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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential - Not quite fiction
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...
Published on 16 Feb 2008 by ImmortalWind

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I liked it and hated it at the same time
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...
Published 6 months ago by Mel Powell


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential - Not quite fiction, 16 Feb 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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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, thought provoking SF which is still relevent today., 11 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Childhood's End (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars I am glad to be able to have read this book., 27 Sep 2007
By 
D. Martin "DpMDpMDpM" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Childhood's End (Paperback)
I'd heard about this book while trawling the Internet a few times, but had never actually got around to buying it. I'm not a great fan of Arthur C. Clarke to be frank - although I have read the 20xx and Rama books and greatly enjoyed those.

Childhood's end is quite short and I'd describe the writing style as both simple and a little outdated. Perfectly reasonable when you understand it was written many years ago - a revamped beginning helps it along though. You don't really get time to build up a relationship with any of the main protaganists to be honest... they're almost always on the periphery as the story is, in reality, much bigger than any one person can ever be.

The ideas are grand as you'd expect... here we can see a potential end (or beginning) to Humankind both sad and awe-inspiring at the same time but, nevertheless, truly alien - it's the end for what we would all feel comfortable describing as a Human. The concept of an enforcement, shepherd race is almost reassuring in one way and, then again, despairing (if not at least for them!) and the idea in here of a genetic memory is probably the earliest I'd personally place it in any work of fiction.

Considering this is touted as a classic, it should be on most people's To-Read list I would suggest. It was on mine and now I have bought it and read it I am pleased I did so... it's not a book that you'd ever really need to go back to though - read it once and file it away somewhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best of the golden age of sci-fi, 27 May 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Childhood's End (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I liked it and hated it at the same time, 21 Jun 2014
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars SUBLIME, 7 July 2002
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Childhood's End (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Childhood’s End, the beginning of modern SF, 14 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Childhood's End (Paperback)
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of humanity without the flash of lasers, 6 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Childhood's End (Paperback)
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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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best, 8 Mar 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Childhood's End (Paperback)
For anyone who claims that science fiction is a genre that cannot produce classic literature, they should read Childhood's End. It provides, compact, readible philsophy of the first kind; something you rarely find. Childhood's end confront the value of mere survival for humaniy. A wonderful book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An early masterwork from Clarke, 5 Jan 2012
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Humanity is about to launch its first manned mission to another world. Finally, the human race is about to escape its cradle and take its first step towards the stars. But on the eve of the launch the skies over the Earth's major cities are blotted out by the appearance of huge, alien spacecraft. The Overlords have arrived, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Arthur C. Clarke is one of the most famous writers the science fiction field has ever produced, thanks to his work on the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and his role as a popular science commentator (he covered several of the Apollo moon landings for American television and had several successful TV series in the 1980s). Clarke's work is notable for its straightforwardness (he was never a great prose stylist) but also its scientific rigour. With a few exceptions, Clarke had little truck with what he considered to be some of the more fantastical concepts of SF (such as faster-than-light travel and artificial gravity) and did not use them in his work. In his view, the universe is vast, timeless and unknowable. Much of Clarke's work is notable for a certain melancholic optimism: the human race can be much more than it is now, but even so is unlikely to challenge the vastness of the universe.

Childhood's End was published in 1953 and was his fourth novel, although his first published in the United States, where it immediately established him as a major voice in the field. In many ways it is atypical Clarke. The aliens are comprehensible and easily relate to human beings, unlike the enigmatic entities of say 2001 or Rendezvous with Rama. At the same time, his normal scientific vigour is a little slacker than normal, as concepts such as telepathy and group consciousnesses are explored (Clarke had a passing fascination with the supernatural at the time, though later firmly rejected such notions). Clarke's influences are clear, with the presence of Olaf Stapledon particularly hard to ignore.

The novel is extremely concise, with my paperback copy clocking in at 160 pages. For its short page count, the novel is fairly epic. It is split into three sections, each with a distinct cast, focus and storyline (unsurprising, as the first section was originally a stand-alone short story). In the first, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has to oversee the painful transformation of humanity from bickering nation-states to a single world government. In the second, a family 'escape' the Overlords' utopia to live in an island commune free of their influence, only to discover the real reason for the Overlords' arrival on Earth. In the final section, a lone human who stowed away aboard an Overlord ship returns to Earth eighty years later (though only a few months later by his count, due to time dilation) to find a world vastly changed from the one he left. Clarke doesn't waste a word as he lets the story unfold inexorably, moving to a conclusion that looms somewhere between awe-inspiring and horrific.

As a novelist, Clarke was much more interested in ideas (thematic, scientific or both) than people. His characterisation was often variable, although Childhood's End is actually one of his better books in that regard. Its major protagonists (even the Overlords) are clearly defined and sympathetic. In terms of structure, Childhood's End is unusual in that the entire story is pre-ordained, and nothing any of the characters do can change what is happening. They - and the reader - can only witness it and make their own minds up about whether it is something that can be called 'good' or not, and I suspect many will fall on the 'not' end of the spectrum.

As a result Childhood's End can be viewed as a colossal tragedy. The book has a tremendous emotional charge as it poses a simple question: how would we face it if our way of existing ended tomorrow? Clarke's answer is surprisingly bleak but, one suspects, one that would be close to the truth.

The novel has aged in some respects. The first edition opened with the USA and USSR battling to land a man on the moon, since Apollo 11 was still sixteen years in the future at the time it was published. Clarke also makes a very dated joke where he discusses how the Overlords have to force the rulers of South Africa to treat all their citizens equally regardless of skin colour. The 'joke' is that by this time majority rule in South Africa has been restored, and it's the white population that's being mistreated. An amusing aside in 1953 actually feels rather cynical today, assuming as it does that the African population would be as racist and authoritarian as the white one was. However, another point about how the people of Israel bitterly resist being absorbed into the Overlords' hegemony and giving up the freedom they have spent centuries fighting for, is more resonant. There's also a recurring problem in Clarke's work where he underestimates the power of religion, and the sequences where the Overlords' arrival causes the downfall of all world religions in a matter of months are rather unconvincing.

In most respects, Childhood's End (****½) has not aged badly at all, and its central themes of parenthood and the futility of railing against the night - but the effort nevertheless being laudable - remain interesting. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
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Childhoods End
Childhoods End by Clarke C. (Mass Market Paperback - 1 Nov 1972)
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