Childhood’s End

Giant spaceships appear in the sky and hover over major cities across the globe! Soon they start wiping out cities and hunting down the beleaguered survivors… or am I getting Childhood’s End confused with “Independence Day?” Turns out that these aliens want to bring unprecedented peace and virtual utopia to the people of Earth. But at what cost? This week, we get away from dystopia and examine utopia. Is it realistic? Is the cost too high? We discuss these issues, along with our usual hot buttoned topical pals, feminism and religion. And for good measure, we throw in a discussion of race because nothing makes people feel more comfortable than a discussion about racial issues. Our new recording studio (aka our “new” recording “studio”) is refreshingly free of sirens, barking dogs, and leafblower engines, but does neighbor a bird who badly wants to be a guest on the podcast.

The music this week is “The Darkest Day” from David Arnold’s soundtrack for “Independence Day,” because that joke really needed to come full circle.

08 – Childhood’s End – Most Depressing Utopia Ever

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  1. Doug Robertson

     /  May 8, 2012

    Arthur C Clarke wrote some of my favorite SciFi short stories ever, but I’ve always felt that his novels were lacking. Most of them in fact feeling like short stories that got stretched out too far. He has these intriguing ideas like the human race evolving in to a hive mind, or the visual of the great ships moving in to place over all of the worlds major cities, but he doesn’t know how to create and explore real characters. A short story can center around an idea and use cardboard cutout people to perform the necessary functions, but a novel needs actual relatable characters and Clarke doesn’t seem to know how to create them. Many of his novels seem to be nothing but a series of disconnected smaller stories that are only loosely linked and usually entire sections could be left out without affecting the ending at all. For instance, 2001 is ultimately about Dave’s encounter with the monolith at Jupiter and his transfiguration by the aliens. The whole subplot about HAL going nuts is basically filler that allows something interesting to happen during the trip but is ultimately pointless and has nothing at all to do with the ending.
    The novels where he’s collaborated with someone like Stephen Baxter who can actually create interesting characters and integrate Clarke’s fascinating ideas into a coherent plot that actually moves from point A to point B in a logical fashion tend to be much better reads.

    As an aside, I remember Roland Emmerich mentioning in an interview that the arrival scene in Independence Day was indeed inspired by Childhood’s End and that in fact almost every scene and idea in that movie was, in some way, an homage to previous works (such as defeating the aliens with a “virus” a la HG Wells) even going so far as to duplicate some shots from classic films.

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