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Childhood's End | [Arthur C. Clarke]

Childhood's End

The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city - intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began.
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Publisher's Summary

The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city - intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began.

But at what cost? With the advent of peace, man ceases to strive for creative greatness, and a malaise settles over the human race. To those who resist, it becomes evident that the Overlords have an agenda of their own.

As civilization approaches the crossroads, will the Overlords spell the end for humankind...or the beginning?

BONUS AUDIO: Includes an exclusive introduction by Hugo Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer, who explains why this novel, written in the 1950s, is still relevant today.

©2001 Arthur C. Clarke; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"In Eric Summerer's capable hands, the plot of Childhood's End is smoothly presented and fully credible. He highlights the patient nature of the Overlords, which has caused humans to become ever more complacent. Summerer excels at delivering the aliens' quiet and intensely engaging dialogue with people. His nuanced performance creates a growing feeling of uneasiness in the listener as the Overlords' insatiable curiosity and watchfulness begin to suggest something less than benign at work." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (3260 )
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4.1 (2257 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Diane 08-10-11
    Diane 08-10-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    170
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    153
    105
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    "Not for me"

    Well. I understand this is classic sci and fi and I am a sci fi fan but I found this long and sometimes boring and predictable. The narrator does a great job and it's imaginative for when it was written but I feel like I been there done that so honestly I didn't finish it which is unusual for me.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Lockport, NY, United States 07-11-11
    Richard Lockport, NY, United States 07-11-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    39
    ratings
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    22
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    "Quaint but severely out of date"

    I am sure when this book was new, it was exciting and thought provoking. However in the light of history and where we are today, it is mearly quaint and naieve. The book now appears simplistic and it is read by a simplistic and uninspired reader.
    Although in its time it may have been a great book, it is out of date and badly read. I cannot recommend.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samir Sanghani Boston, MA 05-03-11
    Samir Sanghani Boston, MA 05-03-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
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    49
    7
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    0
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    "Great potential - unsatisfying ending"

    The forward was a glowing review about how this book is Clarke's best. The story starts strong, draws you in with mysterious but benevolent alien visitors, foreshadows some deep comment about the human race, our history, our self-imposed fate, and something bigger than our world. But the end of the story did not deliver, except for on the last one. There was no deep meaning here that I could appreciate... just a whiz-bang sci fi ending. Oh well.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. Sease Pembroke Pines, FL, United States 04-23-11
    T. Sease Pembroke Pines, FL, United States 04-23-11

    Tom

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    1
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    "Interesting, vivid & depressing vision of future"

    Very interesting and detailed vision of humanity's future but with an apocalyptic ending. As a lifelong Science Fiction fan, I still love Arthur C. Clark's writing but this one was a little hard to take.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mysie Cairns Seattle, WA 07-31-14
    Mysie Cairns Seattle, WA 07-31-14 Member Since 2013

    bibliophile

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    34
    2
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    Story
    "Bittersweet just doesn't cover it"

    My reaction to the ending was so strong that I immediately felt the need to add my voice to the other reviews, to let listeners know that "bittersweet" is just not a strong enough word for it. But instead I had to walk away to put the experience out of my mind. A week later, I can see some of the sweet, but at the time, all I could taste was the bitter. It could have been my tears though.

    This was my first Arthur C. Clarke book, and my impression from reviews was that it would be a good place to start because it was so vital to the genre, being a bit of a basis for "2001". I can easily admit that this take on First Contact is mind blowing. There is so much here to chew on. And I agree that it is vital, a stunning alternative to the First Contact models shown by E.T. (aliens are cool and humans are mean), Star Trek (aliens are generally benevolent and interesting), Contact (aliens are benevolent and aloof - much like this book but without the Big Reveal ending), or Independence Day (aliens are evil warmongers who make us look good). Then again, I haven't read the book 2001, just seen the movie.

    Still, I can't put behind me those tears as humanity finally learned the details of its impending future. The final chapters were just pouring salt on the wound after that. Keep in mind that when a book makes me cry, it's only ever because of a great character dying, never just because of plot development. Until now.

    It's just going to sound like an afterthought after all that, but the other issues I had with the book were how dated it was. In technological examples, it was great, right up there with Heinlein. But where Heinlein's take on human sociology can be somewhat dated and with a bit too much testosterone, Clarke comes off as... naive. With some subtle racism to go with it.

    Or at least I thought the racism was subtle. If you Google "Arthur C. Clarke racism", this book dominates the first page of results, with mentions of "Reunion" and "Cradle". You may or may not be aware of the race-relations concept of "colonialism", but if you read the paper titled "The Overlord's Burden", an excellent case is made about the book and the mindset of Clarke himself.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SciFi Kindle Cheshire, CT USA 02-06-14
    SciFi Kindle Cheshire, CT USA 02-06-14 Member Since 2012

    I'm a Hard SF & Space Opera-loving, alien android from the future. I bring gifts of SciFi eBooks & accessories for your leader's Kindle. Take me to him/her/it.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
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    "Mature 'Big Picture' Story Avoids Much Detail"

    This classic SF story avoids the trap of feeling dated by avoiding careful description of the technologies and wonders displayed in its imaginative future. Instead, the story sticks close to the personal impact of world-changing contact with alien species, told over decades. Written during the opening years of the Cold War, this story brings a swift solution to Mankind's dangerous new abilities by introducing an irresistible alien authority which bans such self-destructive behavior. Clarke then gradually reveals more of his hidden alien Overlords as the decades pass; first their long-concealed physical appearance, and finally their purpose for interference. With an ending neither optimistic nor pessimistic, the reader discovers the meaning of the promise in the story's title. The parade of human characters whose POV we experience the story from are largely forgettable here, instead eclipsed by the benevolent aliens who care for their charges with obvious patience and anguished, reluctant secrecy. The reader will ironically find themselves more closely identifying with the sparsely described aliens than with the story's humans, because their emotions and motivations at least are given. Another minor criticism with the narrative style is a tendency to "tell" rather than "show" with descriptive scenes, which comes to feel as a time-saving device, but impoverishes the story a bit.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William H. Richter MD Defiance OH 01-14-14
    William H. Richter MD Defiance OH 01-14-14 Member Since 2013

    WRichter

    ratings
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    Performance
    Story
    "Trite, supericial, juvenile"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I would have liked this better when I was 12-13 years old.


    What could Arthur C. Clarke have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Science needed to be more in depth. Characters were superficial.


    Did Eric Michael Summerer and Robert J. Sawyer (Introduction) do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Yes/No. Not by voice inflection, but by identifying the character, such as, " (So and so) said,...".


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment. I expected more from Clarke


    Any additional comments?

    I couldn't wait for the book to end. Stayed with it because of the author's reputation. A big mistake.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lucas Theisen Denver, CO USA 11-23-13
    Lucas Theisen Denver, CO USA 11-23-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    10
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    "Maybe I am just not good at reading the classics"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Time was well spent listening to this book, however, as far as classics go, listen to Heinlein... Starship Troopers and Moon is a Harsh Mistress are much better. However, this book was interesting. And the outcome was pretty unique. Probably just not my type of book.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Eric Michael Summerer and Robert J. Sawyer (Introduction) ?

    Narration was good.


    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexander Burke, VA, United States 04-26-12
    Alexander Burke, VA, United States 04-26-12 Member Since 2012

    Computer Tech

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    5
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    "disapointing"
    Would you try another book from Arthur C. Clarke and/or Eric Michael Summerer and Robert J. Sawyer (Introduction) ?

    yes... like rather clark just not this one


    Has Childhood's End turned you off from other books in this genre?

    yesno


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?


    Could you see Childhood's End being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    slow read story line poor.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    hx 11-20-09
    hx 11-20-09 Member Since 2010

    I'm an astronomer. Scifi is all I ever read/watch/listen to. (with the occasional epic fantasy here and there, for diversity :)

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Oh, no."

    Oh wow, I really didn't like this. What a depressing and pointless book. Not that sci-fi books are obliged to be hilariously entertaining at all times but pointlessness is inexcusable. There was no character development. Even if I strongly disliked the main idea of the book (the end of days of mankind is boring, I think) I would still have been interested in seeing the emotional turmoil of the Overlords explored. Their's must be a loneliness worth a thousand books, and all they got were a few hurried sentences.

    5 of 23 people found this review helpful
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