Childhood’s End is a science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke about demon-like aliens arriving on Earth to form an utopian world at the expense of the creativity of individuals.
I’ll briefly explain all the important elements but this review’s primary focus is on aesthetics, particularly naturalism versus romantic realism.
- Creativity and planning: Childhood’s End sort of was a mixture of Brave New World, 1984 and Anthem with some E.T. elements. Anthem was possibly the closest resemblance of the story without the aliens. In Anthem, technology became stagnated/planned, creativity/individuality was lost; In Childhood’s End, people lost the will to be creative because there was no need to improve since aliens provided everything, however, some individuals formed ‘New Athens” (which mimic the Golden Age of Ancient Greece) where it was basically a minarchist society and every individual was able to thrive in whichever way they desire to do so.
- Freedom versus control: The alien overlords never showed themselves like Big Brother, people had a seemingly unlimited autonomy but in fact people were conditioned into “good citizens” through a master-servant relationship. Majority of the people protested the new world order initially but soon only a small minority were still part of the rebellion. It shows how easy it is for people to accept authority without thinking.
- End of racism: The overlords themselves were an alien race who dominated the human races for over 60 years. The knowledge of having a superior race eliminated the eugenic idea and social Darwinism. Race was no longer an issue concerning humans but the relationship with the overlord drew more attention mimicking a similar trend in the human history.
- Naturalism versus romantic realism: Naturalism is the art form of depicting things as it is, it expresses all the possible things happening in real life using natural setting. Such as the Grape of Wrath depicting the Great Depression; Romantic Realism is to create the heroes in our reality by putting ordinary people into sticky yet probable situation to see them overcome the difficulty and transform themselves. Such as Atlas Shrugged showing Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden becoming heroine and hero. What the alien overlords did was to eliminate the romantic ideal of people, the overlords harboured another purpose (spoiler: to combine the races of intellectual beings with an overall sentient entity/collectivism) and having individuality hinders the forthcoming event. By not allowing people to thinking outside the box, the threat was evidently neutralized.