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Childhood's End - Arthur C Clarke NEW

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Childhood's End - Arthur C Clarke NEW

Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke - NEW Book

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Alone many miles above the Earth, Jan Rodricks, the last surviving human, is witnessing the end of the world. As he watches, he records for the benefit of history how mankind was doomed... The massive spaceships appeared over every city on Earth, bringing the Overlords, a seemingly benign race vastly superior in technology and intelligence. Led by the enigmatic Karellen, they promised a new age of peace and prosperity, and with the help of UN Secretary General Stormgren, they eradicated poverty, disease and war. But contentment has its price. As the years pass, culture, science and religion start to die, and there are those who question the road down which the Overlords are leading them. For it seems the apparently benevolent and omnipotent masters of the Earth are themselves only the servants of a greater power: a power they have no choice but to obey...

About the Novel

Childhood's End is a science fiction novel by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, dealing with the role of Mind in the cosmos, and the plausible implications of that role for the evolution of the human race. It was originally published in 1953. The story first appeared as a short story titled "Guardian Angel" which Clarke published in 1950 for the Famous Fantastic Mysteries magazine, which is basically the novel's section after the prologue, Earth and the Overlords, with some different text in certain places. A new first chapter was substituted in 1990 due to anachronisms in the opening scene

Childhood's End is about humanity's transformation and integration to an interstellar "hive mind", the Overmind. It also touches upon such matters as cruelty to animals, man's inability to live in a utopian society, and the idea of being "The Last Man on Earth". The 1953 edition of the story begins at the height of the cold war some thirty years after the fall of the Third Reich, with attempts by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union to launch nuclear rockets into space for military purposes, threatening imminent doom.

The humans' arms race is brought to a halt by the sudden appearance of mysterious spaceships above all the Earth's great cities. After a week of silence and resultant increasing tension, the aliens, who become known as the Overlords, announce by world-wide broadcast that they have benign intentions and desire to help humanity, but that they will henceforth assume the minimum amount of control which will achieve their aims. As the enforcers of peace, they bring salvation and life, and yet also the death of some dreams, as humanity is no longer completely independent, nor may it pursue certain scientific explorations, such as space.

The humans remain suspicious, as the Overlords never appear in person. The Overlords' representative, Karellen, does speak with the Secretary General of the United Nations Rikki Stormgren, but is always hidden behind a pane of one way glass. The two develop a great deal of respect for one another, though it is clear they are not equals. To allay the inevitable suspicions of some, Karellen promises the Overlords will reveal themselves physically in fifty years, after humanity has matured and become comfortable with their presence.

Under the (mild) domination of the Overlords, Mankind enters a golden age of the greatest peace and prosperity ever known, albeit at the expense of some creativity and freedom. Not every Earthling is content with the bargain, nor accepts the beneficence of the Overlords' long-term intentions. Stormgren, with Karellen's help, survives a kidnap attempt by subversive humans suspicious of the Overlords. Stormgren secretly harbours lingering curiosity about the real Overlord nature and smuggles a device aboard Karellen's spaceship to see behind the one-way screen that separates them. Years later he tells a questioning reporter the device failed. The novel strongly hints that the device did indeed capture an image of the Overlords, which Stormgren saw, but that Stormgren agrees with the Overlords: mankind is unready for what that image revealed.

True to their word, fifty years after arrival, the Overlords appear in person. They resemble the traditional human folklore image of demons: bipeds with large wings, horned heads, and tails. The Overlords are taller than humans and of proportionally more massive bodies covered with a hard, black armor shell. The light from Earth's sun is too harsh for them, because their planet's sun has a dimmer redder light, and, though they can breathe Earth's atmosphere, the mix of gases in their own atmosphere is more comfortable. Humankind has, however, grown accustomed to the Overlords by this time and accepts them with open arms, and with their help, creates a utopian world.

Although humanity and the Overlords have developed peaceful and even friendly relations by now, the spread of equal goods and the ban on building space ships capable of traveling past the Earth's moon causes some sects to believe their innovation and independence is being suppressed and that culture is becoming stagnant. In response, those sects establish "New Athens", an island colony.

Some ten years after the Overlords revealed themselves to humanity, human children (starting in New Athens) begin displaying telepathic and telekinetic abilities and as a result, become estranged from their parents. Karellen then reveals the true purpose of why the Overlords came to Earth. They are in service to the Overmind, a cosmic mind amalgamated from ancient galactic civilizations, freed from the limitations of ordinary matter. The Overlords are not themselves capable of joining the Overmind, but the Overmind has charged them with the duty of fostering humanity's transition to a higher plane of existence and merger with the Overmind. The Overlords' resemblance to the devil of human folklore is later explained by a form of racial memory: humans fear the Overlords because we fear the end of our species as we know it. Karellen expresses an envy of humanity; his race is trapped as they are, as they are not now capable of joining the Overmind, though he hopes they will eventually learn how to do so.

Karellen announces that the children with psychic powers will be segregated from the rest of humanity on a continent of their own, and only these children will merge with the Overmind. No more children are born; the narration subtly hints that most of the parents commit suicide, while their children evolve towards merging with the Overmind. New Athens is then destroyed by the leaders detonating a nuclear bomb on it.

The last man alive is Jan Rodricks, a physicist, who will witness mankind's final evolutionary transformation. He stowed away on an Overlord supply ship earlier in the story in a successful attempt to travel to the Overlord home planet, which he correctly guessed orbits a star of the Carina constellation. As a physicist, Rodricks knows of the relativistic twin paradox effect: the Overlords' ships travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light, and as a result, the trip to the Overlord planet and back to Earth will only take four months in his subjective, personal time-frame, but the amount of elapsed 'objective' time will be, at minimum, 80 years, or the length of time light would take to make the similar journey, although the actual trip takes much longer. (The Overlord star system – known as NGS 549672 to astronomers on Earth – is forty light-years distant from Earth.)

When Rodricks returns from the Overlord home world, he expects no one on Earth will remember him, nevertheless, he is unprepared for the return: mankind, as he knew it, died. About three hundred million naked young beings, physically human but otherwise with nothing common to Man, remain on the quarantined continent. They are the final, physical form of human evolution before merging with the Overmind. Life — not only human life, but all other forms on the planet — was exterminated by them, and the vast cities that Jan remembers are all dark.

Some Overlords remain on Earth, studying the evolved children. It also is revealed here that the Overlords have met and conditioned other races for the Overmind, and that humanity is the fifth race the Overmind will collect.

When the evolved children have grown strong enough to mentally alter the Earth's rotation and affect other planetary adjustments, it becomes too dangerous to remain and the Overlords prepare to leave. They offer Rodricks the opportunity of leaving with them, but he chooses to remain as witness to Earth's dissolution; mankind's offspring evolved to a higher existence, requiring neither a body nor a place, so ends mankind's childhood.

The story's last scene details Karellen's final backward look at the Solar System, which becomes no more noticeable among the stars as it recedes than the loss of one small planet in the system. He is emotionally depressed, having seen yet another race evolve to the beyond, while he and his race must remain behind, limited to their current form. Despite that, he renders a final salute to mankind, considering whether or not conditioning them for the Overmind helped his goal of deciphering the evolutionary secret for his race to merge with the Overmind. He then turns away from the view, the reader presumes, to await the Overmind's next order.

About the Author Arthur C Clarke

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE (16 December 1917–19 March 2008) was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, most famous for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, written in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick, a collaboration which led also to the film of the same name; and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World.

Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941-1946, proposed satellite communication systems in 1945 which won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963 and a nomination in 1994 for a Nobel Prize, and 1999 for literature , and became the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947-1950 and again in 1953. Later, he helped fight for the preservation of lowland gorillas. He won the UNESCO-Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science in 1961.

Clarke was knighted in 1998. He emigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving, and lived there until his death.

Biography

Clarke was born in Minehead, Somerset, England.As a boy he enjoyed stargazing and reading old American science fiction pulp magazines. After secondary school and studying at Huish's Grammar School, Taunton, he was unable to afford a university education and got a job as an auditor in the pensions section of the Board of Education.

During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and was involved in the early warning radar defence system, which contributed to the RAF's success during the Battle of Britain. Clarke spent most of his wartime service working on Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) radar as documented in the semi-autobiographical Glide Path, his only non-science-fiction novel. Although GCA did not see much practical use in the war, it proved vital to the Berlin Airlift of 1948–1949 after several years of development. Clarke initially served in the ranks, and was a Corporal instructor on radar at No 9 Radio School, RAF Yatesbury. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (Technical Branch) on 27 May 1943. He was promoted Flying Officer on 27 November 1943. He was appointed chief training instructor at RAF Honiley and was demobilised with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. After the war he earned a first-class degree in mathematics and physics at King's College London.In the postwar years, Clarke became the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947-1950 and again in 1953. Although he was not the originator of the concept of geostationary satellites, one of his most important contributions may be his idea that they would be ideal telecommunications relays. He advanced this idea in a paper privately circulated among the core technical members of the BIS in 1945. The concept was published in Wireless World in October of that year. Clarke also wrote a number of non-fiction books describing the technical details and societal implications of rocketry and space flight. The most notable of these may be The Exploration of Space (1951) and The Promise of Space (1968). In recognition of these contributions the geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometres (22,000 mi) above the equator is officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union as a Clarke Orbit.

In 1953 Clarke met and quickly married Marilyn Mayfield, a 22-year-old American divorcee with a young son. They separated permanently after six months, although the divorce was not finalised until 1964. "The marriage was incompatible from the beginning", says Clarke. Clarke never remarried but was close to Leslie Ekanayake, who died in 1977. Journalists who inquired of Clarke whether he was gay were told, "No, merely mildly cheerful." However, Michael Moorcock has written. Everyone knew he was gay. In the 1950s I'd go out drinking with his boyfriend. We met his proteges, western and eastern, and their families: people who had only the most generous praise for his kindness. Self-absorbed he might be, and a teetotaller, but an impeccable gent through and through. It also exists a vast collection of manuscripts and personal memoirs written by Clarke, referred to as the "Clarkives", which will not be published before 2058, 50 years after his death.

Writing career

While Clarke had a few stories published in fanzines, between 1937 and 1945, his first professional sales appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946: "Loophole" was published in April, while "Rescue Party", his first sale, was published in May. Along with his writing Clarke briefly worked as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts (1949) before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951 onward. Clarke also contributed to the Dan Dare series published in Eagle, and his first three published novels were written for children. Clarke corresponded with C. S. Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s and they once met in an Oxford pub, The Eastgate, to discuss science fiction and space travel. Clarke, after Lewis's death, voiced great praise for him, saying the Ransom Trilogy was one of the few works of science fiction that could be considered literature.

In 1948 he wrote "The Sentinel" for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected it changed the course of Clarke's career. Not only was it the basis for A Space Odyssey, but "The Sentinel" also introduced a more mystical and cosmic element to Clarke's work. Many of Clarke's later works feature a technologically advanced but prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of The City and the Stars (and its original version, Against the Fall of Night), Childhood's End, and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution. In Clarke's authorized biography, Neil McAleer writes that: "many readers and critics still consider [Childhood's End] Arthur C. Clarke's best novel."

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