Thursday, September 3, 2015

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

I know I read this at least once when I was a teenager.   I owned this paperback edition:




















I have no idea what happened to it.  I probably purchased the paperback because it looked like it was going to be similar to this:








V - the original 1980s miniseries about alien invasion which scared the living shit out of me and also which I loved.  I was about 13 years old when it came out, and a complete geek.



I remembered that Childhood's End was about alien invasion.  I remembered that something happened to all the children of the world at the end that I thought back then was creepy and disturbing.

Like this:
For some reason, I had visions in my head of what I now know is Village of the Damned (I had to wikipedia this).  Even though I've never actually seen the movie.






Also her.











She was one of the kids in my head too.

I was close.

I now know this.

The book is written in the sort of pulpy way science fiction was written in the 1950s.  Arthur C. Clarke might be one of the most famed science fiction writers ever, and his ideas are revolutionary, but his writing isn't as strong as some of the better science fiction writers writing today.

The children at the end of the book are creepy and disturbing.  Very much so.  As creepy as those kids with glowing eyes. Maybe more creepy.

The ending is creepy too.  And disturbing.  Although maybe less disturbing than what we are actually doing to the earth.

Clarke's fear in 1953 was nuclear annihilation.  That fear isn't as strong now (which is weird because it's still there, under the surface, just waiting to bubble up again).  I'm more afraid of climate change.  That's how the world will end.  Not with a bang, but with a whimper for water.

All great science fiction writers are prescient.  Sometimes they get things terribly wrong (that whole thing about flying cars being around in the 2000s). Sometimes they know things are coming down the pike.  Here is what Clarke wrote in 1953 (paraphrased):

"Patterns of sexual mores... had altered radically.  It had been virtually shattered by two inventions... The first was reliable oral contraceptive: the second was... based on a very detailed analysis of the blood - of identifying the father of any child.  The effect of these two inventions upon human society could only be described as devastating, and they had swept away the last remnants of the Puritan aberration."  It's interesting that both of things have indeed come to pass, I don't know if Puritanism has been swept away completely, but sexual mores have definitely changed since 1953.

"The art of the cartoon film."  He definitely caught the idea that animation would become an adult artform.

Because of the extreme consumption of television (and radio, he says, but that's obviously not true anymore), "people are becoming passive sponges - absorbing but never creating.  Did you know that the average viewing time per person is now three hours per day?"  It's now closer to five, but that idea that people are just sitting around watching television and not being creative - is that still a fear we have?  We call is "screen time" now, and we probably have more computer time than television time, but that fear is still here.

Interesting that this:
















Came out the same year as Childhood's End.  I love War of the Worlds; I love this old one, I love the book, I love the new one with Tom Cruise, I love the comic book classic version I read in sixth grade (I can't find the cover I remember online).  I love Independence Day.  I loved V.  I didn't love Childhood's End.  I didn't love it when I read it as a teenager, and I don't love it now.  I think it's got a creepily cool ending, but it's such a slog to get there.  Clarke has some interesting concepts, but the plot and flat, flat characters don't live up to the concepts. Clarke may be considered an extraordinary author of science fiction, but I just don't think that this wasn't very well written.  Today's science fiction authors are such strong writers, there is almost no comparison.

Childhood's EndChildhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It interesting that the 1950s version of War of the Worlds came out the same year as Childhood's End.  I love i>War of the Worlds; I love the old school movie, I love the Wells book, I love the newer, scarier version, I love the comic book classic version I read in sixth grade (our sixth grade teacher had a whole shelf of these; Food of the Gods and Great Expectations were also favorites).  I love Independence Day  I loved V: The Miniseries (1983 version).  But  I didn't love Ci>Childhood's End.  I didn't love it when I read it as a teenager, and I don't love it now.  I think it's got a creepily cool ending (all those children turn into i>Village of the Damned style kids in my head, but it's such a slog to get there.  Clarke has some interesting concepts, but the plot and flat, flat, annoyingly flat characters don't live up to the concepts. Clarke may be considered an extraordinary author of science fiction, but I just don't think that this wasn't very well written.  Today's science fiction authors are such strong writers, there is almost no comparison.


View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

Followers