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Childhood's end by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's end (original 1953; edition 1995)

by Arthur C. Clarke

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6,378122608 (3.93)198
Title:Childhood's end
Authors:Arthur C. Clarke
Info:New York Ballantine 1995
Collections:Your library

Work details

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

  1. 51
    Nightfall by Isaac Asimov (weener)
  2. 30
    Lilith's Brood by Octavia E. Butler (Medellia)
  3. 20
    The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Contains the short story upon which Childhood's End is based.
  4. 10
    Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind by Richard Maurice Bucke (bertilak)
  5. 01
    More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon (rickyrickyricky)
    rickyrickyricky: Similar philosophy, stronger writing, & less dated by mid-century sci-fi cliches and ignorance.

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English (114)  Danish (4)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (122)
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
Childhood's End is simply one of the most brilliant, excellent, and exciting science fiction novels I have ever read. To think that it was published in 1953, years before so much of this technology had even been thought of, is miraculous.

One day numerous huge space ships appear and hover over all of Earth's major cities. Aliens have "invaded" the earth. They are called "Overlords" and people are now at their mercy. However, they've come to do good! They solve Earth's political, criminal, religious, military, and nuclear war problems and introduce a life of leisure and prosperity to all of humanity. Yet they won't show themselves and this drives people nuts. The head of the UN is the only human allowed to talk to the Overlord Supervisor and he does so once a week. Finally, he begs him to show himself to humanity and is told that the Overlords will ... in 50 years.

Fifty years later, when mankind has grown lazy and incompetent, the Overlords descend from their ships and show themselves and what humans see is shocking. Yet they get used to seeing them among them.

Meanwhile, one man, Jan, decides to stow away on an Overlord ship to go their home planet. He estimates it will take 80 earth years, but because of light speed, only two month his time, or four months going both ways, as he's sure he'll be sent back once he's found there. And he succeeds. And is stunned at what he finds. The Overlords' planet and cities are unlike anything he could ever have imagined and he yearns for Earth.

Meanwhile, a couple named Greg and Jean have two young children where they live on an island commune. Their oldest boy is saved from a tsunami by an Overlord and starts having odd dreams. His parents become worried. Greg eventually meets with Karellen, the Overlord Supervisor, and what he is told chills him. Mankind is changing. The Overlords are here to supervise that. What happens to facilitate that is truly original and the ultimate fate of humanity is rather sad, in my opinion. When Jan gets home from the Overlord's planet, he is stunned at the changes on Earth. And a lot is explained to him, and to us. The final pages are chilling and simply unreal. I've never read anything like them before. Clarke can really write some original stuff.

To me, this is easily a five star book. In fact, I'm under the impression that this won a Hugo at some point. If so, it was much deserved. The book "only" has a 4.07 out of 5 rating on Goodreads, so there are obviously some people who don't agree with my assertion, but that's still a pretty good rating. Do I recommend it? Hell yeah, I do! This is easily one of the best books I have ever read. And frankly it helps that it's only about 200 pages. You can read it in a day or two. Strongly recommended. ( )
  scottcholstad | Oct 15, 2015 |
When I heard that they have made a limited TV series from this book, I decided that it was finally time to read what I had been told was a masterpiece. I guess my expectations were too high, because while I liked the book, I was not blown away by it. It was dated in places and there were long, dull segments that worked their way through the social sciences curriculum. There was a lot more telling than showing.

That being said, the book was definitely imaginative and I'm interested in seeing how they dramatize it. ( )
  fhudnell | Sep 12, 2015 |
It's been 50 years since I last read this. Had the suck fairy struck, or was this one of those SF classics from the "golden age" that still works? Sadly, about two-thirds of the novel has really gone from classic to quaint or even wince-inducing. It starts well in the opening pages. The arrival of the alien Overlords reads like screenplay directions for Independence Day, but of course with the difference that these aliens come in peace. Unfortunately, the next half of the book are several stories that would have been weak even by 1950's standards. The longest section is about Stormgren, the UN secretary and envoy to the aliens, and his quest to see what the Overlords look like and why they need to hide themselves. Maybe this plot seemed sufficient and the resolution believable half a century ago, but both fail to engage now. The next two storylines pick up 50 years later, initially focused on where the aliens came from. That this question had been so little studied, and the manner in which it is finally resolved, are again unconvincing. These weak story arcs are combined with long Stapledonian passages describing the reactions of a near-homogenous humanity. "The human race continued to bask in the long, cloudless summer afternoon of peace and prosperity." That kind of thing, for pages on end.

If Stapledon is the model for the weaker parts of Childhood's End, Hodgson's The Night Land is the model for the final stronger part. Having wasted so much time on trivia, Clarke's novel finally comes through when it arrives at the end of humanity's childhood. This cosmic singularity sweeps away all the pedestrian, very British, mostly comfortable story telling that came before. Ruthless but effective, this final sequence is why Childhood's End merited classic status in its day. Today, it's more for those wishing to study the roots of modern SF. ( )
1 vote ChrisRiesbeck | Sep 7, 2015 |
This was first published in 1953, but I was unaware until now that Clarke revised the beginning of the novel in 1989 for this revised edition released in 1990. It is only a new two and a half pages and Clarke spends more than that in a rather wandering introduction he wrote in July 1989. It seems a little surprising that this book was never made into a movie, although it was optioned early on and as Clarke writes: "and since then has passed through innumerable hands and has been adapted by countless script writers." Clarke notes that the mini-series "V" pretty much captures Chapter 2 of Childhood's End. After all this time the story is finally being filmed in 2015 for a television mini-series.

So, the story of Childhood's End begins with the arrival of a huge fleet of spacecraft that appear above the major cities of the planet worldwide. They are a benign appearing peaceful presence and their goal seems to be to unify the peoples of earth and end conflict. For the first years one of the visitors will speak only to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and no one, including the Secretary, actually sees the aliens.

The directions the story took and developments within this surprised me. It would be unfair to potential readers to discuss the plot, but I will say that the story is about the end of mankind on earth in a quite surprising way. There's a little bit of woo-woo in here that I could do without, but Clarke had a "Big Idea" and he more or less handled it successfully. The title says it all.

I'm glad I read this. Unlike many classics of science fiction this does not feel very dated. It could happen today. After reading this 1990 edition, I read the prologue in the original edition from 1953. Although dated I think it is much better than the later version. ( )
1 vote RBeffa | Sep 4, 2015 |
Fascinante. Primeiro pela história, segundo por ter sido escrito na década de 50 do século XX, terceiro por apresentar uma visão muito à frente do tempo. A história centra-se na raça humana por fim confirmar que não está só, após aparecerem naves sob as principais cidades do planeta Terra. Durante décadas essas naves via uma voz do supervisor Karellen dão instruções de modo ao planeta seguir num caminho de paz, sem guerras e conflitos. Passado 50 anos dá-se a revelação física dos aliens, neste caso os "Overlords". E depois disso a habituação a um novo modo de vida. Mas fica sempre ao longo do livro a questão, e qual é realmente a intenção e agenda real dos "Overlords".
Li por ter sabido no site tor.com que iam passar a uma série em 2015 este livro e agora estou ansioso por ver como o conseguem transpor. Recomendo vivamente ( )
  bruc79 | Jul 31, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
I'm not sure Childhood's End is the first book my dad gave me, but it was one of the first, and it's certainly the one I remember most vividly. And it's probably a book that changed my life.
added by RBeffa | editDaily Kos, DOM9000 (Jul 8, 2011)

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arthur C. Clarkeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bacon, C.W.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bing, JonForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bringsværd, Tor ÅgeForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Csernus, TiborCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deutsch, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellis, DeanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fernandes, StanislawCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haars, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kempen, BernhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover Artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sawyer, Robert J.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schjelderup, DaisyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Summerer, Eric MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
The volcano that had reared Taratua up from the Pacific depths had been sleeping now for half a million years. (Original)
Before she flew to the launch site, Helena Lyakhov always went through the same ritual.  (1989 Updated Version)
This was the moment when history held its breath, and the present sheared asunder from the past as an iceberg splits from its parent cliffs, and goes sailing out to sea in lonely pride. All that the past ages had achieved was as nothing now; only one thought echoed and re-echoed through Mohan's brain: The human race was no longer alone.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345347951, Mass Market Paperback)

Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends--and then the age of Mankind begins....

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:34 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The author questions the survival of mankind in this science fiction tale about Overlords from outer space who dominate the world.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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