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Childhood's End (1953)

by Arthur C. Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,201184686 (3.93)280
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?… (more)
  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. 20
    Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind by Richard Maurice Bucke (bertilak)
  5. 10
    The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven (sturlington)
  6. 21
    More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon (alaskayo)
    alaskayo: Similar philosophy, stronger writing, & less dated by mid-century sci-fi cliches and ignorance.

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» See also 280 mentions

English (171)  Danish (4)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (181)
Showing 1-5 of 171 (next | show all)
Amazing. ( )
  jimctierney | Jul 7, 2020 |
Final haftasında olduğum için bir günde bitiremedim yoksa kolaylıkla bitirilebilecek bir kitaptı.Öncelikle başının ve sonunun çok iyi olduğunu belirtmemde fayda var ama kitabın ortasında bir 30-40 sayfalık sıkıcı bir kısım vardı ve bu kısmı otobüste okuduğum için okurken uyuyakaldım.Bunun dışında kitap çok iyiydi her zaman insanların uzaya sefer düzenlemesine alternatif olarak uzaylıların dünyaya gelmesi güzeldi ve bu uzaylı ırkı da çok ilginçti. ( )
  Tobizume | Jun 9, 2020 |
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. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I found a binder of book reviews that I did in 1970 when I was in Grade 11. This is what I wrote then:
The book, Childhood's End, is contained in an omnibus of short stories and another novel. To really understand Clarke you should read the whole book because Childhood's End is just one expression of his imagination. Sometimes he can be devastatingly funny and others he is terribly frightening.
Childhood's End is science fiction, bu like most science fiction it has a very probably story line. It starts only five years in the future. Mr. Clarke has misjudged the haste with which man has achieved moon landings, for as the story starts, the rockets are only being prepared for moon flights. Unfortunately, man never achieves this because Earth is suddenly invaded by space ships which hover over all the major cities of the world. The invaders never show themselves, but maintain a source of communication through the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Through him they achieve perfect peace, eliminate poverty and unemployment. Man, being a curious animal, does not like being ruled by creatures they never see. Finally Karellen, leader of the extra-terrestials, promises to unveil themselves at the end of fifty years. When the time comes, the invaders have little horns, leathery wings and a barbed tail. Yes, that is right, the Devil! Humans are not afraid of them as they might have been if the creatures had shown themselves upon landing. Life continues on serenely for many years. On one small island a group of artists have formed a colony to produce art. Two small children on that island are the first victims of an epidemic which strikes everyone under ten. They suddenly possess fantastic mental powers over inanimate objects. For a few years, the children just range over the continents never eating or sleeping. The adults gradually die off and the children become one complete mind. Suddenly, in a stream, they leave Earth, and, as they leave, destroy it.
The story may seem weak the way I tell it, but it is very gripping when you read it. It is rather frightening to think of Earth being destroyed by its own children, but then, is that not what man may do with the atom bomb, only all the people will still be on it?
This book represents a whole new idea of invasion from outer space. Most writers feel that they will destroy the Earth but does this necessarily have to be so?
This book is a masterpiece of science fiction. It is not so far in the future that it seems inapplicable to us, nor is it so technical it is hard to understand. The story is exciting (if that is all you want), and it is thought-provoking. Everyone wants to know his future, or science fiction would not be so popular. This book is on the same level as Stranger in a Strange Land or The People, both rated by experts to be tops. It cannot be ignored. ( )
  gypsysmom | Apr 20, 2020 |
Interesting book- it really shocked me how the different moral basis affected me. In a way, it reminds me of the song "Imagine"- imagine there's no people, no religion, nothing at all. What is our purpose on this Earth? How do we approach an entirely different intelligence and where they come from?

Warning- spoilers to follow.

For me, I found the central conflict was something hard to pin down. At first I assumed that with the introduction of all these interesting characters, attempting to subvert their alien Overlords, that eventually we would find out some awful plot behind the arrival of these red devils. Especially since their form is precisely the form of the devil, an image hard to get away from.

However, what I found to be the actual conflict was actually only in my head, and was focused entirely on the aliens. Or to put it lightly, it's a conflict between the arrogant, selfish tendencies of humanity, versus the realization that "the stars are not for man". The universe is too large for us to conquer, but we could eventually do it. I just felt very strange encountering a completely different perspective than what we usually see in stories based around humans.

Arthur C. Clarke wrote an extremely convincing portrait of aliens, with interesting characters and ministories that take us through the evolution of the human race. How incredible is it to picture that the future of the human race will be the loss of individuality and the creation of a hivemind, and the contrast between our current values to the values of a future, no longer "human" per se, species?

It was strange to realize that I did sympathize with these "Overlords", and their inability, for all their great science, to progress onwards. I felt their frustration, especially since I was already feeling frustrated at not having a scientific understanding or backing for this sudden "hive mind" evolution of humans. As Clarke correctly notes about humans, we are insanely curious, and I was curious throughout the entire novel for an understanding, a reasoning about what was behind the technology and the story of these aliens.

Ultimately, too much of the story was "oh, this is just too far beyond your understanding for words" for me too fully enjoy the novel- however, I feel a kind of emptiness right now, that is hard for me to put into words. I truly felt something and empathized greatly with the characters in this story, and witnessing the ending of humanity is something that is hard to face I suppose, especially when you ultimately experience the saddening (at least, to my current human sensibilities) passing of humanity, and also a longing for more I suppose. Where do we go from here? Who are we? Are our notions of spirituality, religion, mentalism completely made up? Or is there some actual basis for these concepts?

Of course, one should not answer these questions completely based on one book, but I think the way Clarke explores these questions is worthy of more readers to explore and ponder. ( )
1 vote Joel_Kahn | Apr 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 171 (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 (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clarke, Arthur C.Authorprimary 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
Hollander-Lossow, Else vonTranslatorsecondary 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
Whelan, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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Fine del XX secolo: misteriosi alieni detti "i Superni" impongono la fine di ogni ostilità sulla Terra, che inizia una vera e propria Età dell'oro. Ma Ian Rodricks, inquieto astrofisico, riesce a giungere clandestinamente il pianeta di origine dei Superni e scopre un'amara verità sul loro mondo e sulla loro civiltà che coinvolge anche il destino della Terra...
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