Childhood’s End – Review

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Rating: 2 Stars

Before she flew to the launch site, Helena Lyakhov always went through the same ritual. She was not the only cosmonaut who did so, though few ever talked about it.



The Plot


One day, humanity finds that aliens have arrived in silver gleaming ships above every major city in the world. These Overlords end poverty, disease and war and ring in a Golden Age for humanity. But humanity doesn’t know much about them and their true goals. Do they really have the best intentions in mind?


Review


This book was fast and easy to read but it didn’t leave much of an impression. The main problem I had with the book was that I couldn’t form any emotional connection with any of the characters. There are various time-jumps in the book and with each time-jump there are new characters. However, we don’t get to know them in any kind of depth. They’re just sort of there as long as the plot needs them and then they fade into obscurity again. They remain absolutely flat and I didn’t care about any of them or what happened to them.

The main purpose the characters seem to play is in exposition through dialogue. A lot of the book consists in characters talking about what happened instead of it being shown. A lot of the worldbuilding is done by dialogue and it is incredibly boring.

‘He’s immortal, isn’t he?’Yes, by our standards, though there’s something in the future he seems to fear. I can’t imagine what it is. And that’s all I really know about him.’



Even when something is about to happen, the narration often cuts away from it and instead we get to hear the action scene described afterwards in a dialogue.

‘I was running up that, because it was the quickest way. I knew what was happening now, for I’d seen the big wave coming in. It was making an awful nose, too. And then I found there was a great big rock in the way. It wasn’t there before and I couldn’t get past it.’

‘The quake must have brought it down,’ said George.

‘Shush! Go on, Jeff.’

Furthermore, the book didn’t age well. It is often very noticeable that it was written in the 50s, because it reads that way. The depictions of women were incredibly backwards. There’s this whole shiny new future where war and poverty don’t exist anymore, but women are still depicted as dutiful housewives.

‘What sort of day did you have?’ asked Jean dutifully. She hoped George would not be too exhausted to help with the unpacking.



We’re told things are different, but the actual scenes never show it. Women take care of the men. Men talk about the new wife of a friend in terms of her looks, the women of course are jealous of her looks.

In particular, the patterns of sexual mores – insofar as there had ever been one pattern – had altered radically. It had been virtually shattered by two inventions, which were, ironically enough, of purely human origin and owed nothing to the Overlords.

The first was a completely reliable oral contraceptive: the second was an equally infallible method – as certain as fingerprinting, and based on a very detailed analysis of the blood – of identifying the father o any child. The effect of these two inventions upon human society could only be described as devastating, and they had swept away the last remains of the Puritan aberration.



This is a world where everything changed because of these things but the main goal of the female characters is still to get married (even though it’s called differently now).


It’s truly a shame because there are some very good scenes in the book that perfectly capture the threatening atmosphere that comes from the Overlords. Yes, they have ended war and poverty, but do they really do it from the good of their hearts? Who are they? What do they want? And what is the end plan?

Those were the questions that kept me reading. The big reveal at the end however was … disappointing. I found it incredibly ridiculous and way too psychedelic.

Conclusion


It was an okay science fiction novel, but far too fractured for me to really enjoy it. I liked the idea of the Overlords but I couldn’t form any connections with the characters and so, in the end, I didn’t care.

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