Childhood's End

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"The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city - intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began." "But at what cost? With the advent of peace, man ceases to strive for creative greatness, and a malaise settles over the human race. To those who resist, it becomes evident that the Overlords have an agenda of their own. As civilization approaches the crossroads, will the Overlords
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1980 Hard cover Good. No dust jacket as issued. Cover has some wear with scratches and very small fading on spine corners; tanned pages are unmarked Paperback cover mounted on ... hardcover binding Read more Show Less

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Overview

"The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city - intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began." "But at what cost? With the advent of peace, man ceases to strive for creative greatness, and a malaise settles over the human race. To those who resist, it becomes evident that the Overlords have an agenda of their own. As civilization approaches the crossroads, will the Overlords spell the end for humankind...or the beginning?"--BOOK JACKET.

Within 50 years, the Overlords had eliminated ignorance, disease, poverty, and fear, but pulling children away from their human heritage.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A FIRST-RATE TOUR DE FORCE."
—The New York Times

"A FRIGHTENINGLY LOGICAL, BELIEVABLE, AND GRIMLY PROPHETIC TALE . . . CLARKE IS A MASTER."
—Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345284655
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/12/1979
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback

Meet the Author

Arthur C. Clarke is considered to be the greatest science fiction writer of all time. He is an international treasure in many other ways: An article written by him in 1945 led to the invention of satellite technology. Books by Mr. Clarke—both fiction and nonfiction—have more than one hundred million copies in print worldwide. He lives in Sri Lanka.

Biography

Widely considered the greatest science fiction writer of all time, Arthur C. Clarke turned his formidable technical knowledge and lively creative imagination into an amazing career that spanned the fields of literature, invention, futurology, and entertainment.

Born in 1917 in the seaside town of Minehad in Somerset, England, Clarke developed an early interest in both science and its literary sister, speculative science fiction. After secondary school he moved to London and joined the British Interplanetary Society, where he contributed articles to the Society's bulletin. During WWII, he joined the RAF, working in the experimental trials of Ground Controlled Approach Radar, the forerunner of today's air traffic control systems. (This experience inspired his only non-science fiction novel, 1963's Glide Path.) In a technical paper written in 1945 for the UK periodical Wireless World, he set out the principles of satellite communication that would lead to the global satellite systems in use today.

After WWII, he attended King's College, London, on scholarship and received first class honors in Physics and Mathematics. He sold his first sci-fi story to Astounding Science Fiction magazine in May of 1946. From that point on, he never stopped writing. Some of his more notable works include Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama, and The Fountains of Paradise.

In 1964, Clarke was approached by film auteur Stanley Kubrick to collaborate on a science fiction movie script. The material chosen for adaptation was Clarke's 1948 short story "The Sentinel," an eerie tale about the discovery of an extraterrestrial artifact. Over the next four years, he expanded the story into a full-length novel, while simultaneously writing the screenplay with Kubrick. In 1968, both versions of 2001: A Space Odyssey debuted to great acclaim. Clarke also worked in television -- as a consultant during the CBS news coverage of the Apollo 12 and 15 space missions and as creator of two distinguished series, "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World" and "Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers."

In 1954, Clarke visited Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon). He fell in love with the country and settled there in 1956, founding a guided diving service and continuing to produce his astonishing books and articles. On March 19, 2008, he died in Sri Lanka at the age of 90, leaving behind an impressive literary legacy and millions of bereft fans.

Good To Know

Clarke shared an Oscar nomination with Stanley Kubrick for the screenplay of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Clarke was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.

In 1986, the Science Fiction Writers of America bestowed on Clarke the title of Grand Master.

At home in Sri Lanka, Clarke survived the deadly Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 that caused the deaths of more than a quarter million people.

Clarke was an expert scuba diver and in 1956 founded a guided diving service in Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon.

In Profiles of the Future (1962), Clarke set forth his "Three Laws," provocative observations on science, science fiction, and society:

  • "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
  • "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."
  • "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Date of Birth:
        December 16, 1917
      2. Place of Birth:
        Minehead, Somerset, England
      1. Date of Death:
        March 19, 2008
      2. Place of Death:
        Sri Lanka
      1. Education:
        1948, King's College, London, first-class honors in Physics and Mathematics

    Read an Excerpt

    The volcano that had reared Tratua up from the Pacific depths had been sleeping now for half a million years. Yet in a little while, thought Reinhold, the island would be bathed with fires fiercer than any that had attended its birth. He glanced towards the launching site, and his gaze climbed the pyramid of scaffolding that still surrounded the “Columbus.” Two hundred feet above the ground, the ship’s prow was catching the last rays of the descending sun. This was one of the last nights it would ever know: soon it would be floating in the eternal sunshine of space.

    It was quiet here beneath the palms, high up on the rocky spine of the island. The only sound from the Project was the occasional yammering of an air compressor or the faint shout of a workman. Reinhold had grown fond of these clustered palms; almost every evening he had come here to survey his little empire. It saddened him to think that they would be blasted to atoms when the “Columbus” rose in flame and fury to the stars.

    A mile beyond the reef, the “James Forrestal” had switched on her searchlights and was sweeping the dark waters. The sun had now vanished completely, and the swift tropical night was racing in from the east. Reinhold wondered, a little sardonically, if the carrier expected to find Russian submarines so close to shore.

    The thought of Russia turned his mind, as it always did, to Konrad and that morning in the cataclysmic spring of 1945. More than thirty years had passed, but the memory of those last days when the Reich was crumbling beneath the waves from the East and from the West had never faded. He could see Konrad’s tired blue eyes,and the golden stubble on his chin, as they shook hands and parted in that ruined Prussian village, while the refugees streamed endlessly past. It was a parting that symbolized everything that had since happened to the world—the cleavage between East and West. For Konrad chose the road to Moscow. Reinhold had thought him a fool, but now he was not so sure.

    For thirty years he had assumed that Konrad was dead. It was only a week ago that Colonel Sandmeyer, of Technical Intelligence, had given him the news. He didn’t like Sandmeyer, and he was sure the feeling was mutual. But neither let that interfere with business.

    “Mr. Hoffman,” the Colonel had begun, in his best official manner, “I’ve just had some alarming information from Washington. It’s top secret, of course, but we’ve decided to break it to the engineering staff so that they’ll realize the necessity for speed.” He paused for effect, but the gesture was wasted on Reinhold. Somehow, he already knew what was coming.

    “The Russians are nearly level with us. They’ve got some kind of atomic drive—it may even be more efficient than ours, and they’re building a ship on the shores of Lake Baikal. We don’t know how far they’ve got, but Intelligence believes it may be launched this year. You know what that means.”

    Yes, thought Reinhold, I know. The race is on—and we may not win it.

    “Do you know who’s running their team?” he had asked, not really expecting an answer. To his surprise, Colonel Sandmeyer had pushed across a typewritten sheet and there at its head was the name: Konrad Schneider.

    “You knew a lot of these men at Peenemünde, didn’t you?” said the Colonel. “That may give us some insight into their methods. I’d like you to let me have notes on as many of them as you can—their specialties, the bright ideas they had, and so on. I know it’s asking a lot after all this time—but see what you can do.”

    “Konrad Schneider is the only one who matters,” Reinhold had answered. “He was brilliant—the others are just competent engineers. Heaven only knows what he’s done in thirty years. Remember—he’s probably seen all our results and we haven’t seen any of his. That gives him a decided advantage.”

    He hadn’t meant this as a criticism of Intelligence, but for a moment it seemed as if Sandmeyer was going to be offended. Then the Colonel shrugged his shoulders.

    “It works both ways—you’ve told me that yourself. Our free exchange of information means swifter progress, even if we do give away a few secrets. The Russian research departments probably don’t know what their own people are doing half the time. We’ll show them that Democracy can get to the moon first.”

    Democracy—Nuts! thought Reinhold, but knew better than to say it. One Konrad Schneider was worth a million names on an electoral roll. And what had Konrad done by this time, with all the resources of the U.S.S.R. behind him? Perhaps, even now, his ship was already outward bound from Earth. . . .

    The sun which had deserted Taratua was still high above Lake Baikal when Konrad Schneider and the Assistant Commissar for Nuclear Science walked slowly back from the motor test rig. Their ears were still throbbing painfully, though the last thunderous echoes had died out across the lake ten minutes before.

    “Why the long face?” asked Grigorievitch suddenly. “You should be happy now. In another month we’ll be on our way, and the Yankees will be choking themselves with rage.”

    “You’re an optimist, as usual,” said Schneider. “Even though the motor works, it’s not as easy as that. True, I can’t see any serious obstacles now—but I’m worried about the reports from Taratua. I’ve told you how good Hoffmann is, and he’s got billions of dollars behind him. Those photographs of his ship aren’t very clear, but it looks as if it’s not far from completion. And we know he tested his motor five weeks ago.”

    “Don’t worry,” laughed Grigorievitch. “They’re the ones who are going to have the big surprise. Remember—they don’t know a thing about us.”

    Schneider wondered if that was true, but decided it was much safer to express no doubts. That might start Grigorievitch’s mind exploring far too many torturous channels, and if there had been a leak, he would find it hard enough to clear himself.

    The guard saluted as he re-entered the administration building. There were nearly as many soldiers here, he thought grimly, as technicians. But that was how the Russians did things, and as long as they kept out of his way he had no complaints. On the whole—with exasperating exceptions—events had turned out very much as he had hoped. Only the future could tell if he or Reinhold had made the better choice.

    He was already at work on his final report when the sound of shouting voices disturbed him. For a moment he sat motionless at his desk, wondering what conceivable event could have disturbed the rigid discipline of the camp. Then he walked to the window—and for the first time in his life he knew despair.

    The stars were all around him as Reinhold descended the little hill. Out at sea, the “Forrestal” was still sweeping the water with her fingers of light, while further along the beach the scaffolding round the “Columbus” had transformed itself into an illuminated Christmas tree. Only the projecting prow of the ship lay like a dark shadow across the stars.

    A radio was blaring dance music from the living quarters, and unconsciously Reinhold’s feet accelerated to the rhythm. He had almost reached the narrow road along the edge of the sands when some premonition, some half-glimpsed movement, made him stop. Puzzled, he glanced from land to sea and back again: it was some little time before he thought of looking at the sky.

    Then Reinhold Hoffmann knew, as did Konrad Schneider at this same moment, that he had lost his race. And he knew that he had lost it, not by the few weeks or months that he had feared, but by millennia. The huge and silent shadows driving across the stars, more miles above his head than he dared to guess, were as far beyond his little “Columbus” as it surpassed the log canoes of paleolithic man. For a moment that seemed to last forever, Reinhold watched, as all the world was watching, while the great ships descended in their overwhelming majesty—until at last he could hear the faint scream of their passage through the thin air of the stratosphere.

    He felt no regrets as the work of a lifetime was swept away. He had labored to take man to the stars, and, in the moment of success, the stars—the aloof, indifferent stars—had come to him. This was the moment when history held its breath, and the present sheared asunder from the past as an iceberg splits from its frozen, parent cliffs, and goes sailing out to sea in lonely pride. All that the past ages had achieved was as nothing now: only one thought echoed and re-echoed through Reinhold’s brain:

    The human race was no longer alone.


    From the Paperback edition.

    Copyright 2001 by Arthur C. Clarke
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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4
    ( 63 )
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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 58 Customer Reviews
    • Posted October 24, 2008

      I Also Recommend:

      Satisfying for Clarke readers

      Childhood's End is my third favorite of Clarke's fiction books behind Rama and 2001. What I think makes Childhood's End and the rest of Clarke's books so great is not only the picture he paints in the reader's head, but also how he can make the reader think deeply about the role of humanity in the Universe. I actually do not like most science fiction because many have no themes or messages behind them, making the book simply an imaginative image with no purpose, but Clarke's books are an exception.<BR/>The Overlord ships may remind you of the ships from Independence Day or a few other movies that consist of aliens coming to Earth and stationing themselves over the major cities. But keep in mind, at the time it was written, none of these movies existed, making this book entirely original. <BR/>The book is split into three parts, the first and the last seem more exciting. It spans over a long period of time, more than 50 years, making character development a little rushed in its 240 pages. I like the quote on the back of the book, "will the Overlords spell the end of humankind...or the beginning." because that is really what Clarke tries to get readers to think about. <BR/>The book is a must-read for anyone who has enjoyed any of Clarke's other works, and hopefully a mind-expanding read for people who have not yet been exposed to any of Clarke's work.

      6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 7, 2006

      A satisfying read

      This is one of the best science fiction stories I have ever read. The story is told as a mystery, which slowly unravels as it progresses. I couldn't stop reading it once I had started. The story offers an alternate view on the progression of mankind. The style is similar to the movie 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' in that the characters are trying to find out what's going on, and with an ending which satisfies the wait.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 13, 2005

      Another Hollywood Theft

      If you have seen the movie Armagedon you will recognize the beginning of this book and the short story that preceeded it, are almost identical to the beginning of the movie. As I sat in the movie theater I was shocked, and asked myself if Arthur C. Clarke got any credit for the inspiration of the movie. It is a good book, and it will make you think, 'What would I do?'.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted August 29, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      a perenial sci-fi classic

      Set in the not so distant future a large reptilian creature that has an unfortunate (from its viewpoint) resemblance to mankind's traditional symbols for for the devil is the guest of honor at a suburban cocktail party. This is a strictly A-list affair and the host family is thrilled to be hosting such a celebrity but mom is not so sure why she has been chosen for such a singular honor. The creature and the family's oldest son become the main protagonist in this story about the end of time as we know it. It is a spiritual gem and a real page turner.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 30, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      great book.

      a must read for any science fiction fan.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted July 11, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      My Favorite Novel

      This is Arthur C Clarke's first published novel, and, according to many (including myself), his best. Like most Clarke novels, it focuses on the "big picture." Like the characters? Too bad: they're not important. Clarke doesn't want you to care about the characters; he wants you to care about the message. The message in this story is that our time on this planet is short, we are destined for great things, and we need to stay calm and level headed even in the most extreme of circumstances. This story is more relevant now then when it was written more than 50 years ago, and always makes a good gift to someone on the verge of adulthood.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 10, 2007

      A reviewer

      Childhood's End got a little lengthy and drawn out toward the middle. Clarke proposes some interesting ideas on what the earth's role might be in the universal context. But this is, afterall, a work of fiction. The first third of the book as well as the last few chapters were the most enjoyable.

      1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 28, 2006

      'It's was a barbed tail!'

      This is how the author of the original story ended 'The Guardian Angels'(original name).Who ever assumed the right to cut this story up and give it a new ending and another half book - quite frankly did not know what he was doing. Childhood's End is awful - the second part of the book has no resemblance to Arthur Clarke and his style. 'The Guardian Angels' was a wonderful tale and should not have been tampered with. I am surprised that Mr. Clarke has let this stand for so many years. For the sake of selling a few more books the original story was damaged beyond repair and the second half was worse than awful - it is dark and not at all hopeful and one feels betrayed by Mr. Clarke. Read this book - NO - don't waste your time. Read 'The Guardian Angels' YES - it is delightful and very well written.

      1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 25, 2006

      The aliens are coming!

      Childhood's End is one of Arthur C. Clarke's longest enduring and most well-known works. The story, about mankind's first encounter with extra-terrestrial visitors, has set the stage for many stories and movies since it was first published over fifty years ago (although I think the previous reviewer was referring to the movie Independence Day, and not Armageddon). Of course, this being a Clarke tale, the aliens are benevolent, and mankind advances into an age of unparalleled peace and prosperity. But hey, what is it those aliens really want anyway? Unfortunately, this not being the Twilight Zone, no cookbook ever surfaces. The answer, however, surprised me, and gave new meaning(s) to the title. Clarke's novels, especially the early ones, are not particularly well-written -- the characters are shallow and underdeveloped, the plot lurches around like a drunken sailor on shore leave, and there are long boring stretches where the narrative drones on and on about nothing in particular. Still, for classic sci-fi, this is a decent read, and it's not too long. If you don't like classic sci-fi, or you are looking for 'literature' subtract two stars from the rating and try something else.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 8, 2004

      Not much there

      I decided to read this book based on positive reviews. Within itself it was an OK read, much like hundreds of other books. But in the end I found it unremarkable and a bit disappointing. I was discouraged to see Clarke use parapsychological phenomena the way he did. His usage didn't make me think 'Hmm, maybe that could work' but instead I thought 'Gee, that's pretty lame.' There was really nothing thought-provoking in this book.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 13, 2003

      Not what I expected

      All the illustrations and book covers that I've seen about this book, have made it appear like a Human Race versus Alien Invaders type of story. It is not this kind of story, but for lovers of Authur C. Clarke's work such as 2001, there will be little disappointment. The Overlords are treated as a source of distrust in the first 2/3rds of the book, but then their role in the story is altered greatly in the last 1/3rd of the book. It is - quite frankly - a surprising ending that keeps the reader going, but for me it was a bit of a letdown. A good read, but not a great one for this Sci-Fi buff.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 17, 2003

      Highly reccomended sci-fi book

      For all of you sci-fi lovers out there, this book will not disappoint you. The book is seperated into three parts, each in which new characters are introduced. The ending is great and it is something you never would have thought of.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 14, 2003

      Pre Civil War Sectionalism

      Some books make a lifetime impact on the reader. Some books are so proufoundly inspiring that they alter the course of the evolution of society. This is not one of those books. In fact, it seems like this book has degraded our society rather than imroved it. I liked it, though. It started out slow, but had a surprise ending, which i liked. :). I read it in 4 days!!!1 non stop.!!@ You should read this book, because it will change your life!!34

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 26, 2002

      Review

      This was a very entertaining book. It is hard to believe that somebody that long ago was able to think up a story that was so futaristic. I also liked it because of its surprise ending. The only downside this book had was that it was somewhat confusing. Characters would always be coming in and out of the storyline for no reason sometimes. I do, however, recommend this book.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 10, 2002

      It was a great book!

      This was a great easy read book that i had to read for my 8th grade book report. The beginning was boring, but i eventually got into the book and couldn't put it down. I would love to read other books by Arthur C. Clarke!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 27, 2002

      Worth your Time

      A wonderful book, that I read 2yrs ago in 8th grade and loved. It will be above most people under 16 but if you enjoy surprise endings and the freedom to use your imagination then this is a great choice.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 30, 2002

      Excellent Book

      I read this book in 8hours. That's how good it is, I couldn't put it down.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 8, 2002

      A Good Book to Read

      This is a wonderful example of a sci-fi writer who did his work. However, this book is much bigger than just a sci-fi work. This book is the frightenly educated prediction of the future. Who might the over-lords be? After having read this book alongside many others by authors who had the same agenda, I realize that Clarke is not just trying to write a piece of compelling science-fiction; he is trying to send a message to the world about societies structure and about our belief systems.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 25, 2001

      makes you wonder!!

      At first i thought, how boring. I'm really not a fan of sci-fi but as i continued reading it, my attention was grasped.After reading this book, it made me wonder about the possibilities. It combined fact and fiction which i thought was great.It's a bit sad but i recommend this story to those who like to wonder and think.It takes your imagination to further depths.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 1, 2001

      One of the Ten Best I've Ever Read

      I've read this book three times over the last 20 years. The best science fiction book I've ever read. Lots going on, twists and turns, unexpected situations, surprise ending, very sad if you are a parent. My 14-year-old read it and loved it. So much more than a book about aliens!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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