I am always reluctant to write about classics. I don’t think I’d have any more insights to add that have already been said. But I felt compelled to write about Childhood’s End which was my first ever read from Clarke but definitely not my last.
Not too long ago, I watched the first episode of V (mostly because of the actresses Morena Baccarin from Firefly and Elizabeth Mitchell from Lost – but I didn’t quite like Venough to continue watching). When reading Childhood’s End, I was reminded of the part in V where the spaceships appeared over the cities across the world and Anna’s (played by Baccarin) face appears and she gives a little speech about coming in peace etc. For the Overlords of Childhood’s End appear in this fashion and the Supervisor, whose name is Karellen, sends out a broadcast (an audio one that is) about helping humanity.
After which, “the nations of Earth knew that their days of precarious sovereignty had ended. Local, internal governments would still retain their powers, but in the wider field of international affairs the supreme decisions had passed from human hands. Argument – protests – all were futile.”
The humans do not get to see their Overlords. Karellen does ‘meet’ with United Nations Secretary-General Rikki Stormgren, but they are separated by one-way glass that doesn’t allow Stormgren to see him. But the Overlords eventually agree to reveal themselves in 50 years.
Under the rule of the Overlords, earth becomes a utopia of sorts, it becomes “One World”: “Ignorance, disease, poverty, and fear had virtually ceased to exist. The memory of war was fading into the past as a nightmare vanishes with the dawn; soon it would lie outside the experience of all living men.”
It is quite fascinating. For armed forces are abolished, the necessities of life are free, people work 20 hours a week and professional athletes are extinct as there are now too many brilliant amateurs (people obviously have a lot of leisure time). But not everyone is happy, for innovation, science, creativity has been stifled, leaving many to wonder: “among all the distractions and diversions of a planet which now seemed well on the way to becoming one vast playground, there were some who still found time to repeat an ancient and never-answered question, ‘Where do we go from here?'”
Unfortunately, they don’t have that long to wonder. This is a story of the end of humanity.
Childhood’s End is fascinating, thought-provoking, depressing and at the end, a bit creepy. I don’t think I’ve done this book much justice with this kind-of review. But I’m looking forward to reading more from Clarke. Recommendations anyone?