So I’m reading Childhood’s End, and, as the Sophisticated Connoisseur of Contemporary of Speculative Fiction, I am of course way ahead of the charmingly quaint Sir Arthur. The Overlords have visited Earth in the past, have they? Yawn. Yes, of course I see what’s coming.
Ah, yes, here we are, the Great Unveiling. “They [a boy and girl] were too busy playing with Karellen’s wings to take any notice of the watching multitude.”
Uh huh. Angels. Very clever. Perhaps this was JMS’s inspiration for the Vorlons? Clarke came first, of course, and I’m sure it was very shocking and revelatory for the niave readers of the early days . . . but for the modern student of science fiction, this is nothing special . . .
Then I was completely blind-sided by, "There was no mistake. The leathery wings. . . "
At this point, I howled with delight. Oh, Mr. Clarke, you devil!
The book’s been delightful. Why didn’t someone make me read this ages ago?
p.s. I know I said “spoilers” in the title, but don’t spoil it for me . . . I’m only about halfway through.
Childhood’s End is still my favorite Clarke novel, though there are days when I think I might like Rendezvous with Rama better.
If you are still enthralled when you finish it, Podkayne, consider tracking down one of Clarke’s inspirations: Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. If your local library doesn’t have it, consider requesting it through interl-library loan.
It’s about my favorite Clarke novel, actually. The surprise of the appearance of the Overlords was spoiled by my reading ‘Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials’ before reading the novel (it had an artists depiction of an Overlord).
I agree with Tengu - it is a happy ending. Sort of. (Except for the Overlords, of course…) It’s also - I’ll try not to spoil it for anyone - one of the best and most explicit depictions of the notion of “transcendence”, which some critics and writers (Maureen McHugh springs to mind) claim is central to science fiction.
Dunno why some of you seem to have took against it. Perhaps once Podkayne and Enderw24 have finished it, we can have a proper discussion?
(And Podkayne - Stapledon and Lovecraft? The mind boggles… Er, basically, they’re not related, except sometimes HPL, in his more cosmic-immensity and science-fictional moods, verges on Stapledon territory - but he lacks Stapledon’s broad vision and intellectual rigor. IMHO.)
Gotta admit, I rejected that ending the same way I would reject a surprise piece of okra in a sandwich.
But I really dig a lot of Clarke’s other stuff. Lady Chance got me that massive TOME of every non-novel story he ever published. I’ve been plowing through it sporadically for 9 months now and there’s STILL an enormous amount ahead of me.