Saturday, May 14, 2016

Childhood's End (Arthur C. Clarke)

Childhood's End
Arthur C. Clarke
Del Rey
Fiction, Sci-Fi
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: In the 1980's, the Cold War between East and West is abruptly halted by the arrival of visitors from beyond, great silver ships arriving over Earth. Mankind's many squabbling nations find themselves abruptly and unarguably under new management as the Overlords initiate a new era, one that could see the species flower - or see its extinction.

REVIEW: Like many older sci-fi classics, this book presents some interesting ideas that are inevitably (and likely unconsciously) tainted by the era in which it was written. Here, the Western world and its science (not to mention distinctly Christian symbols) are the great gifts to the rest of the savage world, even as the story relies on metaphysical ideas that seem more in line with ancient Eastern tradition... and, naturally, it all comes down to Homo sapiens and our brilliant minds being such divinely blessed and potentially powerful things that our future is a magnet for interstellar oversight and/or meddling. On the smaller scale, men are the doers and darers, while women are just there to warm beds, be somewhat soft in the head, and ultimately find more fulfillment cooking and washing laundry than pursuing science or art. The general flatness of most of his characters, particularly the humans, doesn't help on this front. But, glaring as these issues are now, it's not precisely fair to fault Clarke for them sixty years after this tale was written... and doubtless modern works will have their own generational and cultural hallmarks that will make future readers roll their eyes at our flawed 21st-century worldview. His ideas and imagery are still somewhat interesting, as Clarke follows what turns out to be (for better or worse) the final century or so of humanity's planetary existence. It's not a bad book, and I'm glad I finally read it, but it ultimately isn't quite my cup of cocoa.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Foundation (Isaac Asimov) - My Review
The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury) - My Review
A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge) - My Review

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