Donovan's Reviews > Childhood's End

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
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Feb 25, 08

Read in September, 2007

Let me begin by saying that I adore Arthur C. Clarke. I think he is one of the most brilliant people in the world and that we are better off for having him around. He puts the “science” into “science fiction”; heck, he puts the “science” into just about everything. We can thank him for the telecommunications satellite for goodness sake.

I first became familiar with him through the television series “In Search Of”, a show about the mysteries of the world and possible paranormal or otherworldly phenomena. It was presented the wondrous mysteries of our world along with non-judgmental reasoning. I loved this show, and I am grateful to it for fostering in me a skeptical, scientific spirit.

Quite a few of the books on the list are currently available in editions with new author introductions for just that reason. I often find myself far more engaged by the introductions of these works than the books themselves. The introduction to Childhood’s End is no exception. We have the advantage of being in the future that a fair number of these books are writing about, giving us a different perspective than their contemporary readers would have had; thus, the introduction speaks in a voice that is easier to relate to than the space-race, Cold War voice that the novel is written in.

At this point, I almost feel like I should read it again because it’s been at least six months since I read it, but I don’t think I enjoyed it enough to reread it for pleasure just yet. It was curious book, and it touched on so many subjects: religion, politics, evolution, social structures, human nature, that I can understand its worth and importance in the SFBC’s list. In fact, during the course of writing this criticism, I am really impressed by Clark’s treatment of human nature in Childhood’s End, from our fear of the unknown and our perception of what is evil to our paradoxical quest for knowledge despite our fears and perceptions.

I’ve been surprised by the number of books on this list that are so seemingly small. Childhood’s End is one of these deceptive-looking, slim volumes. It contains two [and very nearly three] separate stories, neither of which seemed diminished by their sparse pages. It was akin to having an excellent meal; I was left feeling full and satisfied, but I could have eaten just one more bite. However, that slight desire for more is a part of the experience, and part of what makes it great.

Another thing about there being two stories is that the first one is very grounded in reality with just a smattering of the hallmarks of science fiction. The second one is mind-openingly out there with space travel and other planets and super powers and evolution. It feels like Clarke wants to ease us in to accepting these concepts, much like the Overlords ease humanity into accepting their role in the evolution of the universe.

All-in-all, it was a good book and I’m glad I was finally forced to read it. It deserves it’s place on the list.
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