Over at Of Blog of the Fallen, Larry issued a challenge to read a book written before 1960 and give a review. I thought this was a great idea and began to scour my shelf for some older stuff, but kept finding books from the ‘70s and almost gave up until I found Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.
Like the only other Clarke novel I’ve read, Rendezvous with Rama, even though Childhood’s End was written decades ago (and in this case over half a century), Clarke has the amazing ability to create a future that is still believable and just as interesting as I’m sure it was when it was first written.
Earth is on the cusp of entering into space, when space comes to earth. Out of nowhere come what the people of Earth begin to call the “Overlords”. People quickly learn that nothing can be done about them and the fact that everyone is subject to their will. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. Immediately, the standard of living goes up, wars stop, and people have much more free time (the average work week even shortens to 20 hours a week).
Thus enters the first ethical dilemma; is it better to be free or live in a world where peace and prosperity abound? Most of the world accepts the rule, though they really have no choice in the matter, while a few factions continue to fight for freedom. Add to this the fact that the Overlords refuse to divulge their intent and only refer to themselves as guardians of the human race.
I have to say I enjoyed Childhood’s End from start to finish. The story evolves quite a bit and the ending half of the book is much different than the beginning while losing nothing of the story. I do have to warn you not to read the blurb on the back of the book (at least my 1978 printing) because it gives away some events that don’t even occur until the end, which I was waiting to happen from the beginning.
Who should read this?
If you are in the mood for a philosophical novel that doesn’t seem so at first glance, Childhood’s End might be for you. This is a quick read with a surprisingly interesting end.
3/5 Stars for the Cover