This novel is an expansion of the excellent novelette "In Hiding", where the central character discovers a young boy who is a supergenius, but has been carefully concealing his intelligence from fear that in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man could be in for a rough time - perhaps an allegory of the problems faced by gifted children in that era.

Learning that the boy's intelligence is the result of his parents' exposure to radiation in an atomic disaster, he sets out to find
May 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
This novella started as a short story, “In Hiding”, which was published in 1948 and was well regarded at the time. Two more short stories were published in serial fashion and then the stories were extended into a novella. Children of the Atom was listed as one of "The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953-2002." I can see why it may have been considered significant. It is believed to have been a precursor to X-Men. There are some genuinely interesting ideas but the n ...more
Rachel Jaffe
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, fiction
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
Jan 27, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dean Landsman
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book in the very early 1960s I found it remarkably comforting. To read it today it would seem so much a period piece, so out of place with common communications and education systems. But at its time, especially when written, Shiras captured what was less of a scifi theme than that of determination and persistence, coupled with naivete and necessity. The atomic factor was merely a device.

The 1950s and 60s, postwar America, was a time when the economy was booming. Children were the b
Teresa Carrigan
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 sho
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it
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 s ...more
Rich Brown
Sep 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, fav
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.
Adam  McPhee
Feb 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
Read because of the story that it inspired the original X-Men. Didn't really hold my attention, but maybe that's because the 'school for special children' trope has been mined to the point of exhaustion in recent years.
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Pretty boring book, but not totally terrible.
Theodore Wilson
May 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Good read. I felt character development could have been better. Ending not so epic, but an enjoyable weekend read.
Cesar Erwin Magnaye
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Extremely anti-climactic, but a good read. A must on lazy Sunday read trips.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Best of Frederik Pohl
  • The Winter of the World
  • The Heat Death of the Universe and Other Stories
  • Saturday, the Twelfth of October
  • The Exile Waiting
  • Through Darkest America (Darkest and Dawn #1)
  • Ice
  • Cyberbooks
  • The Complete Wilderness Training Book
  • Fireball
  • Magical Realist Fiction: An Anthology
  • False Dawn
  • The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith
  • The Missing Persons League
  • Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Strange Attractors
  • Nothing Human
  • Fun with Your New Head
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 fi ...more