Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

To cut to the chase, I was going to give this 6 stars (out of 10) as I was approaching the end of the story. Clarke put together so many solid sci-fi ideas in this novel, but the connection with characters just wasn’t there. However, this novel finished strong. The resolution made the emotional impact of all the science-y plot lines hit home. It may be some of the best “what if” writing – and it was written more than 60 years ago. Childhood’s End gets a solid seven stars (a strong recommendation).

 
The book starts when aliens make first contact with Earth. Mankind has to bow under the recognition of a superior race that has mastered the stars. The result may be a typical sci-fi utopia, but Clarke wrestles with the societal impact such peace and prosperity have. Again, he only semi-succeeds in this. Without revealing more, it’s only at the titular “end” that he reaches beyond the standard fare of speculative fiction. How would we today respond having all worldly troubles removed? Is that the dawn of a new age or merely a move to cultural stagnation? Clarke does his best to make the reader contemplate these issues.

 
His future “repudiates both optimism and pessimism.” There’s actually a poignancy that he finds here that sticks with you. It reminds me of how I felt toward the close of Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos. Maybe there’s a loss when humanity progresses past its inherent foibles. Many consider this to be Clarke’s best work. I’m not sure that I enjoyed it more than Rendezvous with Rama, but it definitely has deeper insight. A Top 100 Sci-Fi Book List that I’ve been reading through has this listed as #19 of all time. It may not be my #19, but I’m not going to quibble with this ranking. A solid book to add to your library.

 

7 stars out of 10

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