A reading club with a view to the future

591 Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End

Mysterious alien Overlords arrive on Earth, transforming humanity into a utopian society, but with hidden intentions.



"Childhood's End" is a science fiction novel that begins with the arrival of enigmatic extraterrestrial beings known as the Overlords to Earth. The Overlords, led by a being named Karellen, quickly establish themselves as benevolent and technologically advanced overseers of humanity. They put an end to war, hunger, and disease, creating a utopian society where everyone's needs are met. However, the Overlords' true intentions remain shrouded in mystery.


Title: Childhood's End 

Author: Arthur C. Clarke 

Publishing Year: 1953 

Publisher: Ballantine Books 

Length in Hours: 7 hours and 43 minutes 

5 main ideas

  1. Alien Arrival: The Overlords, mysterious extraterrestrial beings, descend on Earth, promising a utopian future but concealing their true intentions.
  2. Utopia and Loss: The Overlords bring peace and prosperity to Earth, but some question the loss of individuality and freedom in this seemingly perfect society.
  3. Human Evolution: The psychic abilities of the new generation of children born under the Overlords' influence lead to a profound transformation of humanity.
  4. Cosmic Intelligence: The novel explores the concept of higher intelligence in the universe and its impact on humanity's understanding of its place in the cosmos.
  5. The Unknown: The true purpose of the Overlords remains a tantalizing mystery, challenging human perceptions of reality and existence.

5 funny quotes

  1. "A hundred million years may pass, but the Overmind will wait. That is not eternity, but it will serve."
  2. "Time, as it were, thickened, like ice hardening, and broke with a sound like a thunderclap."
  3. "The best way to understand the Overlords is to accept their actions and not try to interpret them."
  4. "Science can lift a man to the heavens, but some prefer to crawl in the gutter."
  5. "History is a race between education and catastrophe."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The stars are not for man. A star rises, a star falls. The star that is a man's does not rise. I am not for Man."
  2. "In the presence of eternity, the mountains are as transient as the clouds."
  3. "The great defining moments were never labeled great until they passed."
  4. "The stars are no more the destination of the soul than are our deserts, our mines or our fields."
  5. "They were at peace, and yet uneasy, as though they suspected that the only reason for their tranquility was the most terrible of all: that there was no one left in the universe to fight."

5 dilemmas

  1. The moral dilemma of accepting a utopian society brought about by the Overlords while surrendering individuality and human progress.
  2. The existential dilemma of humanity's purpose and significance in the face of cosmic intelligence and higher beings.
  3. The ethical dilemma of the Overlords' manipulation of humanity's evolution and psychic potential.
  4. The philosophical dilemma of reconciling scientific discoveries and the mysteries of the universe with human understanding.
  5. The psychological dilemma faced by individuals grappling with the loss of their traditional beliefs and the uncertainty of the Overlords' intentions.

5 examples

  1. Karellen - The leader of the Overlords, who remains an enigmatic and unseen presence to humanity.
  2. Jan Rodricks - A young astrophysicist who becomes obsessed with traveling to the Overlords' home planet.
  3. Stormgren - The Secretary-General of the United Nations, chosen as the human intermediary for communication with the Overlords.
  4. New Athens - A city on Earth where scientific discoveries thrive under the Overlords' rule.
  5. Overlords' Ship - The immense spacecraft hovering over Earth's cities, serving as the Overlords' base of operations.

Referenced books

  1. "Poetics" by Aristotle - Quoted in the context of exploring humanity's fascination with storytelling and the arts.
  2. "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare - Alluded to in the narrative, reflecting on human nature and the complexities of decision-making.
  3. "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville - Referenced in the novel, representing human endeavors to explore the unknown and encounter otherworldly beings.
  4. "Through the Looking-Glass" by Lewis Carroll - Referenced in the context of depicting childhood innocence and the wonders of imagination.
  5. "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot - Alluded to in the narrative, reflecting on the themes of transformation and renewal.

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"Science can lift a man to the heavens, but some prefer to crawl in the gutter."

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