Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Overlords

Childhood's EndChildhood's End 

by Arthur C. Clarke

“No utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond their wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.”  ― Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End

There are reasons why certain books are considered great. Arthur C. Clarke's novel, Childhood's End, exhibits several of them. It is a lucid account of the meeting of "aliens" from outer space with the residents of earth. In describing this encounter and the aftermath, Clarke created a scene, the image of huge spaceships hovering over major cities of Earth, that not only impresses the reader but that had remained as an image for subsequent science fiction. But this book should be considered great as a work of literature, from the structure to style to characterization there is an economy that allows for a tale spanning decades to be told in a couple hundred pages. Clarke focuses on the essentials of the story and lets the reader imagine the inessential details. He also provides contrasts in character and ideas while providing just the right amount of suspense to keep the reader turning the page.

Fundamentally this is a "novel of ideas" and that is what this reader took away from the book. It explores the wonder at the nature of the universe and the potential for man when encountering other residents of it.  The author makes this comment about man's relations to the stars.  Do you agree?

“In this single galaxy of ours there are eighty-seven thousand million suns. [...] In challenging it, you would be like ants attempting to label and classify all the grains of sand in all the deserts of the world. [...] It is a bitter thought, but you must face it. The planets you may one day possess. But the stars are not for man.”   ― Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End

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Brian Joseph said...

I agree that this is a very impressive novel and it is full of compelling and important ideas. Personally it is one of my favorites.

I am not criticizing the book by commenting that the last parts of the book were depressing in what seemed to be a unique way.

Lory said...

I have this on my Classics Club list and your review makes me even more eager to read it. Thanks!

James said...

I checked with the Overlords and they said you will not be disappointed.

James said...


You raise a good point regarding the ending of the book. It seems to be a difficult choice between the static life engendered by the rule of the Overlords and the extinction of the human species.
I am not sure that I would want to live in the world created on Earth by the Overlords.