(Author: Arthur C. Clarke) + (Year: 1953) + (Goodreads)
I finished this book around a month ago, but I just didn’t know what to put in a review of it, so I kind of left it waiting… and it’s been a month now.
Despite my many attempts, Childhood’s End just didn’t work very well for me. It was definitely not without merit, but there were also certain things that were supposed to be important for the positive experience of the reader, but were not, for me.
For one, I don’t like the general atmosphere of old sci-fi novels. The idea of sci-fi has evolved a lot since the first books on the topic started getting published, and whether it is due to habit, or taste, I have never really been a fan of the concept of an alien invasion the way it is in Childhood’s End. There is this overreaching attempt to come up with a truly unique being which to be the prototype of the alien, and it usually ends up a lot more frightening than aliens in media nowadays.
Also, there was one crucial point that really disturbed me and which doesn’t seem to bother many other readers, from what I have seen since I finished the book. Namely, the Overmind. While the Overlords are strange in their own way, the Overmind is terrifying to me, in the fact that the Overmind is essentially an invader, while everyone in the book seems to think of it as a greater intelligence. The Overmind is a being with bigger resources and a hunger for minds which to feed into its own self. Therefore, what is so different between the Overmind and all of the humans who, thanks to bigger knowledge and more refined weapons, have conquered and all but destroyed valuable cultures? Just because the colonists had a different set of diseases to bring with them to the new countries they visited and the population of which they destroyed en masse, it doesn’t mean that they were actually superior in their worth. Just developed differently. So in the same way, I was deeply chilled by the general euphoria of the characters in the book when faced with the idea of joining the Overmind.
Nevertheless, there were moments when I enjoyed the book, especially in its musings on the creativity and productivity of people. This is not the first book which I have read that puts a focus on the fact that without a driving force and a certain level of humanity, people can’t produce works of art and science with the same quality. Even nowadays, art has become something rather grotesque and perverted and despite that, people are not really allowed to say so, as it would be seen as an assault to the right of certain “artists” to create. So we just go along with the notion that we are still creating, but in reality, and facing the facts of history and the great works of old art, what we create today is trash, masked as art. In a time when a big part of the population of the planet has enough means to survive and even thrive, we are already losing our ability to advance in art with value. At the same time, as we have not reached the point where everyone can have equal amounts of everything they need as everybody else, science is developing and yet hiding its biggest finds. For example, there have been many scientists who are said to have developed cures for different plagues of our century, such as cancer and HIV, but those people often die or disappear, because the useless medicine for the same diseases is expensive and therefore makes all the right people rich.
Having said all of that, I would conclude that I have a rather negative attitude toward the ultimate outcome of the book, but also, that I liked that it made me focus and think about some realities of our time that one often forgets exactly because they live in the same time.