In Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel Childhood’s End, aliens suddenly appear and announce they are here to help steer humanity clear from the brink of annihilation and bring peace to the world.
The offer is made sweeter by the fact they claim interference will be of a limited nature.
All sounds too good to be true…but is it?
Childhood’s End, originally published in 1953, deals with aliens, called the Overlords, and their arrival on Earth, followed by an age of paradise ending with the true nature of the aliens’ interest in humanity.
In the beginning, there are many on Earth who doubt the true nature of the Overlords, a suspicion that drives many of the principle characters until the very end; the novel is divided into three parts: Earth and the Overlords, The Golden Age and The Last Generation.
Each of the three parts of the book is dramatic and suspenseful with covert (seemingly successful) plans to uncover more information about the Overlords with startling revelations, especially in The Last Generation where a man who successfully travels to the Overlords’ planet returns to Earth 80 years later to find strange changes to the planet and especially its people.
I enjoyed the book with the Overlords being the standout characters with their ambiguous intents, and clever plans in dealing with those who oppose them and question them.
I wasn’t too familiar with Clarke’s work except for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Childhood’s End has similar qualities to 2001, in that there is an extraterrestrial force that is guiding humanity to a new beginning, but this time at a cost.