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Childhood's End (1953)

by Arthur C. Clarke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,674199680 (3.93)289
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 {collection} 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 289 mentions

English (187)  Danish (4)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (198)
Showing 1-5 of 187 (next | show all)
This was written in 1953, but feels like it could have been written this year -- which shows how timeless Clarkes style of science fiction is. The story is familiar if you've watched the movie Independence Day. But what happens if the aliens seem inteligent and malevolent? How long does it take for humans to accept aliens? This relatively short novel was beat out for Retro Hugo Award by Fahrenheit 451. ( )
  adamfortuna | May 28, 2021 |
I never know what to think about Clarke - he writes really influential books that tackle a lot of big ideas, but if I were to sit down and try to write one of those high school English-type essays, like "the exploration of human evolution in Clarke's works", I don't know what I would say. Yes, Clarke deals with the theme of humanity and its place in the cosmic and terrestrial pecking orders, but every time I finish one of his books I never know if he's actually brought anything new to the table or just checked off a box, like "yup, this book certainly does involve humans turning into space babies or telepathic child mutants!" Now, maybe my reaction is missing the point - since it's as impossible for a human writer to really depict a truly advanced post-human or alien race as it is for a dog to write a Shakespeare play (let's assume this dog can use a computer, okay?), Clarke ending all of his books with some variation of "... and the regular humans pondered the alien artifacts/alien spaceships/alien civilization and didn't really know what to say" is just him doing the only thing he can do. The way that humans react to things they don't understand - i.e. the vast majority of the universe - can be just as interesting as the way they react to things they do understand, and Clarke is justly famous for the way that he fills in his stories of humanity coping with the inexplicable with realistic characters and interesting conflicts - Dave Bowman's struggles with HAL 9000 on the mission to investigate the monoliths in 2001 are as close to immortal as science fiction gets when it comes to literature.

But when I compare Clarke's treatment of man vs. alien to that of someone like Stanislaw Lem, I feel like Clarke is somewhat wanting - humanity spends all of Childhood's End not knowing what the aliens are really like or what the heck their plans are or why their evolution will be good at all (and it even happens off-screen, a fait accompli by the time the lone normal human returns from a pointless voyage to the alien homeworld), and so the book ends on a big question mark, without anyone really learning anything or conveying much more than confusion to the reader. Which I guess is fair enough, and maybe my reaction also says more about my expectations of what these kinds of stories should be like than it does about the stories themselves - Lem is a much more "literary" writer who would rather write a thinly veiled essay than create ensemble casts of realistic human beings. Clarke obviously has his strengths there. But I don't get the sense of philosophical richness and sociological investigation that Lem provides when he tackles the same theme, and maybe that's just part of the inevitable tradeoff between "telling a story" and "showing a story".

Case in point: in an effort to provide human life with some meaning after the contact, a group builds a utopian community on an island dedicated to the good life. When I read that part, I was immediately reminded of the ideal society in Plato's Republic, and was expecting some similar kind of treatise, but he didn't really give much analysis of the society beyond just stating its purpose. I thought there was a big missed opportunity to explore more of how people have to create their own meanings when all needs are taken care of by an alien power, or on how people would relate to each other when all the traditional ways of asserting power and dominance and relative status were obsolete. So that was a letdown. In fairness to Clarke, though, he was much better at dealing with aliens than Isaac Asimov, whose most famous works always took place in a universe empty of everything non-human. Maybe it's also a generational difference, Clarke having written his works a full literary generation ahead of Lem. Either way, Childhood's End was a very ambiguous book for me, entertaining but unsatisfying too. Its title inspired a cool Pink Floyd song though! ( )
1 vote aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
I loved this book and may have to add it to my favorites. If you like studies in consciousness and alien contact, this is for you. There's a clever twist about human bias and preconceptions. I believe anyone who starts thinking hard about time and how it works is probably an experiencer. My guess is A.C. Clarke was an experiencer. Metaphysical and consciousness experiences cause the recipient to search for explanations. ( )
  jdaneway | Apr 18, 2021 |
One of the coldest, most heart-breaking and yet most beautiful books I have ever read. ( )
  Andorion | Feb 6, 2021 |
Utopian classic.

Some books you read and re-read all of your life, this probably will not be one of them. While breathtaking when it was published, the book reads a bit like Casablanca screens- full of too many cliches and worn out tropes. Very strong opening with the good guys having the kind of ominous overtones that any good fairy tale has. The last third suffers even though it follows logically from the first parts. Or perhaps that's why it suffers.
( )
  frfeni | Jan 31, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 187 (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.primary 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 opinions expressed in this book are not those of the author.
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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)
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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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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?

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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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