Childhood's End tells the story of an alien invasion—no, occupation. Well, not technically that either. A sort of alien...arrival, and subsequent guChildhood's End tells the story of an alien invasion—no, occupation. Well, not technically that either. A sort of alien...arrival, and subsequent guidance and influence over the progression of mankind. At first the aliens (dubbed "Overlords", but they aren't) refuse to show themselves, but when human curiosity is pushed to its peek, with rumors and distrust mounting against the aliens, they promise to show themselves in 50 years time. When they do, it's obvious why they chose to hide themselves for so long; their appearance conjures up mostly forgotten (by then) symbols of evil and fear. During their time on Earth, the aliens gradually influence changes that end war, poverty, crime, etc. and lead to a utopian existence. Along the path to utopia, however, many of the more creative aspects of human culture are lost or greatly diminished, along with much of mankind's ingenuity. But the full price of utopia, the consequence of utopia, is much more grave than anyone could have ever imagined.
I really enjoyed this book until I reached the last 6 chapters and it became incredibly depressing for me...But not so much so that it stopped me from reading to the end. Mostly because I felt I'd come so far, I should at least find out how it ends. I suppose, though, you could say the fact that the ending of the book affected me so strongly is a testament to Clarke's writing.
Other than the ending, there was one...quirk (for lack of a better word) in the novel that kind of irked me. Apparently, in Clarke's vision of this utopian future where there is no racial prejudice or tension, it has become common place and acceptable—expected, even—to refer to black people as "n*gger" (Oh god, I feel uncomfortable even asterisking it).
Clarke writes: "The convenient word 'n*gger' was no longer taboo in polite society, but was used without embarrassment by everyone. It had no more emotional content than such labels as republican or methodist, conservative or liberal."
I get that Earth was supposed to be an ultra tolerant and accepting society at that point in the book, but I just don't think they could have gotten to that point without ending the use of such racial slurs as "the n-word", whether the use faded coincidentally or was purposefully banned. Words like that, which have been used to hurl abuse at people for several decades (centuries, even), don't just become as innocuous a description as "methodist" or "liberal" (though in today's political climate...) in the course of a couple generations. Logically, most peoples' first action toward ending racial intolerance (or any type of intolerance) would be to end the use of epithets that contribute to the intolerance—not to make those epithets fare game for anyone to use as completely acceptable descriptors. The whole notion that black people would be content with a word that has such a vitriolic past being adopted as the go-to word to identify them is just absurd. That aspect of Clarke's vision of future equality made me cringe. It kind of comes off like a slightly racist privileged-white-guy who doesn't realize he seems a bit racist... Or maybe I'm just being too sensitive *shrug*...more