On top of all the science-fiction movie/TV show watching I do, I’ve also been known to enjoy the company of a good book from time to time. Over the past several years, I’ve been making a point to visit some of the works that have been widely regarded as classics of the various genres of speculative fiction. With that, I’ve written reviews of the books I’ve read over on my Goodreads account (which you are welcome to view here). However, recently I asked myself, “wouldn’t your Star Trek/sci-fi/fantasy blog be a perfect spot for your reviews of sci-fi/fantasy books?” Since you are currently reading this, I decided to answer myself with a resounding “yes.”
One of the first of these classics I decided to tackle was the short yet poignant Childhood’s End from Arthur C. Clarke.
I’ve always known that Arthur C. Clarke has earned his place among the masters of science fiction, but reading Childhood’s End has shown me that Clarke is also a master of prose, vivid imagery, and cultivating an expressive sense of wonder, hope, and tragedy all within the pages of one relatively short novel. Deservedly, in 2004, Childhood’s End retroactively won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for 1954.
I knew the general premise of the story going into this, however I was pleasantly surprised with the multitude of directions the plot takes throughout, and the varying themes expressed through the diverse set of characters. While there are several characters through which the story is told, it is mainly through the titular and mysterious Karellen – the supervisor of Earth – that we see the most individual development take place over the course of the novel’s 100 years. It is also through Karellen that we witness the true scope of the story. Even though the book is over 63 years old at this point and spoilers probably aren’t a major concern, I still don’t want to delve into all of the plot points and twists of the story. If you haven’t read it, I believe that coming into it with fresh eyes and an open mind will make for a significantly more enjoyable reading experience.
While Clarke is undoubtedly a great story-teller and master of the genre, his writing is lacking a bit in individual character development. This, however, is not a huge distraction as it is humanity itself that takes center stage in the role of the overall protagonist. Childhood’s End explores the concept of humanity, what it means to be who we are, and our true place in the vastness of the universe. Further, the story tackles themes of belief, philosophies of leadership, the spirit of exploration, and countless other concepts within it’s short page range.