Childhood’s End

May 11th, 2003 Comments Off on Childhood’s End

Childhood’s End, by Arthur Clarke, is another of the science fiction classics, and many consider it Clarke’s masterpiece because of its vision of humankind. The books belongs to an older era of the genre, and even if it contains some dated elements, it remains sufficiently current to arise the curiosity of a modern reader. Although the book wasn’t awarded any of the great science fiction prizes, this fact can be justified by its publication date, which predates some of those prizes. Even so, the book frequently makes its way in lists of the greatest science fiction works of all times.

Written in 1953, the story begins with the arrival of great silver ships belonging to an unknown alien race just in time to end the space race and save humankind from its path to self-destruction. The aliens immediately take control of the government of an astonished human race, demonstrating their power in the process and so achieving the title of Overlords. As it’s quickly found, the Overlords’ domination is benign and they lead humankind to a never-seen time of prosperity and peace that the human race would never be able to achieve by itself. Nevertheless, some great questions present themselves to humankind. Firstly, who are the Overlords? They refuse to show themselves saying that they hide for humankind’s well-being. Secondly, what is their purpose? Clarke weaves the narrative leading the reader to the solution of those two big mysteries in one of the most elaborate plots of the classic period of science fiction, ending with an interesting and satisfactory twist.

Clarke writes in his characteristic direct and precise style, telling a good story. He shows humankind in a context rarely used at the time, in which it’s just small part of a big universe. Even so, the book didn’t appeal so much to me. The ending is quite interesting, partially open to the reader imagination, but I guess I have read many books from Clarke with a similar idea, and the theme is not as interesting to me as it used to be.

Anyway, the book is good, and can be easily read in a couple hours. For science fiction fans, it’s certainly a good choice because of its place in the genre’s history.

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