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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Of the golden age sci-fi writers generation, Clarke may be the only one who produced true literature. His books are so finely written, so superby researched, and so subtle and dramatic that he set the standard for the best who were to follow.

Childhood's end is probably the best of his earlier books. Clarke maintains a sense of mystery until the very end, titillating the reader with clues.

Without revealing the plot, humankind is visited by enigmatic space craft, perched over the major cities of the planet. The aliens will not allow themselves to be seen and they let mankind develop more or less as it pleases, though subtly guiding it and rarely overtly. While reading it, you feel the vastness of the universe and the wonder of existence, which sounds pretentious but Clarke pulls it off. He also weaves in certain grand themes, such as the unity of apocalyptic visions in the major religions, the complexity of time, and the destiny of the human mind, all of which are inter-linked. This creates a permanent space in the imagination of the reader, to be nutured for a lifetime.

Recommended as a great introduction to the world of sci-fi.
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 1998
A brilliant book in which Clarke explores the theme of man's position within the universe. Unlike a lot of Clarke's work which draws heavily on scientific principles this is not a factually based novel.
A highly fantastic plot sees a race of aliens take control of earth and outlaw all immoral acts, instantly producing world peace, through use of their superior technology. Unlike many SF novels, however, they are here not to conquor the globe but to prepare humanity for the future. Some, of course are not willing to sit back and accept this life of blissful slavery from the moralistic aliens. They are determined to discover the truth behind the alien's plans, why noone has ever seen one an alien and precisely what this future holds. The nature of what is to come in the future may not be very believable but this is one of Clarke's space-fantasy novels not factual science-fiction. The end of the book will make you turn back to the front cover to double check it has Arthur C. Clarke's name on it.
The first few editions of the novel had the words "The views expressed in this book are not those of the author" printed on page 1. In the introduction to the later editions, Clarke explains why he insisted on those lines being included as the novel revolves around the idea that man's place is here on earth not in the stars.
This is a superb, thought provoking novel. While the plot may not be all that credible the themes discussed in this book: man's positition in the universe; whether enforced heaven is acceptable and whether man's place is on earth or in the stars are what makes it one of the best science-fiction novels ever written. It may have been written over thirty years ago but it is still relevant in today's world.
Not necessarily for all Arthur C. Clarke fans as if you are expecting a novel based primarily on hard science like "2061: Odessy 3" or "A Fall of Moondust" you will be disapointed. This is, however one of the greatest science-fiction novels ever written and and demonstrates superbly the depth of Clarke's imagination.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2014
I liked it because it kept me guessing, because I really wanted to know who or what the Overlords were; because I wanted to find out what happened to the children and because I wasn't prepared for the ending until reasonably close, to the ending. Which is generally how I like my endings to manifest.
I hated it at the same time because I loathed the characters. I don't mean, the characterisations weren't good or convincingly done but I thought pretty much all of them belonged on an isolated island from the start. I'm not missing them!
This isn't my favourite AC Clarke. Still good though and I feel bad only giving it 3 stars. I'd like to give it a 3.5 but we can't do half stars and on the ACC Scale, it isn't quite a 4, for me at any rate.
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
It will now be hard to film Childhood's End because the opening, with the great ships suspended over the cities of the earth, was cribbed, intentionally or by coincidence, for Independence Day. That's a pity because it would make a tremendous film being a shattering and most skilfully written story. Here the visitors have not come to despoil our planet, indeed so well put together is the plot that we may well forget to ask ourselves why they have bothered to come along and preside over a golden age of universal peace, prosperity and others of Clarke's (and my) liberal preoccupations such as no cruelty to animals. The book is not 200 pages long but it combines Clarke's special narrative gifts as a short-story writer with a vision of the whole nature and purpose of the universe that I find staggering and intolerably poignant to this day, 30 years after I first read it.
Brian Aldiss has perceptively said that if Stapledon has a successor it is Clarke, and Clarke himself has told us how deeply Stapledon has influenced him. However this book resembles Stapledon in nothing except the scale of the concept. Childhood's End is written by a recognisable human being with power over our emotions -- power indeed! When the overlord first shows himself, I wondered whether the story could ever recover from such a dramatic coup so early on. I need not have worried. The story has not even begun: the truth, when we finally get it not far from the end, wrenches my innards to this day, and between times the crux of the narrative (the seance) is as brilliant a false clue as was ever laid by Agatha Christie. Those of us who have been cursed or maybe blessed with a compulsion to worry about our world and our fate, and who cannot find any clue to it in bibles and such like, are bound to react emotionally to an effort like this. It is not 'tragic' in Aristotle's sense, but for a 'purging of pity and terror' I'm not sure I know anything like it.
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on 7 February 2015
A string of characters view points make up this interesting take on 'alien encounters'. The Overlords are first seen as threatening with their large ships over the biggest cities of Earth. Never revealing themselves sparks suspicions and conspiracy theories. While the Overlords fix and tame the human population. What are their motives?

I found the short book very enjoyable from the start. It manages to contain SO much story, characters and ideas in such a small amount of space (188 pages!). Recommend to anyone interested in Science Fiction elements such as Aliens, Dreams, Superstitions, Evolution. As well as learning about childhood but from the standpoint of a parent and species.

Arthur. C . Clarke manages to show us from Overlords perspective that we as a species are nothing but a ruggedly bunch or children. That are actions as a race should be contained to the planet until we have learnt the causes and effects of our actions. As well as the correct behaviour,
I say correct in the sense of there is an absolute correct path, though the obsession with 'technological progress', 'egocentric mindless wars' and 'passive entertainment' are hindering our race to the point of self destruction.

Here the alien race, after creating the environment that trigger evolution or for a better word realisation of the human children to connect and communicate with the universe.

Of course it contains some elements that I look out for and love to read about Dreams, Superstitions that go beyond explanation of science. So i thoroughly enjoyed the book.
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on 14 August 2014
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back 60 years to Arthur C. Clarke’s fifth published novel it couldn’t be more obvious that he was always going to revolutionise SF. There is a breadth of appreciation here – very few aspects of human life as affected by the Overlords escape him (and his off-hand prediction for television has become distressingly true!) – which hints at the wonderful intellect that would become more apparent in Clarke’s work in the years following Childhood’s End.

You reach a certain point in your reading life where there are authors you just trust: you’ve practically decided before you even opened the book that you’re going to like it, not because you’re slavishly blind to their flaws but rather because you recognise something of their philosophy in your own thinking. Clarke is like that for me (as are Isaac Asimov, John Dickson Carr and Agatha Christie). I forgive him the lack of consistent focus and largely indistinguishable characters in this because there is so much passion, so much love and hope and life and joy, in these pages that who really cares if he doesn’t keep everything on the tightest of reins? So much thought has gone into the scenario he presents, and the development of his ideas is so effortless, so commonsensical, that I prefer to marvel than to nitpick. Others won’t necessarily agree, but if you’re not able to enjoy Clarke then you’re really missing out.

One word of warning: the synopsis on the Tor paperback edition gives away virtually everything, so my suggestion would be to jump straight into the book if you’re buying that version. You’ll have seen a fair few of the ideas here in other forms, and very popular forms they are too, but Clarke getting there first should give you some idea of just how influential the man was. This is beautiful stuff, I really do hope you can see what makes it so special.
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on 28 December 2011
Modern readers of this remarkable story will recognise many of its features. It has been much copied since. The opening scenes have been plagiarised for the start of Independence Day [1996] [DVD], and the theme of humankind evolving to the next level returns in Clarke's more well known series 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This is a gripping story, easily read in an afternoon or evening, that works its way to several climactic scenes, but with increasing pathos. It asks big philosophical questions about man's place in the universe, and its conclusions are more disturbing and unsettling than the more heroic type of science fiction that puts mankind onto the winner's podium.

The handling of religion in the novel is interesting, in the way it both removes it and re-establishes it - perhaps reflecting Clarke's complex journey. He was once a firm believer in the paranormal, and a pantheist, but by the end of his life insisted that no religious rite of any kind be used at his funeral. The arrival of the Guardians on earth starts a Golden era where crime, poverty, disease and religion all disappear. This is the rather naive assertion that science and technology will dispel faith is the same as one finds among many of the "evangelical atheists" of today. The intriguing thing in this novel is the way that Clarke, having murdered religion so publicly, feels he has to stealthily resurrect it in a different guise. The remade humanity is based upon a mystical connection with each other, and the whole plot overseen by a mysterious "overmind" who has mysterious purposes that no-one can divine.

Ahem! Sounds like God to me!

But these are pleasing modern observations on a remarkable novel that is truly classic literature. Read it. Enjoy it. Talk about it.
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on 18 December 2011
Childhood's End is not a long novel but it's ambitious.

Alien spaceships park themselves over major cities and their leader imposes a benign dictatorship enforcing peace and prosperity. Mankind thrives as subjects of the Overlords, and there's no apparent cost in the form of tax and tribute. There are doubters, who resent their loss of freedom, even if that freedom would leave them worse off, but most people acquiesce readily. The big question is Why? Initially, why won't the aliens show themselves? And once that question is answered, why have they come?

Wanting to know the answers drives the reader towards an awesome conclusion, through some rather pedestrian story telling. It seems heretical to say it of a classic novel, but I found its episodic nature jarring. Three sets of characters are introduced and dispensed with, before their characters are realised. They exist to propel us to the Big Idea. Fortunately it is an idea worthy of capital letters, so we are not let down. But Childhood's end might well have ended anticlimactically.

I found myself vaguely annoyed by the middle part of the story, almost as if it were a barrier to finding out what happened. That's both a testament to the power of Clarke's ideas, and a criticism that he could have made more of the journey.

The novel is bracketed by a foreword that gives too much away (though probably no more than you've read in the reviews here on Amazon), and an afterword by Arthur C Clarke on his changing attitude to the paranormal, which is a major theme.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2001
An intriguing tale of aliens visiting the Earth and overseeing the end of humanity. It includes several ideas that combine mythology and pseudo-scientific topics quite well. The plot is not especially complex but one is always aware that Clarke is steering the reader towards an end that was always in mind. This often makes Clarke's tales a relaxing experience because the reader can sit back and let the author direct the imagination. This book is largely ignored in the shadows of Rama and Odyssey and that is an injustice.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2008
I've read about 10 books by Clarke, and this one definetely goes up to my top three along with "2001" and "2010". If you're a Clarke fan, you have to buy it by any means. If you're thinking of going through Clarke's work for the first time, I would recommend to start from here.

What is this all about? Well, I don't want to spoil anything for you. Let's just say it's a story that unfolds throughout a 100 year period (!), and it concerns humankind's first encounter with superior alien forms, and the fate of the human race. While I loved the book, I believe that it has one mayor drawback. Clarke tries to describe a huge story (100 years that is), in less than 300 pages, and that doesn't always work good. I just wish that the book was a little longer, there are so many more things I would like to know about, but... anyway, a great novel nevertheless.

The bottom line is this: I honestly believe that the story of this book is a very realistic, probable, future scenario for humankind, and that says it all. But that's just me...
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