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Childhood's End (Pan science fiction)

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Blotting out the light from the stars they had linked so effortlessly, the silent ships hang suspended over the great cities of Earth... Armed with staggering power and an infinite wisdom, the invaders from outer space shock Earth into submission - but what is their purpose? Breath-taking in its imaginative sweep, this brilliant story explores the distant reaches of space, t Blotting out the light from the stars they had linked so effortlessly, the silent ships hang suspended over the great cities of Earth... Armed with staggering power and an infinite wisdom, the invaders from outer space shock Earth into submission - but what is their purpose? Breath-taking in its imaginative sweep, this brilliant story explores the distant reaches of space, tells of the last generation of Man - and of the last Man himself.


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Blotting out the light from the stars they had linked so effortlessly, the silent ships hang suspended over the great cities of Earth... Armed with staggering power and an infinite wisdom, the invaders from outer space shock Earth into submission - but what is their purpose? Breath-taking in its imaginative sweep, this brilliant story explores the distant reaches of space, t Blotting out the light from the stars they had linked so effortlessly, the silent ships hang suspended over the great cities of Earth... Armed with staggering power and an infinite wisdom, the invaders from outer space shock Earth into submission - but what is their purpose? Breath-taking in its imaginative sweep, this brilliant story explores the distant reaches of space, tells of the last generation of Man - and of the last Man himself.

30 review for Childhood's End (Pan science fiction)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    “No utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond their wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.” The United States and the Soviet Union were in the midst of a military space race when large ships appeared in the skies over all t “No utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond their wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.” The United States and the Soviet Union were in the midst of a military space race when large ships appeared in the skies over all the major cities. The aliens have come to keep humans from annihilating themselves. An act of altruism? Or do they have another agenda? The press dubs them THE OVERLORDS, but they much prefer to refer to themselves as The Guardians. They allow humans to govern themselves by whatever means they feel comfortable unless policy decisions involve hurting people. “Man’s beliefs were his own affair, so long as they did not interfere with the liberty of others.” The Overlords also did not approve of hurting animals for sport. In Madrid, when the Spaniards insist on continuing to hold bullfights, a lesson is administered. Every time the bull is stabbed, the pain the animal is feeling is transferred to the audience. No more bullfights. Robotics and computers are advanced to the point that humans are only needed as overseers. Work weeks are cut down to twenty hours a week. (OMG sign me UP.) People are encouraged to go to college, to develop hobbies and skills, and even go back to school several times over their lifetimes to learn something completely new. ”The existence of so much leisure would have created tremendous problems a century before. Education had overcome most of these, for a well-stocked mind is safe from boredom.” And for a while the excitement of improving themselves keeps the humans on a spectacular track of not only bettering themselves, but also evolving civilization. Murder has become almost nonexistent, and when passion inspires such aggression, it is only the matter of turning a dial for The Overlords to find the perpetrator. When I google NSA, the National Security Agency of course comes up, but so does No Strings Attached, which I found very ironic. Given the range and the depth of what the NSA knows about all of us, not just US citizens by the way, maybe we should start applying the term The Overlords to the United States government. It would be nice if they would convert all this information into something practical, like catching murderers. Knowing how these things work, they may not want us to know that they are capable of doing that. We might get fearful of our government. Barrage balloons over London during World War II. Clarke observed balloons like these floating over the city in 1941. He recalls that his earliest idea for the story may have originated with this scene, with the giant balloons becoming alien ships in the novel. It seems to be the fate of all Utopias to turn leisure into sloth and turn unlimited possibilities into boredom. Interesting that Arthur C. Clarke uses the advancement of Television technology to be a major contributor to the degradation of a perfect society. People became passive sponges--absorbing but never creating.” Clarke mentions that people in this society started watching television three hours per day. Rookies! The latest statistics that I saw mentioned that Americans now watch five hours of television a day on average. Obviously, I don’t watch television five hours a day as can be ascertained by how many books I read a year. If the Kansas City Royals are playing, I do watch about three hours, but I’m also still reading and researching while the game is on. Baseball is the perfect background noise for doing just about anything, including taking a much needed nap to rest the noggin for a few minutes. When people ask me how I read so many books a year and still work full time, I usually ask them how much time they spend watching television or playing with their cell phone or playing games on their iPad? Everyone has the same number of hours in their day; it just depends on how you choose to use them. I choose to read. People who read fewer books than me are making different choices or in some cases may have more obligations. Of course, this is relevant only because I see reading as the best way to evolve the mind. I’m old fashioned that way. “There were some things that only time could cure. Evil men could be destroyed, but nothing could be done with good men who were deluded.” There are concerns voiced by various religious groups and also by people who are not thrilled about humans losing their ability to govern themselves, but for the majority of people the lack of responsibility and the lack of ambition to succeed are concepts they readily embrace. A society that was evolving to the greatest heights of artistic and progressive achievements starts to prefer apathy. The Overlords are very careful to control what the humans learn about them. A man named Jan Rodericks stows away on one of their ships and sees a world he can barely comprehend. “And in its sky was such a sun as no opium eater could ever have imagined in his wildest dreams. Too hot to be white, it was a searing ghost at the frontiers of the ultraviolet, burning its planets with radiations which would be instantly lethal to all earthly forms of life. For millions of kilometers around extended great veils of gas and dust, fluorescing in countless colors as the blasts of ultraviolet tore through them. It was a star against which Earth’s pale sun would have been as feeble as a glowworm at noon.” In one of those time travelling, mind bending events that I always have trouble fully comprehending, Jan only ages a few months, but has missed eighty years on Earth. The Overlords make allusion to the fact that science can destroy religions, but that science is not the top of the mountain, but only a stepping stone to a much greater understanding of life. They search through our archives looking for information on the paranormal and other elements that have been written about outside the realm of science. When the children of earth start to develop telekinetic powers, the true reasons for The Overlords being our guardians becomes clear. We also learn that the Overlords defer to another power much greater than their own capabilities called The Overmind. I caught a commercial for the six hour miniseries that the Syfy Channel is planning to launch in December and realized that I have hauled a copy of this book around with me for a couple of decades without reading it. Sometimes we need one more push. As always I’m impressed with Arthur C. Clarke’s ability to tackle the bigger issues and to be somewhat controversial in his presentation of the best and worst of being human. It does seem that we are incapable of possessing true happiness for very long. We are designed for strife, for pain, for joy, and ambitious achievement. When any of those elements are removed from the equation, we start to falter. Joy can only be fully appreciated if we experience pain. Ambition can only be relished if strife was overcome to achieve it. As The Overlords fix all the problems, there is a huge cost, too big of a cost, in that we lose what makes us unique. It is disappointing to think that harmony and lack of fear will turn us into beings unworthy of admiration. When defense is no longer a primary objective, it is disheartening to believe that the energy previously expended on security can not be transferred to higher levels of achievement in the arts, philosophy, music, and literature. To be the best that we can be, we still need the growl of the Sabretooth tiger coming from just beyond the edge of the firelight. We still need to be capable of picking up a club and saying “here kitty, kitty, kitty.” This is a short book, power packed with ideas and concepts, and certainly deserving of inclusion in the list of classic, influential, science-fiction books. See all my recent book and movie reviews at http://www.jeffreykeeten.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I've done a lot of odd jobs over the years. At one point, back before I got my degree and I was still working to put my wife through school, I worked as a delivery driver for a company that sold construction supplies - 50 lb boxes of powdered Kool-Aid, portable generators, hammers, safety harnesses, 2x4's, circular saws. It was one of those barely above minimum wage jobs generally populated by people who for whatever reason find themselves unable to get anything else and competing against a larg I've done a lot of odd jobs over the years. At one point, back before I got my degree and I was still working to put my wife through school, I worked as a delivery driver for a company that sold construction supplies - 50 lb boxes of powdered Kool-Aid, portable generators, hammers, safety harnesses, 2x4's, circular saws. It was one of those barely above minimum wage jobs generally populated by people who for whatever reason find themselves unable to get anything else and competing against a large number of similar people where the decisive advantage is often no more than you show up everyday. My colleagues were an interesting mix: an ex-door gunner on a SOCOM gunship, a teenage kid dreaming of rapping his way off the street, the musician whose real job was Jazz and who’d played everywhere in N’awlins, a bow-kneed redneck that could still remember fondly when racism was acceptable but couldn’t manage to make his hatred stick because he didn’t really believe it, and the black racist ex-boxer would be preacher who once told me with an apologetic smile that white people couldn’t get into heaven because they had no souls. One of my colleagues was an aging chain smoking gray haired country boy missing half of his teeth and so learning disabled as to need my help with basic addition. He probably knew more about literature than many of the professors I've had, or at the least he was more interesting to talk to and his opinions were less rote. I found this out after he came in one day aglow after seeing 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'. He absolutely needed someone to talk about the experience with, and by that time I was unable to hide the fact that I was an "egghead" so I was probably the only person he knew that was qualified. Turns out, he'd lived a rather interesting life. He was fluent in Spanish and had spent his youth working construction on hotels up and down the Central and South American coasts. And, he'd read everything. As I came to realize that this redneck knew something about books, despite as best as I could tell never completing high school, I started inquiring into his tastes. What I found remarkable was not so much that he'd read everything I'd ever read and then some, but that on those things we'd both read he shared much of the same opinion. At some point in one of the conversations Arthur C. Clarke came up, and he said, "Well, I liked 2001, but I really think that 'Childhood's End' is his real masterwork." Not only do I agree, but I lack the ability to give a better recommendation. I don't recommend the works of Clarke in general, and certainly not to anyone who isn’t a fan of science fiction. His works - even the better ones - always suffer from seeming to be short stories turned into novels. He also displays a strange combination of fascination with but complete incuriosity towards religion and spirituality that can probably be infuriating at times to the religious and non-religious alike. But this work rises above its defects and is well worth your time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Kurt Vonnegut said of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End that it is one of the few masterpieces in the science fiction genre. Vonnegut went on to say that he, Vonnegut, had written all the others. As humorous as that is, at least the first clause of that declaration I feel to be true. Written simply but with conviction and persuasion, with an almost fable-like narrative quality, Clarke has given to us that rarest of literary achievements: a science fiction masterpiece. The genius of Clarke Kurt Vonnegut said of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End that it is one of the few masterpieces in the science fiction genre. Vonnegut went on to say that he, Vonnegut, had written all the others. As humorous as that is, at least the first clause of that declaration I feel to be true. Written simply but with conviction and persuasion, with an almost fable-like narrative quality, Clarke has given to us that rarest of literary achievements: a science fiction masterpiece. The genius of Clarke’s achievement is compounded by the fact that his accomplishment remains so unique, how have later artists failed to match or even make an attempt at duplication? I especially liked the racial memory (or racial premonition) ideas and the ideas of collective consciousness. Interestingly, Clarke’s concepts could be seen as having a theological transcendent theme, perhaps even an allegory for awakening to a collective ego. Clarke’s ingenuity remains untouched and this work stands atop the science fiction canon, comparable to only a handful of other science fiction classics, including the novel that won the Hugo Award in 1954, the same year Childhood’s End was nominated for that award, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

  4. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    you think you're so fucken smart, don't you mark? ha, think again. all your little plans and goals, your little community of friends and family and colleagues, your whole little life... what does it matter in the long run? not a whole fucken lot. grow up. take this book for example. a classic of the genre, written by a classic author. you thought you knew what you were getting into; you've read countless examples of the type. you sure are a well-read little scifi nerd, aren't you? for the first h you think you're so fucken smart, don't you mark? ha, think again. all your little plans and goals, your little community of friends and family and colleagues, your whole little life... what does it matter in the long run? not a whole fucken lot. grow up. take this book for example. a classic of the genre, written by a classic author. you thought you knew what you were getting into; you've read countless examples of the type. you sure are a well-read little scifi nerd, aren't you? for the first half, maybe longer, you were right. a well-crafted central character, flavorful supporting characters, intriguing aliens, a spicy mystery to solve. it was all laid out as expected and the pleasures were of a familiar sort. when the mystery of the aliens' appearance was solved, you were a wee bit surprised. but it was a comfortable sort of surprise. it's not like it blew your mind. it was clever. but everything up until then was as you expected. well fucking Congratulations, chump, your predictions came half-true. you want a medal? you don't get one. there aren't any half-medals. there are some fucking spoilers that follow! you weren't expecting what came after. those revelations came out of the blue for you, didn't they? you didn't expect to be made to feel so small, to get a little depressed, to have your expectations pounded all to pieces. it was kinda beautiful in a way, kinda mind-blowing. but mainly it was fucken sad. oh you poor baby. you have your own private little dreams of widespread empathy and the future of children and the future of humanity and our future place in the world and - at the most secret, sentimental heart of you - some corny spiritual post-life higher consciousness transcending type shit. you didn't expect that to be a part of the novel, did you? you didn't expect it to all come out, be laid out on the page like a body in a morgue, your body, and then just get eviscerated. your dreams of some sort of future beyond this present, where you are still you, a wistful dream that you like to think is both delicate and profound like one of those origami things you like to do. what's your favorite one? a pinwheel. well you get to watch that pinwheel of a dream get smashed and turned inside out and torn up into bits. revealed as a typically naive and childish fantasy. ha! so much for that. grow the fuck up, chump.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Petra Eggs

    I read this long ago, just when I was becoming a teenager and my tastes were changing, you might say I read it at childhood's end. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11. But we cannot do this without the help of our parents and teachers (view spoiler)[and politicians. Well some of them. A few. One or two, you know (hide spoiler)] . And so it is the Aliens come. The story is ess I read this long ago, just when I was becoming a teenager and my tastes were changing, you might say I read it at childhood's end. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11. But we cannot do this without the help of our parents and teachers (view spoiler)[and politicians. Well some of them. A few. One or two, you know (hide spoiler)] . And so it is the Aliens come. The story is essentially the one of zen buddhism told as scifi-fantasy. Its climax is nirvana. Nirvana for all, for the Earth. Nirvana is the liberation from the repeating cycle of birth, life and death. It is the extinguishing of desire, affection, aversion, delusion and ego. All that makes us individuals evaporates in the uniting with divine power of the universe in perpetual bliss. And on that note, the book ends.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. If science fiction usually treads the fine line between mere speculation and actual scientific feasibilities, then Arthur C. Clarke can be accused of taking a cosmic leap of faith into the realm of highly unrealistic speculation, in this book. For at least 75% of the narrative, I remained largely clueless about where the story was heading and for the remaining 25% I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the ludicrousness of it all. Aliens, who are referred to by a fancy name like 'Overlords' (*eyeroll If science fiction usually treads the fine line between mere speculation and actual scientific feasibilities, then Arthur C. Clarke can be accused of taking a cosmic leap of faith into the realm of highly unrealistic speculation, in this book. For at least 75% of the narrative, I remained largely clueless about where the story was heading and for the remaining 25% I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the ludicrousness of it all. Aliens, who are referred to by a fancy name like 'Overlords' (*eyeroll*) to boot, come down from a distant galaxy in the universe and establish their rule over Earthlings. Earth transforms into a kind of utopia in a hundred years during which disease, poverty, hunger, crimes, social inequality, threat of nuclear wars are permanently eliminated thanks to the diplomacy and benevolence of the Overlords. And then comes the shocker or the real reason for the Overlords colonizing our cherished planet - turns out the almighty Overlords are no more than mere agents in the service of an even higher form of intelligence called the 'Overmind' (*more eyeroll*) who seek to tap into the reserves of metaphysical power of the mind of man and help mankind transition into the next stage of evolution. Don't bother trying to make sense of that last part. It didn't make much sense to me either and I generally keep an open mind while reading science fiction. And what happens at the end sounds way more ridiculous that what I wrote for the sake of this review. In his effort to explore a subject like existential crisis (why are 'we' here? what is the meaning of life?) and ponder on phenomenon Science has still not been able to explain convincingly enough, Clarke has taken a tumble into the abyss of sheer absurdity. Not even willing suspension of disbelief helped endear me to your theories Mr Clarke. (view spoiler)[Mankind's purpose of existence is to birth an ultimate generation of not-very-human children with potent psychic powers (*insert more eyeroll*) who achieve a sort of communion with the 'Overmind' (was this Clarke's euphemism for 'God'?) and get to be one with the Universe. While their progenitors eventually die out, thereby, wiping out the last of the human species as we know it. (Huh?) (hide spoiler)] Neither is Childhood's End event-driven nor does it contain the heart-stopping suspense that I have come to associate with Clarke's creations. And to further intensify my lack of interest in the book, none of the characters made an impression. I guess Clarke's aim was only to propound a theory (albeit a far-fetched one) rather than to weave an intriguing tale revolving around space exploration/travel. And I was clearly not among the target audience of this book. But this does not in any way diminish my love for Clarke. My science-fiction adoring soul, will come back to this man time and again, in search of a story as fascinating as 2001: A Space Odyssey. I just hope I find something better next time. **Originally posted on:-April 3rd, 2013**

  7. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The Silent Ships: "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke “No one of intelligence resents the inevitable.” In “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke One of my favourite long novel is `Childhoods End`, but commenting on it without revealing the ending is difficult. That is the whole point after all, but still, think the early 80`s TV mini series/series of `V` - with Jane Badler as a seriously sexy, sociopathic alien - think they really were b If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The Silent Ships: "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke “No one of intelligence resents the inevitable.” In “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke One of my favourite long novel is `Childhoods End`, but commenting on it without revealing the ending is difficult. That is the whole point after all, but still, think the early 80`s TV mini series/series of `V` - with Jane Badler as a seriously sexy, sociopathic alien - think they really were benevolent and took humanity to generations of peace and prosperity. Well, not exactly many `generations`!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    From my vast expertise of having read all of two, count them, two, Arthur C. Clarke books, I am seeing a common theme. I don't know if it extends beyond that to his other books, but here it is: The universe is a very, very big place. And humans might just be irrelevant to it. What is going on out there is so vast that it's an immense piece of egotism to think of ourselves as central, or even incidental, to it. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodread From my vast expertise of having read all of two, count them, two, Arthur C. Clarke books, I am seeing a common theme. I don't know if it extends beyond that to his other books, but here it is: The universe is a very, very big place. And humans might just be irrelevant to it. What is going on out there is so vast that it's an immense piece of egotism to think of ourselves as central, or even incidental, to it. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  9. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Theological Politics For an avowed atheist, Arthur Clarke had a great deal to say about God, and not all of it negative. Childhood’s End is a tale of the theological roots of politics and how religious belief simultaneously stimulates and inhibits human society. Clarke’s view is subtle, complex, and appropriately ‘cosmic.’ As a commentary on the centrality of religion to human existence - for its opponents as well as its adherents - Childhood’s End is hard to beat. If I read Clarke correctly, his Theological Politics For an avowed atheist, Arthur Clarke had a great deal to say about God, and not all of it negative. Childhood’s End is a tale of the theological roots of politics and how religious belief simultaneously stimulates and inhibits human society. Clarke’s view is subtle, complex, and appropriately ‘cosmic.’ As a commentary on the centrality of religion to human existence - for its opponents as well as its adherents - Childhood’s End is hard to beat. If I read Clarke correctly, his view is that God is not the product of frightening illusion but of loving emotion. God is the idea we use to describe the wholly irrational but irresistibly compelling force of human affection. Fear is merely a derivative emotion brought about by the threat of loss of affection, not something positive, therefore, but an absence of love. The force of love is invisible, immaterial, unmeasurable, enacted everywhere and at all times; but it is, without any doubt, real. What Clarke does in Childhood’s End is provide a voice for such philosophical realism. Love in all its forms - sexual, familial, communal, special, and inter-special - is only minimally an instinct, that is a motivation or drive. Rather it is a learned ability, a capacity which increases with experience and practice. Childhood’s End opens with conflict; moves to feelings of trust and friendship by one individual towards a powerful alien; and develops, under alien direction - which is effectively omniscient and omnipotent - into general peace and harmony among all of humanity. The capacity to love evolves over a century such that personal jealousy has disappeared, crime is almost unknown, involuntary or oppressive human toil has been eliminated, economic abundance and equality have been substantially achieved. In other words: paradise has arrived.* Love is also a metaphysical condition. That is, it cannot be demonstrated to be beneficial, or even to be at all, except through a commitment to it. It is self-validating just as its antithesis, fear, is self-validating. Love and the world is loving; fear and the world is fearsome. The alien Overlords bring the whole of humanity to the metaphysical revelation of love through their tutelage and discipline. Only when love has been created as a reality can it be perceived and appreciated as a reality. This is a metaphysical paradox which is known to the Overlords, but must be demonstrated by human beings to themselves. “But the stars are not for man,” the Overlord Supervisor proclaims. Human beings are not sufficiently competent in the skills of love to include anything outside their rather insignificant world. They may never be. They are therefore denied by the Overlords - in the name of love - the knowledge which would allow them to travel to distant worlds. This constraint is annoying and incomprehensible to many, mainly scientific types - not unlike the prohibition of eating from the Tree in the Garden. And the Supervisor could foresee the consequences, just as the book of Genesis had described - a loss of the Golden Age of innocence. (view spoiler)[But it is not the scientists who are the first to rebel. The trouble starts among creative types - artists, actors, film producers, writers, musicians. They feel cheated because they have nothing to struggle against. Without an ‘other,’ they say that society has lost the ability to be creatively imaginative. So they club together in an isolated sub-culture to reverse the trend, as they see it, of people becoming “passive sponges” absorbing banal popular culture. Led by a Moses-like figure, the artistic inhabitants, appreciate the peace and ease of their world but still feel it is inadequate. So according to Clarke’s story, the half-life of metaphysical appreciation is extremely limited. Love and its effects are easily taken for granted. We are a thankless species in our search for more, better, adventure or just something different. The skills of love can be lost within a generation. The absence of love spreads like a virus among a society’s children, creating a new species through a sort of Lamarckian mutation. The consequences are catastrophic: “It was the end of civilization, the end of all that men had striven for since the beginning of time. In the space of a few days, humanity had lost its future” (hide spoiler)] Theology considers love as a gift which is received from elsewhere. It can’t be produced on demand, only received when made available. We have no right to it and it dissipates when it is presumed upon. More important, it can be taken away by whoever or wherever it came from. It can disappear instantly as both an emotion and a practice. Love is a mystery about which Homo Sapiens has no clues. Therefore, when love is lost, we are wont to deify and pray to it as well as for it. Hence the remark of one of the characters early on in Childhood’s End: “Basically, the conflict [between the Overlords and humankind] is a religious one, however much it may be disguised.” So the reason for the Overlords refusal to enlighten humankind eventually is made clear “The road to the stars was a road that forked in two directions, and neither led to a goal that took any account of human hopes or fears.” There may be an Overmind which is superior to the Overlords and calls the shots in the universe; there may even be an intelligence, or many, which are superior to the Overmind. It matters not at all. Oblivion is inevitable. Love as we know it will likely be destroyed since it doesn’t really seem to conform to any cosmic purpose. This is a brutal religious truth and one we’d rather not deal with: There is no reward for love, except love itself. Recognition of this truth is the real end of childhood and marks an entry into grown-up thinking. *There is substantial theological precedent for the idea of an evolving capacity for human beings to not only behave with each other, but also to behave, as it were, when confronted with divine revelation. The medieval Joachim of Floris, Nicholas of Cusa, and the modern Teilhard de Chardin are Christian examples. Jewish Kabbalists like Akiva, Luria, and Abulafia held similar views. Interestingly, it is the Mormons who hold this view most explicitly in their doctrine of the progressive divinization of humankind. Clarke is clearly tapping in to a long-held cultural tradition in this story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    As I read this book, there is a part that led me to believe that the picture that They Might Be Giants found to use for their album Apollo 18 had to have been inspired by this book: Sadly, I was expecting more from this book. I had heard lots of good things and seen many positive reviews, but it didn’t strike as much of a key with me as other Clarke novels have. While there was some food for thought and a few cool sci-fi concepts, it was a bit too out there and disjointed for my tastes. I know th As I read this book, there is a part that led me to believe that the picture that They Might Be Giants found to use for their album Apollo 18 had to have been inspired by this book: Sadly, I was expecting more from this book. I had heard lots of good things and seen many positive reviews, but it didn’t strike as much of a key with me as other Clarke novels have. While there was some food for thought and a few cool sci-fi concepts, it was a bit too out there and disjointed for my tastes. I know that sci-fi is supposed to explore the unknown in the universe, but I didn’t really feel like a lot of the story was making any coherent points. In fact, a perfect example is the movie Kubrick made for 2001 where there is somewhat of story that descends into a very long montage of eerie images set to music. For me, breaking the book up into the smaller vignette stories is what made it better. There are about 6 or 7 smaller stories that tie together to make up the bigger one – and if you take those each on their own they have some really neat things to think about. This including why we are here, perceptions of heaven and hell, the potential issues of space travel, and how we might interact with alien life. Hardcore sci-fi fans will probably enjoy this. Sci-fi fans who don’t need a coherent story, just the bizarre potential of the cosmos, this is right up your alley. But, casual sci-fi fans who are looking for Star Wars/Star Trek or something of that ilk, this is not it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    As I write the TV adaptation of Childhood's End is being promoted by the cable channel Syfy (goddam silly name). Given how much I like this book I will probably watch it but before I do I want to reread the source material first, as it’s been decades since I last read it. Childhood's End is — to my mind — Clarke's best novel. It is very unusual among his works in term of plot and setting. Most of the book is Earthbound and the story starts in the present day (year not specified). Very little tim As I write the TV adaptation of Childhood's End is being promoted by the cable channel Syfy (goddam silly name). Given how much I like this book I will probably watch it but before I do I want to reread the source material first, as it’s been decades since I last read it. Childhood's End is — to my mind — Clarke's best novel. It is very unusual among his works in term of plot and setting. Most of the book is Earthbound and the story starts in the present day (year not specified). Very little time is spent on the space voyage and the minutiae of spacefaring is not dwelled upon. The opening scene of gigantic spaceships suddenly appearing in Earth's sky, casting massive shadows over cities, has been ripped off by the 1996 movie Independence Day, two versions of “V” TV series*, and probably other media I am not aware of. The movie and TV shows just use Clarke’s vivid imagery but did not do anything particularly creative with it. Another concept “V” may have lifted from Childhood's End is the idea of a seemingly benign alien invasion. V soon switches to the conventional evil reptilian aliens route, whereas Clarke has a far more ambitious tale to tell. At the beginning of Childhood's End the world is on the verge of another world war, with the superpower nations still engaged in an arms race. Suddenly the aliens show up and put a stop to all that and other human destructive tendencies, they also eliminate crime, poverty, hunger, and even cruelty to animals. Then they go on to unite mankind under a literal united nations where different countries and governments are made unnecessary. The sort of thing John Lennon imagined (and no religion too). These are all wonderful things of course, but there is a price for this global utopia. Basically subjugation of the human race in the nicest possible way, the mysterious aliens are even called “Overlords” by the humans. These Overlords also have an ulterior motive for their guardianship of mankind which is not revealed until the last few pages of the book. Clarke’s depiction of the human race before the advent of the aliens gives the impression that Earth is a planet run by children, a little like Lord of the Flies on a global scale. Left to our own devices, we would eventually self-destruct (looking at the news headlines these days Sir Arthur seems to have the right idea). So whatever the Overlords’ endgame is they are doing us a favor. The human society after a few years under the alien administration reminds me of the post-scarcity society of Iain M. Banks’ Culture series, with the same result of ennui and loss of creativity. “As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with powers and possessions that once would have seemed beyond their wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.” Another unusual feature of Childhood's End in comparison to Clarke’s other books is that it is fairly light on hard science. Of course what little science expositions there is is quite rigorous and beautifully explained but Clarke unusually relies more on handwavium science in this book, like this description of the Overlords’ mysterious “stardrive”: “They leave the Solar System under such tremendous accelerations that they approach the velocity of light in less than an hour. That means that the Overlords must possess some kind of propulsive system that acts equally on every atom of their ships, so that anything aboard won't be crushed instantly.” The time dilation effect of an interstellar voyage is put to good use though. The fate of mankind at the end of the book is mind blowing (I wonder what Clarke was smoking when he wrote this). It is so awesome that Led Zeppelin used the imagery from this part of the book for the cover of their album “Houses of the Holy”. As with all the Clarke books I have read there is not much in the way of characterization, the humans, and even the Overlords are there to move the plot forward. Somehow Clarke always makes it works, the lack of emphasis on characters development is even a virtue as the storyline is so engrossing. I even enjoyed Clarke’s prose in this book which verges on lyrical at times: “The ground should have cracked and trembled beneath that tremendous weight, but the vessel was still in the grip of whatever forces drove it among the stars. It kissed the earth as gently as a falling snowflake.” I hope Syfy can do a good job adapting this stupendous sci-fi classic, though their past "achievements" don’t inspire much confidence. Regardless, this is one of the few sci-fi books that I would not hesitate to recommend to everybody. If you are going to watch the TV show read this first, I cannot imagine the show improving on the book, but I can imagine it ruining the book all too well. __________________ *V (1984) V Remake (2009) Notes: While Childhood's End clearly inspired the aforementioned film and TV shows, I think it may have been — in turn — inspired to some extent by John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos and The Chrysalids. Syfy's Childhood's End trailer. That hysterical screaming woman already makes me dread what other changes they are going to make. There is no hysteria in the book, well except one guy who screams like a little girl for a moment when he spots something weird in a museum. Update 16 Dec '15: The great David Brin just posted this beautiful article about Clarke. If I may quote a couple of relevant passages: "And yet, what most intrigues me about Arthur’s work is something else – his ongoing fascination with human destiny – a term seemingly at odds with the scientific worldview. But there is another Arthur C. Clarke. The one who sent David Bowman through the monolith in his great classic, 2001. The author who gave us Childhood’s End. One who frets that we may not be wise enough to survive the next few generations of tense immaturity, let alone become worthy of joining more advanced communities of mind."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    At one point while reading this I was reminded of astronaut Dave Bowman from 2010: Odyssey Two, when he was telling everyone, "something is going to happen, something wonderful". Something does happen; whether it is wonderful or not is a matter of debate. In 2010 the message was of new beginnings, in Childhoods End it is something quite different. You can't go wrong reading Arthur C. Clarke, just a brilliant writer with a wonderful imagination.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (Jen/The Tolkien Gal/ジェニファー)

    I was mulling over this book again, and its grandiosity and existentialism hit me square in the face. If you're ever going to read a science fiction classic, pick this one - I implore you. Courtesy of Jen's mini reviews.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Sheppard

    {Warning: lots of spoilers.} I read Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End many years ago. I also read it to my son when he was eight. So why did I come back to a book that was originally published in 1953, read it yet again, and feel it necessary to write a review? What got me thinking about Childhood’s End again is the emergence of the Internet as force for change within the Global Community. Also, my limited experience teaching university students impressed upon me the impact that the Internet is h {Warning: lots of spoilers.} I read Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End many years ago. I also read it to my son when he was eight. So why did I come back to a book that was originally published in 1953, read it yet again, and feel it necessary to write a review? What got me thinking about Childhood’s End again is the emergence of the Internet as force for change within the Global Community. Also, my limited experience teaching university students impressed upon me the impact that the Internet is having on the minds of our young people. As a novelist myself and an author of a book on how to write a novel, I first must say that Childhood’s End is marvelously plotted. It starts off with a startling revelation: Earth is not only being visited by extraterrestrials, called Overlords, but they have come to take over the world, prevent our annihilation, and impose restrictions on human activities that will insure not only our survival but also that we prosper. This then locks the conflict (first plot point) between humans and ET, and as with so much of Clarke’s fiction, the conflict is at a relatively low level. ET, or the Overlords in this case, is here to help. When one group, the Freedom League, wishes to oppose the Overlords more forcefully, they are soon subdued, non-violently. The one thing the Overlords will not do is show themselves. Humans make an attempt at seeing one of them, but don’t get away with it. As a result, the Overlords agree to let them see them, but not for another fifty years, two generations. This then is the second plot point, which occurs 20% of the way through the story, a little short of where you’d expect it. As time drags on, humanity loses its edge. We are no longer as creative as we once were, and culturally we have stagnated. Utopia is never all it’s cracked up to be. And the time finally comes when the Overlords reveal their physical selves, and a strange sight they are, and yet immediately recognizable. They are the very image of Satan, red skin, horns, and pointed tail, leathery wings. No wonder they’d been so secretive. However, since they had shown their goodwill through the years, little was made of their “coincidental” resemblance to an ancient symbol of evil. This revelation comes at the 1/3 point and a little beyond what we’d think of as the second plot point and well short of 1/2 point that we’d think of as the third plot point. At the mid-point of the novel, we get a true reversal. At a party, guests play a game similar to a Ouija Board. One of the participants asks, “Which star is the Overlords’ home?” And the answer they get back is “NGS 549672.” Only one of the guests realizes that this is a database entry for a star forty lightyears away in the constellation Carina. This person then starts making plans to stowaway on the next Overlord spaceship to their home. The Overlords have subdued the humans up until this point, but now one of them is on the hunt to find out more than the Overlords wish them to know. This is plot point three. Just before the three-quarters point, one of the earthlings stows away on the Overlords’ spaceship and leaves earth with them. His journey there and back will take eighty years, Earth time, but just a few months in relativistic time above the rocket traveling at close to the speed of light. Just a little later, at the three-quarters point in the novel, a strange event occurs. An Overlord saves one of the human children. For some reason the Overlords believe he is special. And then children all over the world start having strange dreams and developing telekinetic powers. This is what the Overlords have waited for all this time. At the end of the novel, we learn that what the story has been about all along is the children. The human race is entering a new phase, one that will only manifest in our children. They are becoming something other than human beings and metamorphosing into something that transcends human existence. It’s as if the worm finally becames a butterfly. And we learn that those who have been known as the Overlords are actually only caretakers of the human race while it undergoes the transformation into something spiritually superior to human beings. The children no longer relate to their parents, and the parents have no knowledge of their children. It’s a clean break. As it turns out, the Overlords are a tragic species. They cannot and never will make the transformation to this higher plane. And they take their orders from yet a higher power, the power that then comes for the children of mankind. The Overlords are a dead-end species from another world and can only witness the process, foster it, but never undergo it themselves. The denouement comes with the man who had hitched a ride on the Overlords spaceship and gone to their home planet. He returns after eighty years, having seen the home of the Overloads and what a magnificent species they are. But he is the only human being left on earth, and he witnesses the end of the human race. One other interesting facet of Clarke’s novel is that, since the story is spread over 150 years or so, he uses a series of third-person limited narrations. He skips from character to character as his story dictates. He even uses a couple of the Overlords as point-of-view characters. This he does with skill, so it never seems artificial or lacking knowledge of craft. Always professionally executed. Perhaps you can now see why I was so interested in taking another look at this story. Our children of today are growing up in the presence of the Internet, something no science fiction writer saw coming. And yet, it seems to me that Arthur C. Clarke did, in a sense, see it coming in this story. Our texting, blogging, FaceBooking neophytes to the human race are a strange species with unusual powers developed by virtue of the Internet. They are leaving us behind, and heaven knows what they’ll become in the future. It does appear that they are making a clean break from what the human race has been. Let’s just hope that they can store away a little of our humanity for future reference.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zigger

    I always feel so terrible when I read, or attempt to read, Arthur C. Clarke. But I also feel terrible when I don't. I like fantasy. I like science fiction. Arthur C. Clark is a genius, a pioneering, farsighted sci-fi icon. I should like reading his books. And so I try every once in a while, in the same spirit that I eat half a banana once or twice a year. I like fruit. Bananas are good for you. But I have yet to finish either a banana or an Arthur C. Clarke book. It's me. It must be. So I'm givin I always feel so terrible when I read, or attempt to read, Arthur C. Clarke. But I also feel terrible when I don't. I like fantasy. I like science fiction. Arthur C. Clark is a genius, a pioneering, farsighted sci-fi icon. I should like reading his books. And so I try every once in a while, in the same spirit that I eat half a banana once or twice a year. I like fruit. Bananas are good for you. But I have yet to finish either a banana or an Arthur C. Clarke book. It's me. It must be. So I'm giving myself the one star as a reader, not this book. But so help me,every time I get to page nine or so of Athur C. Clarke I feel myself reverting into exactly the same mindset as when my (much more intelligent snotty twenty-year-old) brother sat me down in front of 2001. I just sort of go right into crisis mode and let it all wash over me without trying to string together events, identify characters, or extort meaning from any of it. Oh look, the cavemen are fighting. That's a neat space ship. Poor Hal. Ah, Dave is apprently in a Best Western in Flint, Michigan. Oh good, the credits. I did exactly the same thing up until page 41 of Childhood's End, which was when I closed it because all I could think of was, predictably, the book's end. I need help. I admit it. Maybe I could read it with one of those things in my ear like at the UN, with somebody smarter than I am explaining what the heck is going on, page by page. I do like banana bread, however.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Old SF sometimes has a kick to it that nothing modern can quite manage. There's a speed and economy of words, of action progressing so quickly that I feel like I'm on a roller-coaster ride and it's all downhill. This is what Childhood's End feels like. It's hard not to write about this book without giving away spoilers, so I'll just warn you now and get right down to business. It starts out with damn old tropes and bit of spunky adventure, but it quickly becomes obvious that all that was a lark. T Old SF sometimes has a kick to it that nothing modern can quite manage. There's a speed and economy of words, of action progressing so quickly that I feel like I'm on a roller-coaster ride and it's all downhill. This is what Childhood's End feels like. It's hard not to write about this book without giving away spoilers, so I'll just warn you now and get right down to business. It starts out with damn old tropes and bit of spunky adventure, but it quickly becomes obvious that all that was a lark. The real story wasn't glamorous in the traditional sense. It was certainly glamorous in a few instances, but it did manage to do was pull off both tragedy and glory. Or the old definition of Romance, if you so prefer. Who are the overlords who have disrupted and forced humanity to behave? They hid their faces for good reasons. Our race has had an old premonition of its end, and these tragic figures figure heavily. But wait, is this a novel about them, or humanity? Humanity has had its last hurrah. Our childhood is done. It is time to move on and discard everything we might recognize as *our* lives. There's no sense of the life we known continuing. It's certainly the end of the novel. There's no hint of anything resembling future conflict, no hook to give readers further meaning or interest beyond a "Hey, look at those pretty lights!" moment. Of course, the point is that when we're ready to put down our toys and pick up the mantle of adulthood, we'll not understand a damn thing from this side of the veil, and that's just fine from a story standpoint, and it definitely has a lot of impact. It doesn't pull any punches with me. I like that. But then, I'm handed a full-stop. There's no where else for this novel to continue, even in my head. There's no further wondering or amazement. When it's done, it's completely done. Even our tragic overlords sit and pity themselves, never having changed as a people from page one. They're stuck in the same cycle forever, living out the same story, guarding and watching other's children grow up and leave home, without ever once having a taste of something truly grand. Of course, that's the point. The fall from heaven, always being cast out, learning that the greatest hell is the one in your own mind, always separate from the state of grace. Yes, they are a tragic race. Fortunately for us, the readers, Clarke doesn't expound. He weaves a simple tale from start to finish and ends it on a full-stop. Am I the only one that wishes that such a story might have been teased into something much greater, and have avoided that dreaded full-stop? If SF is in a constantly shifting conversation with itself, including the other writers of the craft and the public that reads it, then this book is an utter conversation-stopper. There's no where else to go unless we change the nature of what is written. It's a great story. Don't get me wrong. But it's about as subtle as an SS boot on my neck. Still, this is a classic for a very good reason, and it will always be memorable, even if there are a lot of imitators. I think this one is going to remain superior, even if I think some of the old cultural quirks (such as referring to blacks as negros) really needs to be edited out, and damn "literary integrity." Leaving that stuff in at this late date serves absolutely no purpose to either the story or the character. It only serves to date the novel and pull it out of an argument that it should be considered one of the "Great SF Masterpieces". But even so, it still deserves to be on that list, even with its faults. :) Truly a great re-read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sanjay Gautam

    Surreal, and epic in scope. Mind blowing stuff.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shelby

    I know I'm a little late on reading this (it was published in 1953), but as an avid lover of science fiction, in both the literary and cinematic sense, I am so happy that I did choose to pick up this timeless story. My initial motive for deciding to read Arthur C. Clarke's novel was the fact that in about a month, SyFy (I watch almost everything SyFy airs) will be premiering a mini-series based on the work bearing the same name, and I subscribe to the read-the-book-before-you-see-the-movie belie I know I'm a little late on reading this (it was published in 1953), but as an avid lover of science fiction, in both the literary and cinematic sense, I am so happy that I did choose to pick up this timeless story. My initial motive for deciding to read Arthur C. Clarke's novel was the fact that in about a month, SyFy (I watch almost everything SyFy airs) will be premiering a mini-series based on the work bearing the same name, and I subscribe to the read-the-book-before-you-see-the-movie belief. But I digress; the most straightforward way to construe the sentiment of Childhood's End would be to liken it to an episode of The Twilight Zone, minus the omnipresent voice of Rod Serling guiding the audience toward the actuality of the plot, of course. Since Clarke is also the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I am not surprised at his ability of futuristic foresight as much as I am impressed by it. His ability to perceive an impending future of which he could not possibly have had any knowledge is simply stunning. This story is ageless; it is easy to believe that it could have been published alongside current bestsellers, or even 25 years from now, given that by then we as a race are still questioning the existence of intelligent alien life. The story begins in the mid-20th century and ends about a century later. There is no main character, and this alone exposes Clarke's avant-garde literary style. Divided into 3 parts, the story follows the lives of 3 separate people while being presented in the third-person omniscient narrative. The parts are seamless, and while they span a century, their cohesion is tangible. The alien visitation trope is not new to literature, not now and not during Clarke's time. Yet, out of all the science fiction I have watched or read, this story was able to leave an impact incomparable to any other no matter how similar the plot. As humans, we have no reason to question our existence as Earth's most intelligent life-form; it is as it has always been, and in our remembered history there has been no competition. While our questions about human existence may be limited to how and why, the fact that man rules the Earth is indisputable. Since there is so far no observable evidence to prove the existence of any alien life, we have no discernible reasons to query into the continuation of the reign of man. But what if there was? How quickly would our galactic perspectives change if alien life was introduced to Earth? Enter the plot of Childhood's End, where an alien race has in fact traversed billions of light-years to visit our precious planet. With a sense of altruism unmatched in any species, the Overlords abruptly end war, hunger, pestilence, and all other forms of suffering man has brought upon itself. Through economic, political, and social reform, the mysterious Overlords provide the foundation for a united planet. While the human race is thankful for these reformations, the reason for such benevolence is continually masked by our alien shepherds. Why have the Overlords arrived? Where have they come from? Why now? Why us? Childhood's End provides resolutions to all these pressing concerns and more. In shining light on many of the most notorious of mankind's existential questions, ranging from the truth of religion to the intricacies of parapsychology, the Overlords also reveal the purpose of human existence. The conclusion of Childhood's End calls into question a familiar idiom: is ignorance truly bliss?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Markus

    ”He felt no regrets as the work of a lifetime was swept away. He had labored to take man to the stars, and now the stars — aloof, indifferent stars — had come to him. The human race was no longer alone.” Out of the authors emerging from the golden age of science fiction, Isaac Asimov is undoubtedly the greatest, but after reading this, I think Arthur C. Clarke might be my favourite.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke عنوان: پایان طفولیت؛ پایان کودکی؛ نویسنده: آرتور سی. کلارک؛ انتشاراتیها: سپهر، چکامه؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: نوزدهم فوریه سال 1983 میلادی عنوان: پایان طفولیت؛ نویسنده: آرتور سی. کلارک؛ مترجم: رسول وطن دوست؛ تهران، سپهر، 1362؛ در 285 ص؛ داستانهای خیال انگیز از نویسندگان انگلیسی - قرن 20 م عنوان: پایان کودکی؛ نویسنده: آرتور سی. کلارک؛ مترجم: جهانگیر بیگلری؛ تهران، چکامه، 1363؛ در 336 ص؛ پایان طفولیت داستان به تکامل رسیدن معنوی انسانها، و در نهایت پیوستن آنها به ابرذهن ه Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke عنوان: پایان طفولیت؛ پایان کودکی؛ نویسنده: آرتور سی. کلارک؛ انتشاراتیها: سپهر، چکامه؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: نوزدهم فوریه سال 1983 میلادی عنوان: پایان طفولیت؛ نویسنده: آرتور سی. کلارک؛ مترجم: رسول وطن دوست؛ تهران، سپهر، 1362؛ در 285 ص؛ داستانهای خیال انگیز از نویسندگان انگلیسی - قرن 20 م عنوان: پایان کودکی؛ نویسنده: آرتور سی. کلارک؛ مترجم: جهانگیر بیگلری؛ تهران، چکامه، 1363؛ در 336 ص؛ پایان طفولیت داستان به تکامل رسیدن معنوی انسان‌ها، و در نهایت پیوستن آنها به ابرذهن هاست. انسان‌ها این تکامل را به کمک موجوداتی که ظاهری شیطانی دارند، و در واقع نمود شیطان در افسانه‌ های انسان هستند، به دست می‌آورند. خلاصه ای از کتاب: درست در کشاکش مسابقه‌ ی آمریکا و شوروی برای تسخیر فضا، سفینه‌ هایی ناشناخته، بر فراز تمام شهرهای مهم کره‌ ی زمین ظاهر می‌شوند؛ و نقطه‌ ی پایانی بر این مسابقه می‌گذارند. مسافران سفینه‌ ها از نشان دادن چهره‌ ی خود پرهیز می‌کنند، اما آنها صلح و رفاه و امنیت برای بشر به ارمغان آورده‌ اند. بازدیدکنندگان ناشناخته‌ ی کره‌ ی زمین، به چنان پیشرفت تکنولوژیکی رسیده‌ اند، که توانایی‌های آن‌ها از دید بشر، چیزی شبیه به جادوست. مقابله کردن با خواست و اراده‌ ی آن‌ها هیچ فایده‌ ای ندارد. اگرچه قصد و هدف غایی آن‌ها بر بشریت پوشیده است، با اینحال آن‌ها آشکارا به زمین و ساکنان آن کمک می‌کنند، و حتی با خشونت علیه حیوانات نیز مبارزه می‌کنند...؛ ا. شربیانی

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I am a fan of science fiction, and I wanted to read Childhood's End after hearing it is supposedly one of the best novels in the sci-fi genre. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I just didn't enjoy it. I won't belabor this review by posting a synopsis; I'll just summarize my general impression of the book (SPOILERS ahead). First off, the characterization is extremely weak. I understand that some science fiction is more plot driven than character driven, but I still think it is important to w I am a fan of science fiction, and I wanted to read Childhood's End after hearing it is supposedly one of the best novels in the sci-fi genre. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I just didn't enjoy it. I won't belabor this review by posting a synopsis; I'll just summarize my general impression of the book (SPOILERS ahead). First off, the characterization is extremely weak. I understand that some science fiction is more plot driven than character driven, but I still think it is important to write good characters. None of the characters in this book were all that dynamic or multi-layered. The human characters were very similar to one another. The same can be said of the aliens (the overlords). Prior to reading this novel, I was unaware that Clarke was an atheist. However, his disdain for God and religion in general becomes clear throughout the novel. The overlords are described as having horns and a tail. It's interesting that the race that comes to save the humans from themselves is given the physical attributes of the devil. After the overlords come to Earth, all religions are eliminated as false by the overlords (who are apparently omniscient themselves). Here is a direct quote from the book regarding religion: "Within a few days, all mankind's multitudinous messiahs had lost their divinity. Beneath the fierce passionless light of truth, faiths that had sustained millions for twice a thousand years vanished like morning dew." Despite showing a level of condescension toward people who believe in God, Clarke seems very interested in the paranormal. Despite the overlords having dismissed all religion as fantasy, they are extremely interested in psychic phenomenon. At one point during the book, an overlord is sent to a man's home to stay so he can study the myriad of books the man has on the topic of the paranormal. In the same chapter, this man has a party in which he and his guests use a Ouija board. I found the whole scene (complete with a woman fainting) to be silly and it took away from the seriousness of the rest of the novel. My final complaint is with the book's ending. We learn that humanity's final stage in evolution is for its children to join the overmind. In joining the overmind (a vast cosmic intelligence), the children become essentially mindless zombies. They lose all aspects of individuality and uniqueness. Oh yeah, and the earth is destroyed. I'm not sure how this is supposed to be humanity's triumphant evolution, as it just seems sad and fatalistic to me. While there were some interesting ideas in the book, it was just not an enjoyable reading experience for me. I didn't relate to any of the characters (or care about them for that matter), I didn't agree with the author's dim view on religion and God, I thought the plot progression was slow for the majority of the book, and the ending was anti-climactic and downright depressing. All in all, I would not vote for this book to be considered one of the best science fiction has to offer. I might give Mr. Clarke another try, but this one certainly did not impress me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I see that a lot of my GR friends have read this fine book. I just wondered if any of you have had the thought that's occurred to me several times over the last two or three years. One of the things I find most confusing about the current state of the world is that you can view it in two diametrically opposed ways. On the one hand, there's the terrifying stuff you see most days in the paper. Not only are we using up our irreplaceable natural resources, we're doing it in a way that's well on track I see that a lot of my GR friends have read this fine book. I just wondered if any of you have had the thought that's occurred to me several times over the last two or three years. One of the things I find most confusing about the current state of the world is that you can view it in two diametrically opposed ways. On the one hand, there's the terrifying stuff you see most days in the paper. Not only are we using up our irreplaceable natural resources, we're doing it in a way that's well on track to destroy most of our planet's ability to sustain life. People keep saying that we better do something about it, and no one does. The Western world spends trillions of dollars sorting out the largely artificial banking crisis, but when it comes to finding a few tens of billions of dollars to do something about climate change, it's mostly excuses. At least, so far. So that's one side of the story. On the other side, we have people like Ray Kurzweil, who point out that, over the last fifty thousand years or so, technology has moved forward at an exponentially increasing rate. Each advance takes half the time of the preceding one. It follows that we are now close to the Singularity, when machines will become smarter than people, and it is no longer possible for us to guess what will happen next. I think that Kurzweil's concrete figures are wrong, but I am much less certain that I disagree with his basic argument. The story so far in Artificial Intelligence has frequently been that people make optimistic predictions and get laughed at, but do in fact deliver in the end. The clearest example of this pattern is computer chess. As recently as 1985, I remember all sorts of very clever people, both computer scientists and chess players, explaining why machines would never even reach Grandmaster standard. It's now clear that they are stronger than any human players. But, when I think of Childhood's End, I wonder: is it possible that both sides are right? Maybe we're destroying the Earth, but it doesn't matter any more than it does at the end of this book; the next stage of evolution, which is almost here, will have completely different priorities. Once the tree has grown, who cares about the seed it sprouted from? If you're one of the people currently negotiating in Copenhagen, please don't pay any attention to me. I'm just free-associating.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Childhood's End is a stone-cold Science Fiction classic. Read it. No seriously, Read it. if you're at all interested in SF you should read this, and read it soon. Don't leave it for decades like I did. Oh, are you still here? Ok. If you still need convincing that Childhood's End is worth your time, read on. Arthur C. Clarke's novel is a haunting, thoughtful story that betrays few of its many years (it was published in 1954!) and still reads like fresh SF. Sure, there are a few glimpses of its era- Childhood's End is a stone-cold Science Fiction classic. Read it. No seriously, Read it. if you're at all interested in SF you should read this, and read it soon. Don't leave it for decades like I did. Oh, are you still here? Ok. If you still need convincing that Childhood's End is worth your time, read on. Arthur C. Clarke's novel is a haunting, thoughtful story that betrays few of its many years (it was published in 1954!) and still reads like fresh SF. Sure, there are a few glimpses of its era- some hints of dated gender relations, some tech that isn't as magical as it would have seemed in the 50s - but in the main this is still a relevant, exciting book. Humanity is on the verge of true space exploration, with both the USSR and USA readying their own space vehicles, when huge alien spacecraft appear without warning over all the major cities of Earth. A voice, transmitted to everyone on Earth and naming itself as 'Karellan', informs the world that the new arrivals are going to supervise human affairs to prevent us from causing our own extinction. Peace descends on Earth. Cruelty to animals is outlawed. National governments fall, and are replaced with greater cooperation between the many peoples of Earth than ever before. With no money being squandered on militaries the world enters a golden age of prosperity and health, where everyone is safe, no one starves and with advanced automation, no one need even work. It's a paradise, of sorts. Karellen and his species are soon named The Overlords, and the world settles into its new reality, the lives of the great mass of people massively improved. Creativity, however, suffers. Without struggle and threat, and with the psychological influence of all-powerful aliens watching over humanity, artistic expression falters and stagnates. No new artistic movements emerge. No new great artists. Science and technological research too suffers, as humanity loses motivation to create technologies that could never match the wonders of the Overlords, to create things the alien watchers clearly discarded centuries or even millennia ago. All research into spacefaring tech ceases, as does research into anything else that The Overlords' presence has rendered primitive by comparison. Fuelled by fear that humanity is being stifled, and despite the seeming benevolence of the Overlords, anti-alien resistance and lobby groups spring up. The fact that The Overlords refuse to reveal their appearances, to even hint at what they look like, and rule via decree from their ships only strengthens this resistance. The decades begin to pass, with the great ships hanging over Earth, seemingly content to watch and make small interventions, but their ultimate purpose remains a mystery, a mystery that eats at certain ambitious people, leading one of them - Jan Rodricks - into an audacious and risky plot to find out what the Overlords are doing. That's the basic plot, but this outline doesn't do it justice. There's a tantalizing sense of mystery in the story Clarke tells, and it tugged me through the narrative like a hare before a greyhound. Who are the Overlords? What are their plans? What do they even look like? Why are they hiding themselves? These are the questions the characters in the novel obsess over and they are so skillfully handled that I obsessed over them too. So where does this story of mystery go? To somewhere unexpected is the simple answer. This is no pot-boiler tale of a doggedly noble human resistance, or even a tale of species-wide uplift, of humanity being given technological gifts and joining the myriad races of some galactic federation a la Star Trek and the like. Instead it's something very different, something both sad and beautiful. I was genuinely surprised at the direction Clarke sent his story, and the thoughtful, poignant ending is one that stands high and tall as a genuine original in Science Fiction. This is a great book, a landmark of its genre. You really should read it. 4.5 stars. Postscript: One of my colleagues, while growing up in Sri Lanka, used to see Arthur C. Clarke taking his strolls along the beaches near Colombo. I must confess to being envious of my friend for having been in the presence of one of the greats of SF.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    Childhood's End has been sitting on my bookcase for quite a while. I made a promise to my friend Jason: we traded recommendations for our favorites; he fulfilled his end of the bargain by reading my favorite scifi novel (Dune), so I read his. In recent times, I've shied away from scifi novels published 50+ years ago as I've been sucked into a good sounding stories only to be disappointed. I don't doubt that these novels were fantastic at the time they were written. It's hard to stand up to time i Childhood's End has been sitting on my bookcase for quite a while. I made a promise to my friend Jason: we traded recommendations for our favorites; he fulfilled his end of the bargain by reading my favorite scifi novel (Dune), so I read his. In recent times, I've shied away from scifi novels published 50+ years ago as I've been sucked into a good sounding stories only to be disappointed. I don't doubt that these novels were fantastic at the time they were written. It's hard to stand up to time in the scifi genre when ideas move fast and what was once fantastic has become commonplace. So...it gives me great pleasure to say that Childhood's End stood up perfectly. It kept my interest all the way through; and even almost 60 years after publication the ideas presented were unique and I had no idea what would happen next. Equally important is I enjoyed Clarke's style of writing, moreso than any thing else I've read by him. This was a good choice, Jason, and I thank you for the recommendation. Now it's my turn to tell scifi fans if they haven't read this: read it. It'll be well worth your time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Luffy

    Childhood's End proved to be a very readable book. I could assimilate the simply written ideas of the author. Through humanity's last creative gasp, then its last existential one, we see how the image of the Overlords shifts from Vassal to serf. So the reason for the high score is that despite the rehashing of themes, this book still can provide fun to the purist, the hardened, the uninitiated, and the indifferent, the latter category to which I thought I belonged. I can totally, however unders Childhood's End proved to be a very readable book. I could assimilate the simply written ideas of the author. Through humanity's last creative gasp, then its last existential one, we see how the image of the Overlords shifts from Vassal to serf. So the reason for the high score is that despite the rehashing of themes, this book still can provide fun to the purist, the hardened, the uninitiated, and the indifferent, the latter category to which I thought I belonged. I can totally, however understand the naysayers. Parts of the book are dated or slightly clunky and they show the limitations of Clarke. But I do recommend it, as it's more rewarding than Rendezvous With Rama.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. When I was in 8th grade, I wrote a story about humans evolving and becoming “luminous beings” (similar, I suppose, to those Yoda mentions in The Empire Strikes Back), and I was reminded of this when I read the ending to Childhood’s End. Humanity’s last generation joins a vast collective intelligence that has been assimilating civilizations for countless eons, and in the process consumes the Earth and all other life on it. (As I recall, my process wasn’t quite so genocidal; in fact, it took place When I was in 8th grade, I wrote a story about humans evolving and becoming “luminous beings” (similar, I suppose, to those Yoda mentions in The Empire Strikes Back), and I was reminded of this when I read the ending to Childhood’s End. Humanity’s last generation joins a vast collective intelligence that has been assimilating civilizations for countless eons, and in the process consumes the Earth and all other life on it. (As I recall, my process wasn’t quite so genocidal; in fact, it took place around a dinner table in the specific scene that I wrote about.) The above doesn’t have all that much to do with my impressions upon (finally) reading this SF classic, but I thought I’d mention it as evidence that I was a far-sighted and prescient prodigy :-) But as to the book under review. This is another case of not knowing whether to give it two stars or three. In favor of the former, there is the fact that it’s not a terribly well written novel. There’s precious little character development, the prose is serviceable at best, and there are cringe-worthy moments that date the book, e.g., “Before the discussion could get acrimonious, they were accosted by the Shoenbergers and fission rapidly occurred. The girls went off in one direction to discuss Mrs. Boyce; the men went in another and did exactly the same thing, though from a different viewpoint.” (p. 89, emphasis mine) In favor of the latter, there is the fact that Clarke is a writer you read neither to explore the complexities of personal relationships nor to lose yourself in the purple prose of exotic lands. Indeed background is superfluous in Clarke’s prose, sparingly described when described at all; and his characters are there to articulate the many ideas that are struggling to get out of the author’s mind. It’s the ideas, of course, that you want to learn about and wrestle with. In this case, it’s the fate of humanity, and while I didn’t like Clarke’s interpretation, he succeeded in getting me to think about it and formulate some interpretations of my own. For those who may not have read the book, one day the Overlords’ immense spaceships appear in the sky over the major cities of Earth and proceed to enforce a benevolent dictatorship that creates a world government, eliminates poverty and ends the means to wage war – a golden age for humanity. But the aliens refuse to reveal themselves and they don’t explain why they’ve come to Earth. That’s part one. Part two is set about a century later when the Overlords reveal themselves, and explain that part of their purpose on Earth is to protect humanity from the “powers and forces that lie among the stars – forces beyond anything that you can ever imagine…. ‘It is a bitter thought, but you must face it. The planets you may one day possess. But the stars are not for man.’” (p. 146) Part three takes place ten years later when the children of Earth begin having strange dreams and withdrawing from contact with their parents. Eventually, they fall into catatonia, and the Overlords explain what’s happening to the bewildered humans – They’ve been shepherding humanity into its next stage of development. They are the servants of the Overmind, an intelligence they only dimly understand or perceive, but which directs their actions, and which has determined that humans are ready to join it. (In what, I suppose, is meant to be tragically ironic, the Overlords themselves are unable to transcend and can only watch as their charges become something greater.) The cost, however, is that humanity as such has reached the end of its existence; the entity that the Overmind has fostered is no more human than the australopithecines that preceded our species. Once this new species is ready to join the Overmind, Earth will be consumed in the process: In a soundless concussion of light, Earth’s core gave up its hoarded energies. For a little while the gravitational waves crossed and re-crossed the solar system…. There was nothing left of Earth: They had leeched away the last atoms of its substance. It had nourished them, through the fierce moments of their inconceivable metamorphosis, as the food stored in a grain of wheat feeds the infant plant while it climbs towards the sun. (p. 236) Concurrent with reading Childhood’s End, I read a collection of Clarke’s essays – Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds – and in both the author refuses to accept that humans are the endpoint of evolution. Rather it is “intelligence” in some form that will go out to conquer the universe (and in several essays he uses that very word). The stars may not be for Man but we are a stage on the road that leads to them. I happen to agree with Clarke that evolution is not a progressive process, and that humans are accidents of many improbable mutations. Turning back the clock 65 million years and letting it run again will not result in us. I also agree with him that if something leaves this solar system, it won’t be human, though it may claim us as an ancestor. The discomfort my brain suffers when I read Clarke comes from a philosophical difference. Perhaps “philosophical” is the wrong word. Perhaps it’s more a matter of perspective: Where he is a relentless optimist who sees a great and glorious future in intelligence united with technology, I can’t bring myself to believe that both aren’t rapidly becoming evolutionary dead ends. Derek Jensen’s Endgame severely shook my belief in the near-term viability of civilization; and the increasingly alarming trends in climate change and our response to them are eroding my confidence in the viability of the species. Even should we manage to overcome and create a sustainable culture on a still-inhabitable planet, who’s to say that our destiny is in the stars? Or just the planets, for that matter? For 60,000 years – give or take a few millennia – humans existed in complex, vibrant cultures and spread to nearly every corner of the globe without doing too much permanent damage to the planet. Even after the Agricultural Revolution (a big mistake in Jensen’s view), ecological overreach was localized and biotas could recover given time. Now, however, we’re at a point where our appetites have far outstripped the planet’s capacity to feed them, and there’s precious little evidence that we’re willing to curb them or even recognize the need to do so. My point is that there’s no “final destination” for humanity, and that I don’t think everyone would be on board for any single one. I wouldn’t want to live in Clarke’s “golden age” presented in this book, for example. Clarke’s mistake is to assume that there’s a stasis toward which we’re evolving, but no situation is permanent. We create ideals and set and strive for particular goals but each generation must reassess them in light of its own experience. Oddly enough, I am reminded of the scene in Simone Beauvoir’s All Men Are Mortal where a character explains to the protagonist: “‘I don’t believe in the future,’ I said. “‘There will be a future, that at least is certain.’ “‘But all of you speak of it as if it were going to be a paradise. There won’t be any paradises, and that’s equally certain.’ “‘Of course not.’ He studied me, seemed to be searching my face to find the words that might win me over. ‘Paradise for us is simply the moment when the dreams we dream today are finally realized. We’re well aware that after that other men will have new needs, new desires, will make new demands.’… “‘I’ve had a little smattering of history. You’re not teaching me anything. Everything that’s ever done finally ends by being undone. I realize that. And from the hour you’re born you begin to die. But between birth and death there’s life.’… “‘In my opinion, we should concern ourselves only with that part of the future on which we have a hold. But we should try our best to enlarge our hold on it as much as possible.’… “‘You admit,’ I said after a short silence, ‘that you’re working for only a limited future.’ “‘A limited future, a limited life – that’s our lot as men. And it’s enough,’ he said. ‘If I knew that in fifty years it would be against the law to employ children in factories, against the law for men to work more than ten hours a day, if I knew that the people would choose their own representatives, that the press would be free, I would be completely satisfied.’ Again his eyes fell upon me. ‘You find the workers’ conditions abominable. Well, think of those workers you know personally, only of them. Don’t you want to help change their lot in life?’” (All Men Are Mortal, pp. 327-28) A final rumination directly related to the novel: Clarke puts a positive spin on the Overmind and on humanity’s fate. As Karellen explains to his protégés: It is my hope that humanity will go it its rest in peace, knowing that it has not lived in vain. For what you will have brought into the world may be utterly alien, it may share none of your desires or hopes, it may look upon your greatest achievements as childish toys – yet it is something wonderful, and you will have created it. (p. 201) But what is the evidence for this? The Overlords’ explanation? They freely admit they have only a limited comprehension of the Overmind and its objectives. And what they do comprehend suggests an entity bent on eliminating any rival: I cannot explain the full nature of the threat you represented. It would not have been a threat to us, and therefore we do not comprehend it. Let us say that you might have become a telepathic cancer, a malignant mentality which in its inevitable dissolution would have poisoned other and greater minds. (p. 198) From a certain point of view, this sounds like the Borg from Star Trek: Assimilate or be destroyed. At the end, I’m giving this three stars. My mind has been exercised for a week now trying to (however inadequately) put into coherent form the thoughts it’s engendered, and any book that can do that deserves a “like” at the very least.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    I don't know why I put off reading this for so long. If you've been putting it off, don't. Read it now. It's an easy read and you won't want to put it down. This story spans a lot of time for such a small book, but it does so effortlessly and with such an eye for human nature and development. The ideas that hold this story up are brilliant and revealed at nice intervals throughout the book. For me the main protagonist was mankind and I felt a deep connection there even though I'd normally hold m I don't know why I put off reading this for so long. If you've been putting it off, don't. Read it now. It's an easy read and you won't want to put it down. This story spans a lot of time for such a small book, but it does so effortlessly and with such an eye for human nature and development. The ideas that hold this story up are brilliant and revealed at nice intervals throughout the book. For me the main protagonist was mankind and I felt a deep connection there even though I'd normally hold myself apart from the norm. A fantastic book to make you realise our size in the universe. It's a complex book with complicated ideas, but it's so well written that you hardly have to make any effort. Really a suburb piece of work. Highly recommended to everyone.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    5.0 Stars. One of Arthur C. Clarke's best novels and one of my personal favorites. This novel is one of the best ever written concerning the evolution of man into a higher order of being. Brilliantly conceived and poignantly executed, this is classic SF at its best. Nominee: Retro Hugo Award for best SF Novel of 1953.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Oddly, I finally got spurred into reading this great book while watching a documentary on UFOs, featuring Dan Aykroyd! Aykroyd is evidently quite a UFO buff, and during the documentary the discussion (What do UFOs want?) touched upon Clarke's book, Childhood's End. Well, I’m into UFOs. Saw one (at close range) when I was 13 or so. So I went and dug this puppy out of my large “To Read” box downstairs. (My wife says there’s more than one box.) I’m glad I did, though the book is one of the most prof Oddly, I finally got spurred into reading this great book while watching a documentary on UFOs, featuring Dan Aykroyd! Aykroyd is evidently quite a UFO buff, and during the documentary the discussion (What do UFOs want?) touched upon Clarke's book, Childhood's End. Well, I’m into UFOs. Saw one (at close range) when I was 13 or so. So I went and dug this puppy out of my large “To Read” box downstairs. (My wife says there’s more than one box.) I’m glad I did, though the book is one of the most profoundly sad books I've ever read. It’s one of those reading experiences that will stay with me forever. Childhood’s End is also a prime example of Science Fiction at its best. The novel makes you think, and takes you into unexpected areas that defeat your expectations of what you think Science Fiction is. In this case, you have a bundle of traditional science fiction tropes, Mankind on the verge of exploring the stars, impending nuclear confrontation, and, suddenly, a sky filled with very large alien ships, commanded by “Overlords.” But Clarke takes it further. There were times, given the deliberate imagery (you’ll see what I mean once the Overlords reveal themselves) that I thought I was reading a religious allegory. Imagery from Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante, the Bible, and even a Billy Graham like figure in the early pages, as if to underscore what is to come, left me surprised and impressed at the range of Clarke’s mind. None of this is done ham handedly, but is weaved quite thoughtfully into a larger story of Man’s End. Very briefly, and without revealing too much, the story is told in three phases. The human race is probably on the verge of nuclear disaster, when the Overlords show up in large ships positioned over the major cities of the world. Soon, the Overlords take most of humanity’s troubles, famine, war, crime, poverty, away. But there is a price, as some warn (see the Billy Graham figure (“Alexander Wainwright”) that part of what makes us human is our ability to choose – and make mistakes, even horrendous ones. Because, wrapped up in our complicated nature are also the desires to strive and create. The seemingly benevolent Overlords have robbed us of something essential. How this plays out over the course of 100 years (the remaining two sections of the novel) is the story of our End. It’s not an obvious one, but its suddenness is a strong reminder of how fragile civilization can be.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I was expecting this book to bore me to tears. Since the book is a classic, I had to give it a try. Clarke's sophisticated, yet easy to read prose had me riveted! While lacking to some degree in human character development, the plot, descriptions and depth of the story more than compensated. I wish Clarke had expanded on the details about how crime, poverty, class consciousness, religion and menial labor were eradicated. The book left me feeling moved, vaguely sad, yet hopeful about the future o I was expecting this book to bore me to tears. Since the book is a classic, I had to give it a try. Clarke's sophisticated, yet easy to read prose had me riveted! While lacking to some degree in human character development, the plot, descriptions and depth of the story more than compensated. I wish Clarke had expanded on the details about how crime, poverty, class consciousness, religion and menial labor were eradicated. The book left me feeling moved, vaguely sad, yet hopeful about the future of humanity. I highly recommend it!

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