Childhood's End (Arthur C Clarke) - Book Review

Reviews Jun 25, 2016

-- A masterpiece which no other author could have conceived. --

The world is at the verge of nuclear annihilation, as US and USSR face each other in third world war. All of a sudden, the decisive moment is interrupted by an alien invasion. The aliens, all powerful, yet friendly and humourous, assume the position of ‘overlords’ and bring peace and prosperity to the entire planet within five years. With all the problems gone, finally the world becomes the ultimate utopia. During the rule, overlords seem fascinated by human psychics (not our physics :-) ) and spirituality.

However, a group of humans argue that human creativity and culture has been stagnated due to the sudden controlled prosperity. Hence, with the permission of overlords, form a small society in a Pacific island, free of overlords’ supervision. There, a few years later, born are two children who seem to have wild, unbelievable nightmares. In their dreams, they visit and witness life in the strangest of the planets of the universe, which even the all-knowing overlords are unaware of.

Being the die-hard fan of Clarke’s constructive imagination, I cannot help but to mention the dreams of the children. Here, he does his sorcery again, exploring the possibility of how intelligence may evolve in the weirdest of all environments and what form would they may take. An example would be the ‘crystals’, that take thousands of years to form a thought, on a scorching hot planet in a sextuple system ‘that never traces its orbit twice’. It is a treat for your imagination if you are into such quality speculative ‘what-if’ fiction.

The last hundred pages of the novel, where the genuine intention of the overlords are revealed, which connects all the dots of mysteries to an unthinkable true meaning of the title, would shock any reader to the core. No reader, how experienced he/she may be in mysteries and sci-fi can guess the spectacular ending or even have the slightest idea of what all this is really about, before those final pages. And, I’m sure no other author, except Clarke can conceive such a concept and put that into the gripping words. Clarke is the master of Science Fiction and this is, IMHO, the masterpiece of the master.

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