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on 12 December 2017
Finally got around to reading this after having watched the three part TV adaptation. As ever, the book is better. Not Arthur C Clarke at his very best but still worth reading, more so considering it is over fifty years since it was first published. A seemingly benign alien invasion where war is no more, along with the end of starvation and inhumanity. The only price to pay is the end of the space race. Naturally it isn't a smooth ride for mankind. A fine addition to your sci-fi collection.

Ray Smillie
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on 10 September 2016
The image of giant craft hanging over the cities of the world has such allure that many a Science fiction movie starts this way. Arthur C Clarke's opening may seem familiar to us now, through others over using it, but the mystery he weaves with what follows is where the magic of his story telling is unique.
This version is revised (from the 1953 original) by Clarke himself; the new opening chapter and others passages put in to account for the rapid growth in space exploration in the decades after its original release and to revitalize the "dated" feel that Clarke felt it had acquired.
The core of the story remains; the previously mentioned ships appearing over cities and the alien "Overlords" being initially unwilling to reveal their form to mankind.
The Overlord "Supervisor" speaks only to the UN Secretary General, who is brought onto his craft for meetings in front of a blank screen. Karellen, as he is called, says that they will reveal their form only after 50 years have passed. In the mean time humanity's world is charged forever. Gone is war, famine, crime and most of the morbidity that plagues the human race. Countries become mere provinces of earth, religion virtually disappears. Mankind enters a Golden Age, Earth becoming almost a utopia.
When Karellen reveals his form to the world there is initially shock, but soon it becomes accepted. There is still that nagging doubt though "Why are they here? What is their plan for mankind?"
As the story unfolds, over decades, the question is always there. No single main character is followed we see the stages of the story through different eyes. The only constant is Karellen. Clarke tells an engaging and fascinating tale, full of questions about the nature of humanity. Why did the Overlords come? Are their motives as benign as they claim? Why do they share so much with humanity, giving them the gifts of peace and prosperity and advances in technology. Only to keep much from them and allow them only as far as the moon ( with strict Overload controls). Their enigmatic answer "The planets are for Man, but not the Stars" only fuels the curiosity of some.
To tell more would only be a spoiler, so I would just say read it for yourself, it's wonderful. The journey it takes the reader, and indeed mankind, on is always engaging and often surprising. Clarke's ability to put incredible images onto the page then project them into the reader's head is magical.
Wonderful storytelling.
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on 11 July 2016
I read this book in my youth, and remember how vivid and memorable some of the imagery was. The image of children round a pillar of light, that is the collective overmind has stayed with me until now.
Recently I watched the TV series, and then re-read the book, as I wanted to see what had changed, and I couldn't remember the story. Whilst the TV series has the main events from the book, and some of the main characters, the flow is completely different, and the shape of the events is chronologically different, although the ending is roughly the same. A modern update.
So, the book was first published in the 50s, and retains all that decades styles and attitudes. It has no modern 'realism' (or technology), and no 'action' sequences. It is largely historical/philosophical in nature, with some strong poetic imagery. Clarke dives in, on a personal level, to show people's reactions to the monumental events occurring to society. Those interactions with the characters are flawed by the dated writing, but are nonetheless not too distracting, merely giving it period feel. Like reading an HG Wells story.
I still like this story. It carries the reader along, and never gets boring, even though it feels slightly old fashioned. The imagery is still inspiring, and of course, the idea of benevolent aliens is still different from the usual 'Alien/Predator' axis. For which I am very grateful!
Read it yourself; it's not long, and if Science Fiction is your thing, then the ideas that Clarke creates are stunning. Well worth a read.
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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 14 August 2015
A very clever and ultimately quite disturbing book. Written in 1953, Arthur C. Clarke correctly anticipates the arrival of birth control pills, DNA testing, virtual reality and a whole host of other things which have since come to pass. The only thing which he (and many others from the 50's and indeed more recently) seem to have missed is the fact that camera films and recording tapes whilst not exactly obsolete, are certainly no longer the most convenient forms of storage medium!

The story follows the final days of humankind (as we know it), and builds to a thought-provoking and somewhat distressing climax, but with an underlying hope that maybe there is something else out there for us in the universe. This book has become a fully-deserving classic of its genre, - it is worth reading just for the sheer intelligence of the writing alone, even if you're not a sci-fi fan.
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on 27 March 2016
AGain a book to keep on your shelves and read again and again. Clarke had a gift for peering into the future and showing us...possibilities.
A masterful tale told with skill and ... I rather think... a little unease about what he was proposing . Rerad, shiover, and go bacl over certaqin parts and you will be transported into a world that might just happen.The present TV series has chopped up the narrative and although.. if you have not read the book it will intrique you.. my advice is the READ the BOOK and forget the TV version Clarke and Bradbury.. what `a delight to read anything of theirs
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on 9 November 2015
Childhood's End is a Science Fiction Great, featuring over arching story lines starting in the past and ending in the future. The plot lines span multiple generations allowing you to really experience the story's effects as it progresses. Arthur Clarke doesn't try to explain why things work in his world, he simply writes that it does work. In fact it works rather well, as a reader I was prone to just accepting something rather than questioning why does it do that or how can it do that? Many SF books will try to explain putting the "Science" in SF but it quite often is over kill, its not fiction if its made to be fact.

A final say on this book, there is no jaded protagonist who some how saves the world with just 1 ship like so many other books. 4/5

The 5th star would have been Arthur Clarke had considered keeping his universe open rather than ending on 1 book. Much like the Culture novels by Ian M Banks, Arthur created a mystifying universe but doesn't play on this.
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on 13 April 2013
Let me start by saying that this is a great book and i read it in 2 sittings, so that should give you some idea of the quality!

Also to give this book it's due, it was written in about 1953 i think, it holds up astonishingly well considering. I had o remind myself how long ago it was written and how the world seemed almost likeit is today, apart from a few obvious technological 'facts' i book that are clearly bunkum.

This book clearly influenced films like Independence Day and the mini series 'V' so there isnt a great deal new in the book for a modern audience apart from the aliens themselves and the whole point of them coming to Earth in the first place! Much has been made about this and i have to say i was a little underwhelmed, perhaps i was expecting too much?

You should definitely buy this book if you like Sci-fi, this was my first Arthur C Clark boo even though im an avid science fiction fan and i will be checking more out.
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on 18 July 2017
Famous novel, bought again to compare with the 3-part movie version. The book, at least is terrific and the film proved that it is in the end, unfilmable.
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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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