I read quite a few reviews before deciding to purchase this book. As surprised I was about the negative reviews, I do understand where they came from. However, that didn't stop me from giving this book 5 stars. One of the biggest complaints I saw was about the lack of character development. I think because the storyline spans well over 100 years and is told through different characters, you're really not going to get a ton of character development. Just enough to keep the storyline moving along. I think that worked well for this book but, obviously, many will disagree with me. Another criticism is that it has a dark, pessimistic view of human nature. This is very much true...at least, in the first part of the book. The Overlord, Karellen, tells humans they have "a notable incapacity for dealing with the problems of its own rather small planet." I'm a pretty pessimistic person and I agreed with every word of Karellen's speech. However, much later in the book, we discover that there is a kind of hope for the human race. The last major criticism was Clarke's incorporation of paranormal activities in the plot. I thought it was very interesting that he would throw that in there as well. It's explained much later in the book...suffice to say, science has not explained all the mysteries in life and maybe never will. At least, not in my lifetime. This book isn't for everyone. Some readers will downright hate it and understandably so. However, if you can get past these three main criticisms, I think it's definitely worth the read.
Probably my favorite SF book of all time. Written in 1953, and yet, the essential question posed by the story is still the definitive question we will face if confronted with a vastly superior life form, presenting fundamental changes to our existence. It starts out as a "strait" hard science early-SF novel, but morphs into so much more. I wish I could go into more detail, but that would be a HUGE spoiler. Read it. This is one of the VERY few SF novels that I recommend to my non-SF friends - and they have all loved it.
I was going to read a couple chapters and go to bed. Next thing you know, its 9am and the book is finished. And I am now a different person. lol you know the feeling, its one of those. I would say this is his greatest book. Even better than the Space Odyssey books.
CAREFUL, they just made a SyFy miniseries and even looking it up on IMDB blows major plot points from the pictures.
Do not be put off by the age of the book – this is first-rate science fiction, a timeless classic. Arthur C. Clarke (of “2001 – a Space Odyssey" fame) published “Childhood’s End” in 1953, and though a very prolific author, this is one of his best. There are a number of small points in the book that will date the writing to around 1950, but the theme, powerful ideas, and superb writing make this a worthy read in the twenty-first century for anyone who enjoys science fiction. The title, “Childhood’s End” is a metaphor for the evolution of the human race to a higher level. That evolution is shepherded by an alien species called Overlords in the book. In only 226 pages, Clarke takes us through an understanding of the Overloads and their somewhat benign relationship with man, a visit to the aliens’ home world, and the evolution of our species. His prose is tight and gorgeous; and paints marvelous pictures throughout the story. It is an easy, quick read that will stay with you long after. Why this book has not been turned into a film is beyond me, although I do think it has probably inspired many other movies. Some readers complain the book is a bit of a downer. I did not read it that way at all. I highly recommend “Childhood’s End” to any science fiction fan.
Read this years ago and just ordered it for my Kindle.
I'm a life-long SF fan and Arthur C. Clarke is near the top of my list of great authors. His writing is beautiful and evocative. I still have a mental image from one of his books of a monorail on the Moon dipping into shadow then rising into sunlight, and from another of a guy floating on a long tether, surrounded by stars, between Earth and Mars.
He was no mere dreamer; he had a lot to do with Britain's radar defenses in WW2 and is credited with inventing the idea of communication satellites.
Clarke is best known for his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Childhood's End is not as well known but is a strong book with good science fiction concepts and hints of mysticism, exactly the combination that made 2001 worth endless midnight discussions.
Aliens arrive on earth and they look sort of familiar to many humans. The question is how do humans react over time, and why are the aliens here? Along with all the standard trappings of science fiction - time and space travel, alien beings, Utopian civilization that may be too good to be true - there are plenty of biblical and apocalyptic references hurled into the mix. These elements are not suppose to work together - hard science and new age style ruminations are usually considered the opposite of one another. And yet Clarke's strong writing and good character development makes it work. A quick read but also with plenty to chew on.
I first read this book in the '60s, when I was about 12 ... what impressed me then, in the midst of the Cold War, was the sense that mankind could have a greater destiny, and could perhaps overcome the political turmoil that threatened nuclear destruction at any moment. The story is still as gripping 50 years later, and of course I understand the scope of the story now better than I did as a child, even though I notice little indications of the 50s mindset (like everything being from a very male perspective). Anyway, this is one of the great classics that every SF fan should read.