By Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke was a man of science, but at the time of writing Childhood’s End he’d been much taken with various paranormal investigations. The result is this curious blend of science and speculative mysticism that has humankind achieving its destiny by developing into something strange and new.
You can’t call it evolution since there is no adaptation through natural selection to a changing environment. Instead, the New Man is born of the Last Man like a butterfly bursting forth spontaneously from its cocoon, an event that has apparently been our fate since the dawn of time. And what an ambiguous destiny it is! Gone are all those ingenious, lovely things like creativity, imagination, and emotion, adventure, science, art, and religion. Gone is the individual. All hail group consciousness and absorption into the collective Overmind! If this is the way the world ends, count me as disappointed.
Erich von Däniken must have been taking notes, as the demonic appearance of the Overlords is credited specifically to our species’ memory “not of the past, but of the future” (the original German title of Chariots of the Gods was Erinnerungen an die Zukunft, or Memories of the Future). In a 2000 Foreword Clarke takes responsibility for contributing to the subsequent fin-de-siècle flood of “mind-rotting bilge about UFOs, psychic powers, astrology, pyramid energies, channeling – you name it.” But does that mean he disowned Childhood’s End? Not a bit. It remained one of his favourite books, and was “a work of fiction, for heaven’s sake!”
4 thoughts on “Childhood’s End”
I found this to be very depressing. I also watched the semi-recent mini-series and man, THAT was really depressing.
It’s a pretty hard novel to film, and I don’t think they did a great job with that series. Still, it is a pretty depressing story with its “mankind is something to be surpassed” message. Credit to Clarke though for carrying that idea through to its logical conclusion.
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A really good book! Now you should listen to Iron Maiden’s Childhood‘s End!
I went to see Iron Maiden in concert on the Piece of Mind tour in 1983. Did you know they did a song based on Dune? They originally called it Dune but then had to change the title to To Tame a Land because the Herbert estate was going to sue them.