The inside back page says Arthur C. Clarke is considered the greatest science fiction writer of all time, so I had high hopes for Childhood's End and was disappointed. I just don't like space fantasy enough to get past all this clumsy writing. There were so many cheesy lines like "you have been reading too much science fiction", "it was all like a Hollywood thriller", and "getting in touch with aliens wasn't as easy as in fiction" ugh. The breathless cartoonyness ...more The inside back page says Arthur C. Clarke is considered the greatest science fiction writer of all time, so I had high hopes for Childhood's End and was disappointed. I just don't like space fantasy enough to get past all this clumsy writing. There were so many cheesy lines like "you have been reading too much science fiction", "it was all like a Hollywood thriller", and "getting in touch with aliens wasn't as easy as in fiction" ugh. The breathless cartoonyness reminded me of how bad the movie Avatar's dialog was.
Arthur C. Clarke's writing led to the development of satellite technology, so I expected more dazzlingly prescient hi-tech like William Gibson does, but all I got was faxes, film and conveyor belts, meh. I gave it an extra star because I dislike the genre and he did have some good pages (164-167) when the action peaks and babies go out of control and freakish planets get described vividly. But then it wraps up with a lot more "he never learned the story of why blah blah blah" which read to me like the author just couldn't be bothered.
Upon his death - I sought out the most recommended books of Mr. Clarke. This one was repeatedly listed as a favorite by some authors.
I did not like it, however. In the forward, Clarke practically says he made a mistake in writing it - because for a brief time a stage magician named Uri Gellar had convinced him that physic phenomenon was possible. Since that time, Clarke learned how Gellar did his tricks, and Gellar stopped calling himself a psychic. The book was embraced by C.S. Lewis because it makes a case for science being of limited scope, and the use of science being dangerous to our spiritual evolution. I may have enjoyed the book more if such thinking wasn't responsible for so many problems in the US - resulting in our culture's general disdain for science and preference for the supernatural.
In short - Clarke, as a science-based writer, was right to apologize. Its an irresponsible premise, and runs counter to understanding the human condition. I'm a bit bewildered at its being recommended by some respectable writers - I can only assume its because they were also fascinated with, and taken in by, spoon benders and other such characters, in their youth.
Also - there is plenty of his customary 'star child' theme - the man was apparently driven to distraction by the idea of humanity turning into magical star creatures. This makes for a good story once or twice - then becomes overly familiar to the reader.
I requested the book without knowledge of his other works. While slow, the book pulled me in. It had a great story line, begging me to find out why the Overlords were there. Unfortunately, I believe the story would have been better if the beginnning had connected with the ending. The only constant were the Overlords. Stormgren and Van Ryberg may have been alive when the Overlords arrived, but what part did they really play in the completion of the story? They showed the reaction of humans to the unknown? This could have been done without Stormgren's capture or the details showing who followed the Overlords and those who did not. I was enticed to read the book because of the beginning yet I finished the book without those characters playing any future role. We jump forward in time to random people. There is no connection between Stormgren and Van Ryberg to the Greggson's or Jan. Wouldn't it have made more since to at least stick to the same family if you are going to move from the beginning of the Overlords' rule to when they show themselves and the story takes it's turn towards completion?
Childhood's End begins much like a lot of alien invasion movies including V and Independence Day, but it has a completely different feel and tone. If the alien invaders are here to destroy us, they are surely taking their time doing it. Why are they here? The novel spans about 150 years. There is little continuity between the characters because the story is that of humanity not of individuals. In some of Clarke's other works like the 2001 series and Against the Fall of Night he explores the future of human evolution and questions whether the stars are for us or not. He asks those same questions in this book although with a bleaker, more final, and somewhat more abstract resolution. This is not my favorite Arthur C. Clarke novel, but it is still an excellent book. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys classic SF and wants to read about alien encounters and humanity's future. This is for anyone who enjoys a little bit of mysticism with their hard science fiction, for anyone who appreciates and respects mystery and awe in the midst of science and logic.
Arthur C. Clarke is IMHO one of the best sci-fi writers of all time. Childhood's End is not one of his more well known novels and yet I think it is one of the more interesting because of the ideas it tries to convey. Clarke never misses an opportunity to expand our imagination and hint that there might be something greater than humanity out there.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
"The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city - intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began." "But at what cost? With the advent of peace, man ceases to strive for creative greatness, and a malaise settles over the human race. To those who resist, it becomes evident that the Overlords have an agenda of their own. As civilization approaches the crossroads, will the Overlords spell the end for humankind...or the beginning?"--BOOK JACKET.
This is one of my all-time favorite books of any genre. Although science fiction, manages to tie together some of the most profound questions of humanity and provides creative, thought-provoking answers. I could not put this down and have re-read it several times over the years.
Manned by OVERLORDS,giant silver space ships appear in the skies
over every major city on Earth.Within 50 years ,these brilliant
overlords have all but eliminated ignorance,disease,poverty and
fear. Then suddenly this golden age ends....and the end of
I really liked it a lot. Its not quite as stunning as 2001 or 2010 were to me, but there are some really cool plots with space/time that I enjoyed. Also, there was a very cool revelation at the end that I felt was reminiscent of Asimov's short story "The Last Question."
"The last generation of mankind on Earth. Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. They are manned by the overlords....mysterious creatures from an alien race who soon take over control of the world."
I think this book could have been better. It was more a college paper on the psychology of man than a story. When there was a plot (and there were several), they were pretty good. But Clarke switched tracks so often in the story that the characters were at best flat. You really didn't care what happened to them. It almost started out like a "What if..." type story. What if aliens showed up on Earth and took away our freedom of choice. Gave us a perfect utopia. Answer: We would become bored. Because the nature of man is to strive and stuggle to become better. That theme ended about half way through the book before he changed course again. Anyway, it didn't really have a whole lot of anything in this book...science, dialog, characters. So it wasn't really that enjoyable for me.