April '07 SF BOTM: Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Erfael, Apr 1, 2007.

  1. Erfael

    Erfael Lemurs!!! Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2002
    Messages:
    4,191
    Likes Received:
    0
    Discussion is now open.
     
  2. suciul

    suciul Read interesting books

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2005
    Messages:
    2,838
    Likes Received:
    0
    Read it a long time ago in the early 90's when I got seriously in SF and seemed quite dated to me even then and the pedestrian prose did not help either. Short enough to finish but not worth your time today outside of historical interest. There are too many better books and too little time.

    I remember the main conceit that the far future advanced creatures which end humanity as a species by helping all the children to transcend, were devil shaped and thus the myth of the devil being a far future projection back in time. Interesting and new for the 50's probably, nothing special today. Outside of that, no interesting characters, style, action.
     
  3. Archren

    Archren BookWyrm

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2003
    Messages:
    1,304
    Likes Received:
    0
    Wow, my impressions couldn't be more different. I read this book first when I was maybe 12 or 13, then re-read it regularly for a long time afterwards. It produced a Sense of Wonder in me that may be attributable to my youth, but I think was also part and parcel of Arthur C. Clarke's major skill as a writer.

    I loved watching the mystery of the children unfold, I loved cheering on the guy who was going to get off planet no matter what, I thought the presentation of the the alien society to him was fascinating. I felt that the end scene with him watching the dismantling of Earth was very moving. Maybe it's just easier for me to read the book independant of its historical context (obviously we've gone into space now and not been prevented from doing so; technically that automatically makes the book invalid, but I think it's still interesting).

    Also, this book is still a core reference point in the genre. A wiser friend of mine who's been in the industry for a long while mentioned that ACC basically wrote about the Singularity about 40 years before Vernor Vinge ever mentioned the word. This is one of the earliest visions of a discontinuous post-human future, and as such it has influenced even such recent works as Charles Stross' Accelerando collection (he calls his post-humans "Vile Offspring" and has them dismantle the Earth too).
     
  4. suciul

    suciul Read interesting books

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2005
    Messages:
    2,838
    Likes Received:
    0
    When discussing classical SF, I think that the big difference in how you see it is determined by the age you were exposed to it. I was exposed to Asimov, Verne, VanVogt in childhood and I liked and read them for a long time (and still do today VanVogt and Asimov, while I am introducing my son to Verne).

    I was exposed to Clarke and others like Heinlein in my early 20's and while there are some Clarke novels I liked (notably the Rama series and Imperial Earth), I never cared that much about the other books and I never cared about Heinlein that much either.

    In many ways for classical SF the quip, "the age of SF is 12" is very appropriate.

    I agree that for its time Childhood's End was a seminal book. And definitely I would recommend it to a 10-12 year old, though what I see in the YA section at B&N or Borders makes me shudder most of the time...
     
  5. LordBalthazar

    LordBalthazar Registered User

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2006
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    0
    This was one of the better BOTM reads. As someone who hasn't read a lot of the classics and hasn't immersed themselves in scifi lit, I found Childhood's End to be refreshing in its treatment of how society would react to an alien invasion - and an aytpical one at that. I thought Clarke did a wonderful job of creating a sense of scope by telling this story through the eyes of various different characters, some of whom die along the way without ever learning the secret of the Overlords. And unlike, say, Red Mars (which I've just finished recently) that sought to offer the same all-encompassing scope by introducing a contrived Immortality treatment as a means to keeping its characters around, Clarke's solution - the light-speed trip to the Overlord's homeworld and back - was a clever, organic solution to the same problem.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the reveal of the Overlords and how their physical form was anticipated as early as the formation of humanity's various faiths - and blown away by the big reveal at book's end that paid off the novel's title in a completely different manner than the obvious first interpretation.

    I liked this one a lot.
     
  6. ArthurFrayn

    ArthurFrayn the puppet master

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2003
    Messages:
    1,665
    Likes Received:
    0
    This to me is one of the seminal SF novels, as said above.
    Clarke absorbs the writings of Olaf Stabledon,a touch of Lovecraft, and fashions what is probably SF's most important transhumanist text. You come across the ideas put forth in this novel being repeatedly addressed by other SF authors to this day.
    Hard for me to crit too much past the big ideas; Clarke is not the richest of prose stylists, so this is not, to me, a book for mulitple, multiple readings. But I don't see how you can read the end scene the first time or so, and not be mindblown.
    I did not read this when I was a kid; I read it in my twenties. I had been a big 2001 fan, so I was familar with the whole assisted evolution concept, but the end of this book still took me completely by surprise.
    Especially considering how the first 50 pages or so, are a little dry. That turns out to be something of a setup. ;)
    I love it. One of my top 10 favs.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2007
  7. gpackin

    gpackin New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    As I have only added SF to my reading last year I have not read many of the classics. So, what I try to do is throw a classic in every so often. It is interesting that many, but not all, of the classics tend to be so much shorter than many of the books published today. I don't know a thing about the publishing field, but I wonder if publishers today would even take an interest in a book that was under three hundred pages.

    As for my opinion of this book I think that Archren's and LordBalthazar's posts pretty much echoes my opinion. I do feel that I would have liked some more information concerning the Overmind. I too thought that the revelation at the end of the book was quite a good twist.

    I definitely believe that this book is worth reading, if not just for the historical reasons. It's amazing in the fact that it was originally published in 1953.
     
  8. Libo

    Libo Registered User

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2007
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    0
    I found it pretty interesting. I think I've read it before, but couldn't find my copy so had to buy a new one. I find the future memory of the 'devils' an interesting concept. I wish I had an original so I could know whether Helena Lyakhov was in the original first chapter or not (mine was a 1990 reprint, original from chapter 2 on).

    Dated? Definitely. Women's roles were very barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. That's always a little hard, but I can understand that given when it was written.

    I happened to watch the movie Children of Men just after finishing this book, and found it interesting that the idea losing our future -- our children -- was also handled in that story.
     
  9. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Greybeard

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2006
    Messages:
    298
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's three decades since I read it, but it sticks in my mind; I still have my 1977 paperback on the shelf! Not one that I've felt particularly moved to re-read - I admire Clarke's work rather than like it, with the exception of Rendezvous with Rama which is terrific - but still a classic.
     
  10. odo

    odo Registered User

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2005
    Messages:
    450
    Likes Received:
    0
    I read the book several years ago with great expectations, since I'd read very good critics. I was quite dissapointed. I found the book dated (while, for instance, Rendezvous with Rama is not) and not that interesting. The idea of evolution of the human species is not surprising at all these days.

    Also, the writing is plainly simple and not very inspiring and the characters are not very memorable either.
     
  11. gpackin

    gpackin New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    True. But how about back in the early 50's?
     
  12. odo

    odo Registered User

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2005
    Messages:
    450
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yes, of course. I suppose in that time it was quite surprising, but I can't help feeling that SF has evolved a lot since that days (and I rather like the take of Stross or Egan over Clarke's).

    But that is a feeling I usually have when reading SF classics. For instance, I can't stand Bester, I didn't like More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon, when reread Starship Troopers I really disliked it... So do not pay much attention to my opinions on classic SF ;)