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Childhood's End Mass Market Paperback – May 12, 1987
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“Frighteningly logical, believable, and grimly prophetic . . . [Arthur C.] Clarke is a master.”—Los Angeles Times
“There has been nothing like it for years; partly for the actual invention, but partly because here we meet a modern author who understands that there may be things that have a higher claim on humanity than its own ‘survival.’ ”—C. S. Lewis
“As a science fiction writer, Clarke has all the essentials.”—Jeremy Bernstein, The New Yorker
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
A couple of years ago, at the national television syndication convention, I was chatting with Stan Lee (of Marvel Comics). He was asking me what was up at Del Rey, and I mentioned 3001: FINAL ODYSSEY, as well as the new mass market edition we'd just done of CHILDHOOD'S END. Stan stated enthusiastically that, if there was one thing he most wanted to do in this world, it was make a movie of CHILDHOOD'S END, one of his favorite novels. He apparently loves Clarke's work.
So when I got back to the office, I dropped a copy of the two books into the mail. About a week later I was listening to my lunchtime voice mail messages, and there were Stan's unmistakeable tones, sincerely thanking me for the books. This guy deals with the James Cameron's of the world, yet a gift of Arthur C. Clarke causes him to make the time to express his gratitude.
--Steve Saffel, Senior Editor
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"Childhood's End" was first published in 1953, a time when the cold war was in full form and people were beginning to truly look towards the stars for other life and possibilities for exploration. "Childhood's End" tapped into that fertile imagination to craft a story of profound scale and meaning. It begins one day when numerous spaceships suddenly appear in the sky above Earth. They are flown by an alien species referred to as the Overlords. The purpose of their journey to third planet of the Solar System is subject to much speculation and fear. These aliens seem to be a benevolent race that only wants to help humanity solve the problems that plague it. In fifty years, these Overlords will end ignorance, poverty, war, and disease. To what end do they do this, though? The absence of any obstacles and struggles renders humanity complacent and inert.Read more ›
The Overlords appear one day over every city on Earth, and with little resistance, mankind submits to the technologically superior race. After all, their demands are entirely benevolent; they seem to want no more than to end war, poverty, and the other evils that have always plagued the Earth. But why? Through three generations, a few people endeavour to find out.
What they finally learn is something they never imagined: mankind's terrible and wonderful final destiny, and the part the mysterious Overlords are fated to play in achieving it.
Many of Clarke's novels are somewhat lacking in character development, and though Childhood's End is not an extreme example of this tendency, some fairly important characters are only half-formed. In some books, this is a flaw, but when Clarke is truly in his element, the vagueness of the characters seems to work in the story's favour. Here, particularly, I found myself getting quite attached to characters it seemed I barely knew (including some of the enigmatic aliens).
One feature I particularly liked in this book was the glimpse of the Overlords' home world, a tour of wonders that Clarke knows better than to try and explain in terms of known science, at least not with any detail. If anything, the mystery of it all makes the story-- and the Overlords-- seem more real.
The ending, though inspiring from a certain angle, can be a downer in terms of the characters you come to know and like, no matter where your sympthies end up lying. Mine, in the end, fall with Karellen, the Overlord supervisor, who, like the other Overlord characters, manages to be thoroughly believable despite the fact that his background and motivations remain more or less a mystery.
Science fiction is often infused with philosophy; this book pulls off the mixture better than any other I've read.
However, the introduction, by Adam Roberts, utterly ruined it for me. It gave away the physical appearance of the Overlords (saying that we learn this 'fairly early' in the book. By my estimate we actually learn this about a third of the way through - NOT early at all, and all the suspense leading up to this revelation is ruined).
The introduction also tells us pretty much exactly how the story ends! I mean what the hell! A book whose overarching theme is the question of what the Overlords are here for and what mystery awaits humanity, and the conclusion of the plot is spoiled before I even got a chance to start reading!
Utterly unforgivable. I feel cheated.
You only get to read a book for the first time once, and this one was ruined before I started. Thanks a lot, Adam Roberts.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Clarke's Childhood's End is an interesting read about the end of humanity by the birth of a new species of life capable of ESP. Read morePublished 15 hours ago by a. d. kyles
Started off promising, but I felt it fizzled as it went on. I know it's considered a classic, but I didn't enjoy it. Read morePublished 19 hours ago by OfcrRipley
Just getting tired of the "Humans are bad, Earth is good" themes in so much SciFy these days (I know this was writtenH the 50's) The story is short and moves along well. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
The author does a excellent job of describing of attempting to describe his vision which is too complex. I do recommend.Published 2 days ago by Ron V.
This is a classic of Science Fiction, well worth the read. Read the introduction for a better understanding of the author's thoughts, it will change how you read it in good ways.Published 3 days ago by persephone
Read it in late 60's or early 70's. Found book again in 90's. Always thought it would make a great movie.SyFy channel did a great job of my favorite story.Published 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is one of the icons of the science fiction genre. I had read it as a child and forgotten it completely. Read morePublished 5 days ago by M. Jerauld