Nerditya by Aditya

Book Review: Childhood's End

"Are we alone in this Universe?" A question which has plagued many over the years. People come up with UFO sightings and claim to have been abducted by aliens. Whom should we trust, if any?

  • Author: Arthur C. Clarke
  • Published: 1953
  • Age Group: Adults

I heard a discussion about this. Don't remember who it was. It was about humans. As humans, we usually ignore trivial things. An ant nest, for example. You wouldn't stop and observe one, unless you were studying them. Even if you did observe, there is hardly any chance that the ants notice you. That is unless, you were to poke them. Make them aware of your presence.

Now think about an alien race. So advanced, that they could travel all the way from their home world and reach us. Transcend all those light-years and show up at our doors. Would we be able to know of their existence, unless they wanted us to?

I recently finished reading 'Childhood's End' by Arthur C Clarke. Which is why I've been wondering about all the things I just wrote. An advanced alien race decides to reveal itself just as humans are trying to build their first vehicle capable of interstellar travel. They place their vessels over all the major cities in the world. They want to govern the Earth. Control the policies, the politics and progress. To control the human race. There is some resistance to their presence, of course. However, this movement is subdued pretty quickly. For the most part, they are accepted without much hesitation.

These Overlords, as they are called, never reveal who they are. What they look like. They let humans live as they want except for a few restrictions. There are the obvious penalties against crime and war but they also stop progress. Science and space, especially interstellar travel. Which makes you wonder if that was why they revealed themselves when they did.

Accepting their fate, humans now live happily. No wars, no conflicts, all the necessities of life are free and the luxuries are a plenty. Now they wait, for the Overlords to reveal who they are and their purpose. The book jumps a few years and continues with the next generation of humans. It's an account of many short periods spread over a few hundred years. I won't go into details of each one of them.

Spoilers Ahead

Towards the later half of the book, the Overlords have come out. They have shown themselves. Humans still await the reason for their presence but they have accepted the Overlords as part of their life. Eventually, after a few generations, children develop some strange abilities. Almost like mutation. The next stage in human evolution. The Overlords were placed to isolate these evolved humans from their parents. Take them away. Perhaps because of the years of training that went into obeying the Overlords, humans just agree with this decision. There is little point fighting a race so much more advanced that they just give up.

Up to this point, I can understand. What happens next, is something I'm having a hard time coming to terms with. Giving up their evolved children, humans just give up on life. They don't want to reproduce, don't want to live. They just throw their lives away by fighting wars and killing each other. No matter how suppressed, survival instincts will always be there. They've been with us for a few hundred thousand years, from the dark ages, until now. A few centuries with the Overlords wouldn't change that, and that is my biggest gripe with this book. I understand the reasoning but don't quite agree with it. There is, of course, no way of knowing.

I liked this book. It was a bit dull and slow at times but it's pretty decent.

Rating: 3.5/5