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Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End (1953)

by Arthur C. Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,486162716 (3.92)257
  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. 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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Showing 1-5 of 153 (next | show all)
Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End grew out of his short story, “Guardian Angel” (1946), which he used – with minor modifications – as the first part of the novel. This fifth novel from Clarke explored themes that were common to much of his work. Like “Guardian Angel,” his 1948 short story, “The Sentinel,” and the later 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rendezvous with Rama, Clarke examined what might occur if humanity were to encounter an alien intelligence superior to its own and how both human civilization, and humanity itself, would evolve as a result.

The story follows a group called the Overlords, represented primarily by one named Karellen, who come to Earth to observe humanity and guide it to the next stage of its evolution. Writing in the early 1950s, Clarke began with the space race, which he set in 1975, and proceeds into the twenty-second century over the course of the novel. Among the changes are a focus on science and reason. As Clarke writes, “It was a completely secular age… The creeds that had been based upon miracles and revelations had collapsed utterly. With the rise of education, they had already been slowly dissolving” (pg. 72). Further, “Humanity had lost its ancient gods: now it was old enough to have no need for new ones” (pg. 73). As a secular humanist, Clarke examines the benefits of losing superstition’s influence on society. On the other hand, he shows how a utopia could drastically affect expectations for life. He writes, “When the Overlords had abolished war and hunger and disease, they had also abolished adventure” (pg. 91). These shortcomings notwithstanding, the benefits allow humanity to avoid its own destruction and develop its mental faculties to make the next leap.

Though a simple concept, Clarke’s writing elevates it as his readers join him on this odyssey for the future. He examines themes of cosmic irony and the promise of a great destiny. Clarke also uses the time dilation effects of relativistic travel to great effect in the last third of the novel. Fans of his writing will find plenty to enjoy as he waxes rhapsodic about new journeys and strange worlds. Even the more dated references don’t hinder the overall effect. New readers to Clarke’s fiction will find this a welcoming first novel with which to experience his prose. ( )
1 vote DarthDeverell | Nov 8, 2018 |
it's just short of four stars. this book gets a lot of free passes.

I liked that this book made me think of what is necessary for a world with automation. I laughed at the aliens. I didn't like that it was male centric; Men cheated on women, the author stated that men are inherently polygamist and insinuated that women aren't. The patriarchy was alive and well in the structure of the peaceful utopia, and there was a disproportionate number of male characters as the leads. Calling people negro showed that white men are seen as the standard - so the book is missing a lot in the way of human advancement and global perspective. Not a lot of social inquiry here. Despite the book being very short, there were a number of points at which I thought it had ended. Ultimately, I'm pleased with the timespan of the stories, but some parts were jarring. It's much more palatable reading it from the perspective that it was written before the moon landing, as a childhood of it's own. ( )
  CassandraT | Sep 23, 2018 |
This must have been mind-blowing in the 1950's, but it didn't age too well. It's odd reading something set in the future with outdated gender roles. Still, I enjoyed it, especially the ending, which was powerful and sad. ( )
1 vote JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
This was the moment when history held its breath, and the present sheared asunder from the past as an iceberg splits from its frozen, parent cliffs, and goes sailing out to sea in lonely pride.

Perspective is a fickle thing. You can go about your days thinking you’re engaged with your life. That you’re working towards increasing in knowledge & understanding. Though you continue to hope to grow in depth and awareness, you feel like you’ve don’t a good job mining the depths of yourself and what it means to be human.

Then, as if a freight train has passed with in inches of your face, you are startled into awareness that you are nothing more than kid swimming in a back yard kiddie pool.

For me, Childhood’s End is the freight train and Arthur C. Clarke is the conductor.

To any fan of SciFi, the premise of this book is simple, it’s concepts familiar, and it’s characters relatable. However, it’s profoundly engaging and completely delightful. At some point you realize this book was written in 1953 and you’re hit by the train.

Clarke is a master.

I’ve had long, involved conversations with several people about this book. Each one about different aspects of it. Many about thoughts that seemed like throw-aways during the course of the story but had a depth that only revealed itself over time.

I will read this book again and probably very soon. ( )
1 vote Mattmcmanus | Aug 23, 2018 |
“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`!

What if humanity was a Caterpillar, ugly and slow but with vast potential, the aliens were more advanced Caterpillars, but that is as far as they will ever go. Their job is to help humanity reach a level they can only ever envy and dream of. Humanity has the potential they so lack, it can metamorphise into a Butterfly of stunning beauty and infinite future. That is the entire story; what is wonderful for the species however may not be so great for it`s members; change can be very painful and even devastating: Basically, humans die, Humanity goes to the `next level`.

Where Clarke scores is in his characterizations of scientists, who by and large, get a poor deal from novelists. Mary Shelly set the trend and the media has pretty much followed along ever since. Only Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in “The First Circle” has properly got scientists "right". But when it comes to the predictive ability and breathtaking scope then Olaf Stapledon deserves recognition. “Last and First Men”, brilliant. Lacks a coherent novel structure but some of his ideas are now on the point of being put into practice. Asimov similarly took huge gulps of the future, chewed it up and spread it across the pages of some lovely books. But Clarke had great scope and also detail which is where many great SF writers fail. It took me years to finally work out what 2001 - A Space Odyssey was about but it did. His books seem slightly dated now but he deserves his place in the Pantheon.

I can see a lot of themes of 2001 running through a lot of Clarke's work, particularly “Childhood's End”. What's interesting is the way in which Clarke, in “Childhood's End”, almost sends his traditional themes in a different direction. For example, a major theme in 2001 is that the evolution of Man lies beyond the confines of Earth and out among the stars. Technology is seen as the great evolutionary driver. However, in “Childhood's End” we are told "The stars are not for Man", and the story centres on how the arriving extra-terrestrials confine Man to Earth and stunt all scientific and technological advancement, all so that Man is able to evolve and become one with the Overmind.

Bottom-line: Mankind's arc in that story reflects the spiritual journey of cleaning up one's act prior to self-realization and annihilation of the ego. “Childhood's End” is almost unique among Clarke's works in the way it goes against the grain of the direction of most of his other novels. “Childhood's End” also possesses an abundance of mythic content on a more macro-cosmic scale. Despite Clarke's ambivalence about his beliefs, his work reveals strong spiritual threads. I sometimes wonder with all the jejune distractions we have these days if we are actually living in the final stages of “Childhood’s End”. Where mankind’s distractions became so many it was impossible to keep up with it all. (300 hours of You tube added every minute.) Don't forget his prediction in one story that worldwide communication would result in an explosion of porn. Well he was spot on with that! ( )
4 vote antao | Aug 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 153 (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 (42 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arthur C. Clarkeprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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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 8 descriptions)

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

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