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Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

By Robert Marcus

Like many other fans, I eagerly awaited the release of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, and I enjoyed it for what it is, a battle between good and evil (and of course a search for Luke Skywalker, to help the good guys win the battle). But it was only number two on my December “Movie/TV” list. Many years ago, and I don’t remember the first time, I read Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, and it became one of my favorite books, so when I saw last year that the Sci-Fi Channel had bought the rights to it with the plans to make a mini-series, I was excited. But there had been many rumors about a possible film version over the years that never came to fruition, so I still had my doubts. But this rumor turned out to be true, and the mini-series came out in December. I did like the result, but as is often the case, the movie doesn’t equal the book, at least in my opinion. However, I had friends who liked the mini-series better, and I think it relates to Clarke’s pluses and minuses as an author. He’s my favorite science fiction author, and I’ve read all his books (and short stories), but a lot of people don’t care as much for him. Often, as is the case in Childhood’s End, mankind itself is the protagonist of the story—not individual humans, but mankind as a species, with the focus of the story being the evolution of mankind. Individual characters (human or alien), in Clarke’s writings, may exist just to move the story along. Also, the theme of the story often relates to how mankind interacts with the Universe itself: its wide expanse and far-flung wonders, whether the wonders are alien civilizations beyond our comprehension, or just the infinite structure of time and space that we are just beginning to understand. Childhood’s End, like many of Clarke’s novels, jumps through time, with different characters in each time period. The advantage of the mini-series is that the story takes place over a shorter period, allowing the same leading characters to participate throughout the story. I waited for the film version for a long time, and though I enjoyed it, still prefer the book. I would be interested to hear from readers, as to which version they preferred. Were my friends right?

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