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Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke

02 Aug

AdulthoodBlotting out the light from the stars they have linked so effortlessly, the silent ships hang suspended over the great cities of Earth…

Armed with a staggering power and an infinite wisdom the invaders from outer space shock Earth into submission – but what is their purpose?

To mention any more of the story would be to give away key plot points and like film trailers, books are sadly not immune from giving things away before you even get to the main feature.  Even my 1956 Pan edition gave some important things away but the newer copies are even worse. It’s a risky business this book buying.

I love this cover, it’s wonderfully dramatic and of its time and being one of those annoying fault picking people I can’t help but imagine the cost of the repair bill from the sonic boom that that ship appears to be causing.

There is something quaint about this book, with a familiar Cold War beginning and then the imagined future in which people are starting to watch three hours of TV a day!  Clarke may be celebrated for preempting technological advances and such but he was pretty up on the social aspect as well. It doesn’t feel too archaic though, it’s a pleasant jaunt, a B-movie in a book or B-lit as I term it.

Once into the book, the familiar Clarke theme of our place in the universe, our journey through the stars and time if you will is explored.  The scale of the notion is impressive, for most of the book these bigger scale concepts are largely played down in favour of the more human side of things, unlike the Rama series and the Odyssey books where the big ideas were the major focus.  This difference in focussing makes for a more subtle approach to the stories of our civilisation and its adaptation to the new and the abstract.

For all this though, it’s not a challenge to read and by no means hard sci-fi, it’s a good literary example of the genre, one that should appeal to all readers and not just fans of the genre.  at 188 pages, this is a book that can be demolished in one or two sittings, it’s impressive that a book can attempt this size and scale as well as a large time period within such a short space of paper.  Any book that teaches me a new word, in this case ‘seriatim’ is always going to get my vote and that is by far the stand out word of the book yet also slightly jarring when read in context with the rest of the easy to read story.

The book is structured into three separate acts, mainly focussing on smaller aspects of the seismic event of alien contact and it’s refreshing to see the details of human life going on as well as the profound nature of the meaning of life and all that, it is fascinating to see the small part and it does add to the gravitas major themes.  The characters are not the deepest but the narrative is ideas driven and the lack of depth is balanced out by the exploration of the impact extraterrestrials would have on religion and science, redefining both as we know them.

The overall mystery broods above all else in this book, it’s always there but takes it’s time to get to the reveal which is well worth the wait. It’s an impressive climax which is powerful and very visual as you would expect from Clarke.  His imagery of space is always magisterial which despite its scope is always understated.  A book that leaves the reader plenty to contemplate is always a good thing and this is definitely that and rightly one of the SF Masterworks range.

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37 Comments

Posted by on 02/08/2015 in Sci-Fi

 

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37 responses to “Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke

  1. Bumba

    02/08/2015 at 18:45

    Thank you for this one. I avoid science fiction books (though Vonnegut is often classified as sci fi) and generally avoid all genre novels, and I would think to give Arthur Clarke a try. For some nice images, go to the NASA app and site.

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    • Ste J

      02/08/2015 at 18:53

      Clarke is a top author, 2001 and Rendezvous with Rama are both awesome books as well, all of them end up being quick reads despite their epicicity. I think all these books would be up your street but this one has a touch of everything, the big, the small and the beyond. I love a good image, it amazes me that these things are real, they seem like they belong in the fantastical imaginations of writers.

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  2. Andrea Stephenson

    02/08/2015 at 19:21

    Definitely sounds like one to read Ste. I’ve never read Arthur C Clarke but I do remember being glued to the mysterious world television series!

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    • Ste J

      02/08/2015 at 19:28

      The questions he poses and the worlds he realises really are wonderfully thought out and logical. The mysteries of Out There really are so enchanting to us curious creatures.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  3. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    02/08/2015 at 20:25

    I’ve been immersing myself in SF recently…with books and Netflix…so this one sounds like it might fit right in. Looked up seriatim, would like to be able to say this word will remain ingrained in my brain for the remainder of my life…however…I doubt it. Please be kind and do not grade me on grammar and punctuation! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    • Ste J

      02/08/2015 at 20:39

      Haha, I will do my best, promise. There are some great films out there, Interstellar, Moon and Europa Report were all films I enjoyed. Clarke is certainly an author you won’t want to miss.

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      • Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

        02/08/2015 at 21:35

        🙂 I know you will 🙂 I’m going to have to check on Interstellar and Moon…Europa Report I’ve seen…probably time to watch it again. I saw and read 2001: A Space Odyssey and I read the sequel…imagine my excitement when I…just…discovered that there are 2 more books in this series. I’m in SF heaven. So thank you…without the prompt I’d never have found these books!

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        • Ste J

          03/08/2015 at 18:05

          The last two books aren’t as good as the first two but worth a read anyway and Rendezvous With Rama has that epic feel to it as well. There are certain similarities with 2001 and Interstellar as well which is visually stunning whereas Moon is the opposite and a nice understated film that has Kevin Spacey in and Matt Berry in as well who has the best voice ever.

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  4. Jill Weatherholt

    02/08/2015 at 20:39

    Great review, Ste J. This sounds like an interesting read. I’m with you, the cover is amazing.

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    • Ste J

      02/08/2015 at 20:50

      A lot of covers these days tend to forget the heritage of the classic age of Sci-Fi, I think covers like this enhance the feel of the book so I try to seek out all the covers like this when picking books of the genre.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  5. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    02/08/2015 at 21:14

    I love Clarke’s work! The Odyssey series and Rendezvous With Rama… 🙂 haven’t read this one….adding it to my list…Thanks for letting me know of this… 🙂

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    • Ste J

      03/08/2015 at 17:04

      I picked this one up at random having never heard of it either, it’s fun to find new books by a great author but also disconcerting that it wasn’t already on my wish list. I have another one somewhere, the name I can’t recall off hand but I will be seeking it out soon thanks to this one.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

        04/08/2015 at 21:28

        Oh..you know, I can’t recall the names of books at times. I remember the whole story, every minute details of the plot but I have a tendency to forget the name 😦 Don’t know why it happens.

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        • Ste J

          08/08/2015 at 19:57

          I think you get that invested in the story that everything else becomes secondary, thankfully we have the internet so no more going into libraries asking for the book about ‘the thing that had a thing that was misunderstood and flew about’, lol.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  6. Purpleanais

    02/08/2015 at 22:15

    I read this ages ago but I really enjoyed it, and I’m not a sci-fi fan at all.

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    • Ste J

      03/08/2015 at 17:44

      The big ideas transcend genres and it’s great to dabble in different styles of writing as well. If a book could get people into sci-fi then this is a good option.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. clarepooley33

    03/08/2015 at 00:51

    I have actually read this one!! My husband is a sci-fi addict and when we first met he persuaded me to read two or three books he thought I might like. It was certainly an interesting read and well written (though I can’t remember all of it). Sadly it didn’t make me a sci-fi fan as my favourite books are set in the world I know rather than ‘what if….’ books.

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    • Ste J

      03/08/2015 at 18:26

      Your husband has good taste! I do enjoy literature that makes me think and this certainly does that, it’s a shame it didn’t encourage you to read more, I will have to look out some more sci-fi to see if I can’t sway you because I enjoy a challenge, like chop sticks and trying to get through a whole episode of Deal or no Deal without shouting ‘you can’t have a system, it’s a random game of chance’, I’ve never managed the latter.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • clarepooley33

        04/08/2015 at 00:24

        Haha! I can see you are also a glutton for punishment. I won’t say I’ll never read another sci-fi book but it has got to be a really good one. I have got to the age now when I consider reading a book I know I won’t enjoy a waste of precious time. I have to think really carefully about books I *might* not like too. When younger I would read anything and I think I still have a quite catholic taste in books but when I think of all the books I know I *will* like and haven’t read yet there’s no competition!

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        • Ste J

          08/08/2015 at 20:01

          I do think long and hard about the sci-Fi I read, I think that is why I only stick to a few authors but I did take a punt on Slaris and loved that book. it is the age old question though, do I risk a book that could be great or stick with what I know or is likely to be a good book. Both are fraught with dangers I find, the indecision of picking a book usually lasts for about 60 pages into my new book with me.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  8. macjam47

    03/08/2015 at 01:53

    Great review! Did that amazing cover have anything to do with your choosing to read this?

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    • Ste J

      03/08/2015 at 17:02

      It did and it was a close call between this or the spaceman riding a missile through space, I know what i’m getting with Clarke though so will save the other for a time when I’m feeling in a less contemplative mood.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  9. shadowoperator

    03/08/2015 at 16:47

    Hi, Ste J. You put me to shame with the variety of the books you explore: I’m more or less just an English and Comparative Literature person, and I read very few genre books, though by accident I started a book recently which seemed to have no specific direction, and then changed direction twice more before it settled down to be quite a horror thriller (you’ll see it if you read my next post, but I’m not going to spoil it for you). But back to Clarke–I do have a copy of “Rendezvous With Rama” somewhere, but though I’ve heard many times before of it and of “Childhood’s End,” I’ve never read either. I guess I went through a stage of reading sci-fi when I was young, and then put it aside as I got older. That’s a shame, in a way, because it’s often thought-provoking and mind-broadening. Anyway, thanks for the post. I hope to get to Clarke someday.

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    • Ste J

      03/08/2015 at 18:18

      I look forward to your next post (for some reason on my phone auto correct keeps changing forward to forehead) as I always do. I find myself to bouncy to stay with anything long, I hate to outstay my welcome. Rendezvous is a good read, the characters, like this one are a little cardboard but the scope of the thing is massive and the mystery always appeals to my sensibilities. I am always wary of the genre though because I have my preferences and there is probably a lot not to my taste. At least I know I’m safe with Sir art.

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  10. leapingtracks

    05/08/2015 at 08:20

    Good old ACC – the master at work. I was just looking at your other sci-fi reviews to see if you had covered any Iain M Banks stuff (I have always found his sci-fi writing difficult to get into. Any views?). Was v interested to read your Solaris review though & will add that to the list, cheers.

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    • Ste J

      08/08/2015 at 19:45

      I haven’t read any Iain M. Banks stuff, I blame the plethora of choice out there for that. I think I am still a little wary of Sci-Fi and am being cautiously picky. I did love Solaris, it was one of those books I knew I would love within a few pages, I hope you love it like I did.

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  11. Nicholas Conley

    05/08/2015 at 18:24

    Great book, great author.

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    • Ste J

      08/08/2015 at 19:38

      There is nothing like a bit of Clarke to widen perceptions and make space seem epic.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  12. Sherri

    08/08/2015 at 16:59

    This cover is so evocative of those space stories I grew up with…not to mantion a strange, recurrent dream I used to have as a child. But that’s another story, ha! Perhaps I have read this story and can’t remember? And to think, 3 hours of TV a day? Wow…how times have changed. A wonderful review, as always, I love that the mystery broods until… Great stuff!

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    • Ste J

      08/08/2015 at 20:03

      Some of the things in old Sci-Fi are wonderfully quaint these days but for me that accentuates how strong some of the more accurate ideas are. I wonder if you have read this book, that would be awesome if you had, a reread would be like visiting an old friend. That dream sounds interesting, perhaps that shall be another mystery that broods in the background for me.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Sherri

        10/08/2015 at 13:12

        And I do love a good mystery Ste…and wouldn’t it be great if I had read it? I sort of think I would remember if I had, yet, yet…

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  13. The Book Haven

    21/11/2015 at 20:50

    For this, this one is right up to the level of Rendezvous with Rama and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Though touched by a bit of preaching, it has some excellent moments and is a fun read.

    Great review Ste J. “B-lit” — nice one.

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    • Ste J

      22/11/2015 at 15:26

      It is a good book, it lacks the epic nature yet curiously does feel really substantial even though it skips around a bit. Clarke was a skilled writer even when not taking the vastness of space in his stride.

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  14. Norbert Haupt

    31/03/2017 at 07:18

    I read this decades ago, and I remember nothing about it. Makes me want to go back to it. Thanks.

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    • Ste J

      04/04/2017 at 19:15

      I hope if you do then you will enjoy it, it’s not the most profound of his works but still a good effort.

      Like

       

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