Childhood’s End

As we are ushered into an era of unprecedented technological advancement, the capability of human ingenuity has always questioned. Where is society going to go now? and What new technological advancements are still yet to come?, are two commonly asked questions by those who are intrigued with the future of mankind and the technology that the generations ahead will possess. As some people metacognate over the future predicament of mankind, others are known for writing what they believe may occur in the future as a result of technological development. These writings or prophecies as to what the authors believe will come true in the future, are often encapsulated in a genre of literature called science fiction, often monikered as sci-fi.

What is science fiction?

Science fiction is a genre of literature in where an imagined future is present with colossal advancements made in society technologically which have not yet been made at the time of the writing, a detail which helps explain why this genre is a fictional genre rather than non-fiction. The genre of science-fiction came into full prominence in the early and mid twentieth century when books like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov received critical acclaim. One very famous sci-fi book which helped inspire many sci-fi works for years to come is Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. This novel by Arthur C. Clarke showcases a future in which otherworldly beings assume control of mankind and effectively disrupt it. The novel Childhood’s End exhibits several different science fiction elements. Three different science fiction element used in the writing of Childhood’s End are extraterrestrial life, time travel, and also biblical imagery , all three of which are connected to the central theme of control.

Extraterrestrial Life

Extraterrestrial life is one of the science fiction elements that are forefront in the novel Childhood’s End. In the late twentieth century (which was the future at the time the novel was published), The United States and the Soviet Union were fighting for aeronautical supremacy as the race between the two nations was to see which nation would be able to develop rockets with nuclear drive/power. The space race between the two nations was also fueled by the military advantage each nation would get. As the rocket commandeered by mission commander Mohan Kaleer reaches space, Kaleer notices something very peculiar, there were other ships out in space. The ships that Kaleer noticed were commandeered by extraterrestrial life which would later be known as the Overlords. The Overlords immediately prohibited travel through space for humans and they took control over the humans.

The Overlords supervised the human race and interfered with them only when they deemed fit. The Overlords set rules for the humans to follow such as no more wars and no more hunting animals for sport. The Overlords enforced their rule and authority over humans quite strictly. The Overlords had ordered the Republic of South Africa to dissolve their discriminatory policies (Apartheid) and when they refused to do so, Karelllin, the supreme leader of Earth, decided to block out the sun which had squashed any further demonstrations of defiance. Despite the negative connotation associated with being ruled over by an extraterrestrial life form, mankind experienced positive changes as the Overlords kept on enacting their changes.

The positive effects of the alien presence on Earth would soon become overshadowed as the Overlords rounded up children (children had began to show signs of superhuman mental capability) to appease the Overmind, an abstract being or thought commonly referred to in the novel. This would spell the end of the human race as many people died as a result of nuclear detonation and suicide and sheer havoc was being wreaked upon humans. The science fiction element of extraterrestrial life correlates with the central theme of control in the novel as the extraterrestrial lifeforms in the novel, the Overlords, had authority over the humans and in a sense, controlled them.

Time Travel

Time Travel is one of the science fiction element used in the novel Childhood’s End. Time travel is one of the most quintessential science fiction elements which is used in many works of science fiction. From H.G Wells’s The Time Machine to The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn, time travel has been used in science fiction works many times. In the novel Childhood’s End, time travel was used as result of the commands of the Overlords. In addition to the rules the Overlords had set, the Overlords had given mankind a time machine with the intention of enacting positive changes. The Overlords had gave the humans a time machine so they can go back in time and eliminate the mistakes they have made. The science fiction element of time travel connects to the central idea of control as the Overlords gave the humans a time machine with the intention of controlling human society and to help regulate how they live.

Biblical Imagery

In addition to extraterrestrial life and time travel, another science fiction element present in the novel Childhood’s End is biblical imagery. Biblical/Christian imagery was used very extensively throughout the novel Childhood’s End. The use of biblical imagery can be seen right in the beginning of the novel when the Satan looking Overlords take control of Earth. This can be perceived as the arrival of the Antichrist, or Satan himself. Later on the novel, the time when the Overlords tool the children of the last generation can also be seen as biblical imagery as it can be seen as the Armageddon as the taking of the kids can be seen as the end of the world. The science fiction element of Biblical imagery correlates with the central idea of control in the novel, as the devils were in control of the humans and the Armageddon effectively controlled the human race by controlling the population.

Childhood’s End is one of the most legendary sci-fi books of all time. This novel has helped influence many generations of sci-fi works such as sci-fi movies like Predator and The Maze Runner. The future that Arthur C. Clarke had envisioned through his writing of Childhood’s End is a quite daunting one. The idea that through technological advancement, the human race can be held as subjects of a higher power is quite an ominous one. Throughout the whole novel, the central idea of control had been portrayed a great amount of times through the different elements of sci-fi present in the novel. Extraterrestrial life, biblical imagery and also futuristic technology are three science fiction elements that were present in the novel.

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