Book Review – Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Although there’s bound to be a few of you who have read this classic, I will try to avoid spoilers. If you want the 30,000-foot view of the story, you can read the back cover blurb. I’m making this review more about its spirit rather than its text.
When my wife asked me what it was about, I should have just cut to the chase, handed her the book and said, “Here.”
We’ve all read books that were difficult to summarize, but often because they’re rife with confusing plots, an overabundance of characters, and poor writing.
This was different. My brain was churning thought-butter faster than my tongue could lap it up. I stumbled over ideas and metaphors, characters and plot points, all while trying to explain how they were linked. And the more I tried to just spit the damned words out, the more I realized my brain was forming new connections.
Childhood’s End is so many books in one, and by that I don’t mean it’s a rat’s nest of stories. More a symphony of motifs and symbols. The beauty of such a notion is that one can appreciate the overall story while a keen eye can also appreciate the contribution of each component. That includes not just the notes, but the spaces in between.
Amid a sea of concepts, the book explores the great contradiction of humankind: His search for control over his own destiny and simultaneous desire to be taken care of. It doesn’t shy away from metaphysical questions and the mind-body conundrum. Ideas of space and time also permeate the text.
This would be a hell of a book if written today, but I try to imagine what it must have been like coming across such a thing in the 1950s. It can’t help but have some parts which reveal it as a product of its time (something was faxed to a spaceship), but really, how much can we fault the author who may have inspired the telecommunication satellite?
This is one of a precious few books that I can’t wait to re-read. I want to give the story more time to soak in so that I can come at it with a fresher perspective, but I plan on pulling it out again next year. I can’t recommend it enough. Even if you’re not a fan of science-fiction, it deserves a top spot in your TBR pile.