Childhood's end Review and Opinion

2019/05/07

Childhood's End
Arthur C. Clarke
Gollancz hardcover £14.99

review by Tony Lee

First published in 1953, this is rated by many as Clarke's finest work, and one of the very best SF novels ever. It certainly does explore many eternally popular genre themes - from humanity's first contact with extraterrestrials, to directed evolution, and the time-dilation effect in interstellar travel, while marking one of this - usually strictly rational - author's most intriguing connections with the paranormal, and psychic powers.
   The aliens arrive in giant ships that fill the skies over major cities of the world - as Clarke notes in his foreword, written in 1989, this scene was visualised in the TV series V (and, of course, more recently in the overblown Independence Day). Although these Overlords remain hidden, they quietly bring about a utopian age for mankind. Then, following half a century of influence and observation of human affairs, the aliens reveal their mysterious physical nature only to inform the world that everything is about to change...
   Due to this book's age, the first section has been revised by Clarke to take into account some of the factual inaccuracies that decades of recent history had inflicted upon the plot. This new edition, published in hardcover as part of a top 10 range in the Gollancz imprint's SF Masterworks series, is still a lucid and fascinating read. As a saga of transcendence, many critics have noted that the grand sweep of its ideas rivals the best work from Stapledon. And, although Clarke's take on the immense complexities of metaphysics, organised religion and philosophy might come over as rather superficial by the consummate standards of millennial SF, there's really no denying the boldness of his reach in a novel of only 200 pages.

Related pages:
tZ The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke
tZ 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
tZ 2001: A Space Odyssey - unofficial magazine about the classic movie
tZ Big Planet: the worlds of Jupiter in SF - by Steven Hampton

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