Childhood's End

Arthur C. Clarke
Childhood's End Cover

Childhood's End


One of hundreds of short stories expanded to a full novel, which slightly altered and greatly expanded the original text. The result is a widely acclaimed work and a lasting legacy.

The first part of the novel is the original short story (Guardian Angel, 1950), expanded slightly (adding both reference and foreshadowing). The original ending (the reveal of Karellen) was moved to section two and the emphasis reduced. I've read other author's short stories expanded, and they often change little. Clarke has kept the first part and built on it to a full novel, not just one quick scene.

The novel was released in 1953, and this was a frightening time. The Soviet Union tested their first atomic bombs and the US was involved in the Korean war. At any time, either power might have resorted to atomic weapons, in that theater or the world at large. The peace provided in this story was science fiction but also a global consideration.

One of the things I like the most about this is that the author gives this managed earth a lot of consideration. Changes in society, the rise of art, and this colony in the Pacific provide a thought experiment, a lot of what science fiction was all about. Jan's audacity and method is also interesting - what a singular human he turns out to be.

Read this decades ago as a youth (along with much of Clarke's catalog); read again in 2024 with a book club. Looking forward to also checking out the 2015 mini series.