Book Club August: When I Became a Man, I Put Away Childish Things, Including Being Human

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by flatearthpandas, Aug 25, 2019.

  1. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    13
    Haldo everyone, welcome to August Book Club of Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke.

    For me, this was the first Clarke book I read, but it was easy to see why I already knew his name. The twists weren't wild but they were basically what I expected from scifi of the era.

    What I didn't expect and really enjoyed was the lack of concern for human characters in service to the narrative. As soon as the introduction finished and despite building background for the rocket scientist and his Russian counterpart, I could see quickly that they were being dropped like they were on fire and that's something I've always appreciated.

    Let us know what you think.
     
  2. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    Here are some questions I found to kick off discussion, might give you an idea about what to discuss:

    Has anyone read the book before? If so, how does it stand up?

    What did you think of Clarke’s narrative style? We meet quite a few characters that then die or disappear – did this bother you as a reader?

    There are Christian themes and symbols in this book. Does anyone want to explore the significance of Jan taking a similar trip to the home of the Overlords as Jonah took in the whale? Does the end depict Armageddon/The Rapture? Why does Karellen resemble our idea of Satan/The Devil?

    Did you notice any strong female character in the novel? If so, who and how does her character fit into the novel thematically? If not, why do you think they are lacking?

    Did any lines or passages strike you as noteworthy, or parts you especially enjoyed?

    Is the role of the dog Fey important?

    Why will the Overlords "always envy" the human race?"

    What did you think about the ending?

    What makes Childhood’s End a classic work of science fiction? Or is it?

    Did anything about the book resonate with what is going on in the U.S. and the world today? 10.Has anyone seen one of the SyFy channel series? How does it compare to the book?

    I'll post some thoughts next.
     
  3. weemadarthur

    weemadarthur Mad as in angry, or mad as in crazy?

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    175
    You can see Clarke attempting to be progressive, and failing miserably.

    He places people from around the world on a committee so we can see that everyone is getting along ok, but they are names and not people, we certainly don’t bother to get their thoughts and they have no purpose in the story.

    The ‘exotic’ wife of the collector probably exists to show that nobody bats an eye at interracial marriages, but in description just comes across as a fetishistic lovers’ trophy and not a person.

    The ‘mom’ in the story is emotionally fragile, faints easily, as soon as she has children all semblance of personhood disappears and she becomes nothing but a metaphorical guardian angel, and plus when the family moves to “utopia island” she is dumped back in the kitchen, because those 20 hours a week daddy works means Clarke can’t even conceive that he might do some cooking to care for his kids.
     
  4. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    This was probably my third time reading the book? I read it something like 12 years ago (oh, god) and reread it very shortly afterwards. I remember loving it then, and I would still say that it's very much worth reading. I like Clarke's style here in general, the focus on the changes the world/society goes through and the revolving door of characters that come in and out of focus really works for me, specially for a novel that really isn't about any individual's journey rather than a series of almost-parables and thought experiments. It feels like an emotionally detached exploration of an idea he came up with and it's very well executed. The short length of the book also a good thing about it, I don't think I would have wanted it to linger on any particular section or increase its scope.

    It also has some really striking "scenes" that I think Clarke does a great job "painting with words" for us: The last part of the opening with the rocket scientist looking at the arrival of the Overlord ship(s), the UN guy alone in the lake when the reporter comes to meet him, the big reveal of what the Overlords look like (I wonder if this representation of Baphomet existed in Clarke's time, because the description of Karellen interacting with the children really reminded me of it), the description of the Overmind-tornado-thing in the Overlord's world, Jeff and Jenni's PSI abilities manifesting, and of course the entire section on what happened to earth from Jan's point of view. Those are some that come to mind, but there were plenty that I thought were very impactful and memorable.

    Part of the "complacency is bad" angle fell a bit flat for me because it read like his version of the "my generation's art was the good one" argument; I'm ok with the "utopia gone wrong" scenarios where humanity is subdued through complacency Brave-New-World-style, but I thought the Overlord's version of an utopia didn't feel like one that would stifle creativity or the emergence of art. If the Overlords were much more anti-"cultural growth" it really wasn't reflected much in the novel.

    Finally, I think I would have not stayed on earth like Jan did. He was supposed to represent humanity's drive for knowledge and exploration, so I guess Clarke's thought was, since there were no humans left for the scientist to show their findings to, his existence lost all meaning? I'd probably have wanted to go back to the Overworld's planet even if it meant living in that zoo of theirs lol.

    Some quotes:
    In part 1:
    I see what you did there good foreshadowing bro.

    Part 2:
    "CLARKE PREDICTS YOUTUBE"

    Part 3:
    "CLARKE PREDICTS UBER EATS"

    "CLARKE PREDICTS NEON GENESIS EVANGELION" (Hideaki Anno really likes this book)

    More thoughts later maybe
     
    Sawneeks likes this.
  5. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    13
    I didn't actually accomplish my re-read so it's been about a month since I looked at the book, but while I definitely remember some dated language, I wouldn't put it as Clarke failing to be progressive. It isn't a book from 2019 and I found the book to be racially with its heart in the right place despite some issues. As far as gender, I had more issues than race but never really felt like things were coming out of malice. Whatever the trappings, the idea of the future society seemed to be about eliminating discrimination.
     
    #5 flatearthpandas, Aug 25, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
  6. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    Yeah. Maybe the fact that everyone, even each section's "main characters" is so 2-dimensional and basically stand-ins for different arguments within the context of what's happening in each section makes me somewhat forgiving of the fact that as far as I can tell, all characters with more than 5 sentences are caucasian men, and the only woman that matters (Jenni) literally loses her identity as soon as her importance is recognized. I will say that a very generous reading of Jean's "mom role" would be that it's a criticism of New Athens being an incorrect solution to humanity's cultural rut, with it representing a desperate regression into humanity's "childhood" before its inevitable maturation, and the regressive gender roles falling in line to that.

    In terms of "politics", what always stood out to me (and I'm surprised that it did back when I first read it, because I was expecting it to take up at least a page when re-reading it and was surprised to find it was like a 2-sentence thing) was the marriage license thing, Clarke's utopia apparently includes marriage not being permanent and instead people signing up for agreed-upon lengths. Clarke got divorced shortly after getting married (and it's well know he was a queer man, that article goes in depth on that) so maybe that was his solution to that issue in particular :P
     
  7. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    Oh, and I'd like to know about the TV series if anyone watched it. Does it even follow the book's structure at all?
     
  8. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2017
    Messages:
    508
    Likes Received:
    222
    Gender:
    Male
    I thought the book was decent. I enjoyed the structure, though I wouldn’t have been against seeing more viewpoints of the events taking place.

    As for the Christian imagery, I didn’t really notice a ton of ties as I read the book (which is probably due to my general disinterest in religion). To me it more seemed like furthering the novel’s idea that everything has a scientific explanation - even if we can’t comprehend it yet.

    Generally speaking the book kind of just made me sad, very nihilistic.
     
  9. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    Actually I'd say this novel proposed the opposite, that there were things that were unknowable to science. Even the Overlords recognized that they couldn't explain (for example) the ouija episode and had kinda given up on it being explained by the scientific method. Per Wikipedia's article on the book, at the time he wrote it Clarke was actually interested in the supernatural and hadn't become full-on skeptic, to the point that he hesitated to have it published because he'd come to represent hard sci-fi:

     
  10. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    Messages:
    238
    Likes Received:
    249
    Gender:
    Male
    This was my first Clarke book, too.

    Getting used to characters being introduced to be dropped shortly after took some time for me as up to UNsec guy's last days I expected the narrative to be more character-driven, but seeing the overall picture I see how this approach was better to convey what the author wanted to, despite it several times I found myself wondering if characterization can be good if I systematically forget the characters.

    I have to agree with Wee on Clarke falling short on several aspects of his utopia although also agreeing with FEP, I would lie if I were to say when I read an old book I am not prepared to raise eyebrows a couple of times, even if it was written with the best intentions.

    Regarding the use of religious imagery, personally I saw it as a constant reminder of humankind's imminent end through the book.

    The part about culture output declining felt off to me too, couldn't avoid thinking of boomer comics there.

    Who is everyone's favorite non-Karellen character? I have to go with the UNsec, I saw his eagerness to learn more about the overlords as time passed engaging and really liked his conversations with Karellen.
     
  11. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    I'll go with both scientists (the one who helps UN guy build the flashing device, but specially the one with the submarine lab because he had some sort of kraken pet?). I thought it was hilarious how little convincing they needed to just go along with the anti-Overlord plans. They both just went "oh what the hell, that sounds fun, let's do it".
     
  12. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    221
    Likes Received:
    38
    Gender:
    Male
    For being a huge sci-fi nerd, and reading tons of it throughout my life, this is the first Clarke book I have read.


    Kinda disappointed. I read up above that one of you read it at 12 and then reread it shorty thereafter. I can see 12 year old me eating it Up.

    I completely agree about the words used, of a time but meant to be progressive is likely what he went for, but it just came out like a fetish description.

    As part of the first reforms, the overlords brought oral contraception (got that) and the ability to determine the father of any child (got that) leading to the last of the “puritanical aberration” being “swept away” (don’t have that). I found this interesting because modern society has those first two items and Clarke seemed to think this was enough to undo all sexual inhibitions of society. It is a very male viewpoint on what one would think all a woman would worry about concerning sexual Congress. I guess I can’t even see what others would think of this back In the day.

    I got others, this library book is totally dog-eared with anachronisms and issues I found with it.

    Disappointed, I just expected more.
    Especially Humanity rolling over and taking it just seems so against the human condition. If there is one thing our society has imposed on the history books is that we don’t take anything lying down. I think that the overlords would have killed way more of humanity in “defense” than is outlined here.

    My final thoughts for right now are that Clarke spends the book trying to show that humanity is meant for something more than what we have, and that we should strive to improve our lives in pursuit of that. I just have the benefit of seeing some of those improvements happen but see that humanity is still fooling away, destroying our earth, not working on solutions external to our planet, and I have a disdain for throwing away “childhood things”.

    Yeah I don’t play cops and robbers, with action figures, or play with hotwheels. But the one thing my parents always wanted me to “grow out of” is still my favorite hobby, and based on ERA’s demographics it is probably on of y’alls favorite hobbies as well.

    Childhood ends when we assume responsibility, regardless of what we start or stop doing. The overlords appearing takes that responsibility away and set us on a path with no thought to the ending and in the end only “children” ascend. In my opinion the book is about so much, but the ending of childhood isn't one of them.
     
    Sawneeks likes this.
  13. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    221
    Likes Received:
    38
    Gender:
    Male
    Favorite non-Karellen character?

    It’s Jan, of all the human characters, he is the only one I feel retains his “humanity” throughout his time with the reader. Jan tries, and succeeds in something. He seems to be the only human left after the UNSec gets saved.

    Other people are close to a normal human character, Rupert is close because he maintains his curiosity, but ultimately he stops at a point.
     
  14. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    Messages:
    238
    Likes Received:
    249
    Gender:
    Male
    Well, the overlords are shown as omnipotent and master social psychologists, putting focus on rebellions would lead to more depictions of planetary "I've got your nose" by the overlords and get tiring not long after imo
     
  15. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    221
    Likes Received:
    38
    Gender:
    Male
    I just don’t buy it. We have too much inherit skepticism, to much individualism.

    Maybe it’s my American-ness, but I just don’t see most of the world getting tired before they get dead. But that’s how Clarke portrays it, that we stop and accept it, That a god appears and we bow immediately.
     
  16. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    221
    Likes Received:
    38
    Gender:
    Male
    Leading to utopia where we stop creating art, shifting to mindless exploits (though I disagree that TV is mindless), that we stop looking and thrusting towards the stars after being shown that near light travel is possible.

    The “got your nose” only works if we quit learning and advancing. I think humanity would be empowered seeing advanced technology and not dismayed like Clarke says
     
  17. Sawneeks

    Sawneeks Queen Doppelpopolis

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    501
    Likes Received:
    199
    Gender:
    Female
    This was also my first Clarke book and I wasn't too sure what to expect out of it since I'd never heard of this story beforehand. I ended up enjoying his style of writing and really liked how this was a more optimistic view of science fiction and humanity that I don't run into very often when reading this genre (even though i dont read it much to begin with). That said it brought up an interesting problem with part of the story that I've run into before with older forms of media and it's the problem when a trope becomes so universal that the initial instance of it is no longer special or interesting. Like how in this story one of the main points is that humanity becomes stagnant and no longer evolves or takes risks due to an outside force giving them everything they desire. It breaks down into the belief that humanity is able to flourish through trials and hardships and without those we would wither away.

    Oddly enough I can't recall specific pieces of media with this trope but I know of it enough that when it appeared here it wasn't very special or new. I was talking to @Pedro a bit the other day and he had this recommended to him since it was the beginning of that specific story beat. I'd imagine that when this story first came out it was an interesting take on what would happen to humanity if they had their wishes fulfilled but at this point it just seems tired. The book also doesn't really explore why humanity would become so stagnant without any adversity, it just states that we would.

    I did have some other issues with the story and just in my initial glance at everyone's comments I saw that Wee touched on it a bit. Clarke tries very hard to be progressive in places and doesn't really hit them properly. The note about the 'exotic wife' is one, there is a line I remember where the N-word had become commonplace and acceptable to use, and there was some talk about how men were able to have multiple wives but there was never any mention of women having multiple husbands are being promiscuous. It dates the story quite a lot and just helps reinforce the reality that current social stigmas and beliefs do translate into fiction even if the person writing is not totally aware of it.

    I also had a bit of an issue with the Overlord's plan to ease Humanity into accepting their form as only being a 100 year plan since I find that much too optimistic of a timeframe for old beliefs and fears to die off. That said, I did like that the Overlords were essentially the Christian representation of the devil. I think the explanation as to why humanity knew of them beforehand was very silly and I wasn't too happy with it but it did provide the reader with a good parallel to draw from when it came to the Overlord's overall effect on humanity.

    The ending I wasn't too jazzed about either. It's been appearing in a lot of media I've been watching/reading lately but the belief that the end goal of a species is to become a hivemind of some sort is just very odd to me. Zipped mentioned it a bit above but it's probably my Western ideals coming through about individualism that makes this idea seem so odd to me. I also think it runs against what Clarke was trying to say when it came to the difference between the Overlords and the Overmind. It's mentioned that the Overlords are seen as all-powerful and what humanity aspires to be but they also lament their existence and find hope in humanity due to their potential evolution into the Overmind. It's portrayed in the book that humanity is still able to evolve and change while the Overlords cannot, something that is said to be very negative and not something to aspire towards whereas the Overmind is. Clarke seems to be trying to make it about change and knowledge but the ending of the book feels like it's trying to say that the only thing that matters in the long run is how much power you have.

    Enjoyed reading it at least. I powered through it in 3 days and really liked it, it was a nice break from the previous month's book. I also enjoyed the Overlord's names which may or may not become names in future D&D campaigns because names like Rashaverak and Thanthalteresco are great names for demons.
     
  18. Sawneeks

    Sawneeks Queen Doppelpopolis

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    501
    Likes Received:
    199
    Gender:
    Female
    The fact that so much of this story focuses on science and the knowable universe made the inclusion of the ouji board and all the 'mystic' aspects of the story just that much stranger to me. Learning later that he was a skeptic of all the mysticism in the book was actually pretty interesting to find out because the book allllmost goes in the direction of magic/mysticism/faith being stronger than science. It doesn't quite get there but it comes very close to it.

    Definitely the UNsec guy, the scientists, and I found the initial group of kidnappers to be an interesting antithesis of the positive Overlord messages we had been getting so far. Just wish they had more to them.

    Agree with everything you said here, Zipped. You summed up a lot of my own thoughts.

    I do feel like humanity just kind of accepted its fate when it came to the initial response to the Overlords but at the same time there really is no equatable situation to compare this to. We have the description of how one group launched a nuke at one of the ships and it just vanished like nothing happened, we have the few decrees the Overlords made and how they were 'not to be crossed', and we have just one example of what the Overlords would do if someone did cross that line and they had the power to block out the sun on one tiny piece of land. Humanity was essentially up against an unknown that was so much stronger than they were there was nothing reasonable they could do to 'fight back'. The logical arguments that the protestors had at the beginning of the book were the only real points of contention against them and that was mostly a Human vs Human argument.
     
  19. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    13
    If anyone's seen World's End, it's basically the complete opposite of this. I took humanity's reaction pretty well. It seemed to me like a nice look at youtube/twitch culture where everyone has endless free time and content is so easy to create that there just became an endless amount of content. It's kind of an extrapolation from box office no longer being the lord of film and the death of professional sports because everyone had the time to dedicate to it. So the golden age part actually struck me as being fairly spot on.
     
  20. weemadarthur

    weemadarthur Mad as in angry, or mad as in crazy?

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    175
    Agreed that ‘failing to create art due to less horror existing’ is a poor trope. Art doesn’t always come from pain.

    The weirdest thing was all of humanity stopping having children once the existing ones went Ascended. It’s not like everyone ....USES birth control. And it’s definitely an early view of birth control. It thinks the science thing will BE a magic pill. In the real world, birth control fails. And individuals are allergic to it or otherwise unresponsive. Overly simplistic understanding of the chaotic nature of the universe. Accidental pregnancies happen, and people don’t stop having kids if their young kids get killed by disease or accident. They mourn, and do whatever. Also I’m more for the Idiocracy future.

    Overall Clarke seems about as good as Asimov, a contemporary as far as I know, at writing women. His most believable woman is the rocket scientist with no personality and just a job. Which is to say, they suck at it.

    The devil thing was stupid, because that art depiction is pinpointable to a certain part of history (I believe the Middle Ages specifically, but I’d have to check again), and the expanding of that art was kinda like Coke’s santa claus. Suddenly everyone saw santa as wearing red, when before 1930 or whenever, it had not been a tradition. I know he tried to excuse the problem by attributing it to 4th dimensional time not running only one way and psychic omens.

    Also the Jonah comparison doesn’t at all match, so it fails to connect. Jan just looked like a traditional stowaway. The whale seemed utterly unimportant except as a plot device.

    In the end, it might have been happy if the children hadn’t eaten the earth. But that was going a step too far. There’s no reason why humans couldn’t hang around even if they were a doomed species like the overlords. Who cares, leave them alone. Imposing the end from the outside makes it *not about humanity*. It’s just a thing that can’t be affected or stopped, so there’s no exploration of theme.
     
  21. weemadarthur

    weemadarthur Mad as in angry, or mad as in crazy?

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    175
    I thought Clarke specified that those 2 things were made by Man, actually.
     
  22. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2017
    Messages:
    508
    Likes Received:
    222
    Gender:
    Male
    I guess I just took it a different way. As I read it, it felt like what the Overlords were to humans, the Overmind was to the Overlords. The characters in the book consistently reference how advanced the Overlords are and how amazing not only their technology is but also just them as a species. To me the Overmind is then just a further step (well, steps) removed - an entity so far advanced and beyond even the Overlord’s knowledge. Many things that can’t easily be explained have been interpreted as “supernatural” mistakenly.
     
  23. weemadarthur

    weemadarthur Mad as in angry, or mad as in crazy?

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    175
    Oh gosh, the worst for this is Poe’s horror.
    If you read some of his short stories, all you can think is “I’ve seen this a thousand times, done better too’” because it’s so hard to realize he did it FIRST.
     
  24. Pedro

    Pedro The Last Airbender is actually a great movie
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    417
    Likes Received:
    346
    Gender:
    Male
    I'm unfortunately only halfway through this book, but I plan on finishing it soon so I can read the other comments here.

    Gonna put what I think of the book so far inside spoilers because I may turn out to be completely wrong if something changes in the narrative:

    So far, I'll say that I'm disappointed with how humankind is pictured in the story, how so many different conflicts in our world are solved "just because", with almost no reasonable explanation given to it.

    For example, a racial struggle that lasted over a hundred years in South Africa was solved in a day because the sun went out (the government needed to be corrected because the poor white minority didn't have the same rights after the apartheid, how terrible; of all the examples of racial struggles in the world *that* was the one used as example). *Even if*, which is a very big if, 100% of the country's population did cease fighting that day, they only stopped because they were afraid of the aliens and not because they understood racism is bad.
    So even if I were to believe that this utopia could happen, it wouldn't be a real one as humans would still be thinking how they used to, they would only not act on those thoughts for fear of repercussion.

    But the thing is, I can't believe that humans would just give up like that and not fight. That all countries would abandon their culture, and traditions, and religions, and languages (I don't like how every country needs to lose its individuality but everyone's forced to know English, it would make more sense if a new language was born; stories that put the USA in the center of the world are zzz). I don't know, tell me the aliens mind-controlled everyone so I can accept this, but I think our species is too complex to resign like this on their own.
    And yes, you can see very small groups exist here and there that oppose the aliens, but could you imagine every politician on the planet, from all sides of the political spectrum, 100% agreeing on every issue?

    I would love a version of this story where this brainwashed is properly detailed and not taken for granted because the rest of the plot needs to happen.

    edit:
    So this society is still racist and sexist, the only difference is that these prejudices have been normalized to the point the respective minorities don't fight back against them anymore. And the novel doesn't seem to acknowledge that that is a horrible thing.
    I just read that Clarke wanted the word "nigger" to be acceptable in this world he created so I'm dropping this book and finding something else to read.

    I regret recommending this book but nowhere did I see a warning about these things.
     
    #24 Pedro, Aug 25, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
    weemadarthur and Natiko like this.
  25. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2017
    Messages:
    508
    Likes Received:
    222
    Gender:
    Male
    Yeah, my general impression is that, while he may have had good intentions, it comes from a perspective of someone ill equipped to tackle such topics. It reads like a white guy that doesn't truly appreciate the hardships or challenges faced by those impacted.

    I agree with a lot of the comments about the book not explaining the actual impacts and details of these changes enough. Change just happens, and that's that. I think that's why I would have liked to see more perspectives - reduce the amount of George in the book and give us a different viewpoint to balance it out.
     
  26. weemadarthur

    weemadarthur Mad as in angry, or mad as in crazy?

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    175
    I don’t regret reading the book. I’ve read tons of older fiction that is full of default majority view racism. Basically ANY british author.

    Agatha Christie
    PJ Wodehouse
    Frances Hodgson Burnett
    Rudyard Kipling

    And those are the accessible ones, even childrens authors. I can’t tell you how much it confused me to read the straightforward racism in The Secret Garden, when I was a kid. I honestly couldn’t figure out why characters were offended, what the words meant, etc. Then I grew up and reread it, and omg.

    Even authors who TRY to be progressive, it doesn’t quite flow.
    Louisa May Alcott has a lot of main characters who support abolition, and she doesn’t use the N word, but does use other racial terms (like mulatto) that were just considered descriptive. And she’s so openly feminist it’s like being beaten over the head by suffragette pamphlets. But the background society in her books? Still really sexist and racist.
     
  27. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    It's a shame you disliked the book @Pedro , I would still recommend you finish it as I thought it was very much worth reading (and I also enjoy everything I've read from Clarke), but I also understand your points and they're probably major enough to drop it entirely.

    Sucks that I was excited for this book's discussion since it's a big favorite of mine and was pretty influential but I guess it didn't went well :thisisfine:
     
  28. weemadarthur

    weemadarthur Mad as in angry, or mad as in crazy?

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    175
    We can move on from the dated societal stuff to “what about humanity ascending, eh?” It just needed to be said imo.
     
  29. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2017
    Messages:
    508
    Likes Received:
    222
    Gender:
    Male
    I didn't regret reading it either. I still thought it was a decent book - I imagine at the time it would have been far more groundbreaking than coming to it so far after the fact (I'd never even heard of the book before this to be honest).

    Here's one thing that I must have missed - did it ever explain why the Overlords are doing the bidding of the Overmind? It didn't even seem like the Overlords had any way of communicating with the Overmind from what I can recall.
     
  30. weemadarthur

    weemadarthur Mad as in angry, or mad as in crazy?

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    175
    It made them feel like part of the future, I guess.
     
  31. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    I don't think we got many details about how they communicated with the Overmind if at all, but they collaborated with it to find what they could about the weird science/PSI powers their race had no access to so they could eventually attempt to ascend themselves, as far as I could tell.
     
  32. weemadarthur

    weemadarthur Mad as in angry, or mad as in crazy?

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    175
    I agree that a Group Mind doesn’t feel like an advancement. Personally I would find that Borglike and noisy. The idea of more brains equalling more intelligence doesn’t always work either - am resorting to more pratchett quotes - ‘the IQ of a mob is the IQ of its dumbest member, divided by the number of participants.’
     
  33. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    13
    The actual ascension was kind of whatever for me. So much of the book is just kind of like thing happens and you as a reader take it or leave it, imo. I accepted it all, but the nature of the overmind didn't strike me as anything that exciting. Becoming overlords seemed more exciting because they retained their individuality, the overmind's clearly superior ability to manipulate the universe was just raw power without explanation so the ascension and suicidal implosion of the remains of the culture were tragic. Evolution for evolution's sake at the cost of agency, individualism, and free will.
     
  34. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    221
    Likes Received:
    38
    Gender:
    Male
    Of all the things that I had issue with, the literal ascension of the children of humanity wasn’t one of them.

    Their abilities, hive mind, and in ability to age, sure, but like others have said above he did it first. Others have come after and done it better, but Clarke defined this trope. Which does give him some excuses.

    But the literal ascension is a nice mind visual
     
  35. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    13
    When people say the hive mind ascension has been done before and better, what are you taking about exactly? I feel out of the loop
     
  36. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    Messages:
    238
    Likes Received:
    249
    Gender:
    Male
    Only thing that comes to mind is Evangelion, is it a common trope?
     
  37. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    In terms of tropes, it's somewhere between Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and The Singularity (Warning: TV Tropes links), of which there are a lot of examples so I think that's why it seems familiar to people. The latter of those seems to have the most relevant examples in literature along with Childhood's End itself. I can't think of any (other than Evangelion) that involve a large amount of people being the one who ascend, but I'm sure they're out there to various degrees, some are mentioned in the links. The imagery of people literally ascending is also kinda christian-like, no? With the rapture and all.
     
  38. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2017
    Messages:
    221
    Likes Received:
    38
    Gender:
    Male
    Hive mind before this novel? I don’t think so, later sure. Matrix, Evangelion, doctor who’s cybermen, are examples. But I’m pretty sure if this wasn’t the beginning of the trope it’s not too far off. Can’t ding a use of a trope for being cliche when it creates the cliche.

    The literal ascension of the continent was pretty cool though, descriptive inventive, and just across the bridge of sci-fi and fantastical.
     
  39. Sawneeks

    Sawneeks Queen Doppelpopolis

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    501
    Likes Received:
    199
    Gender:
    Female
    The recent X-Men comics have a bit of this trope in a way. Obvious spoilers for Hickman's X-men run:

    An entity called The Phalanx comes to Earth and they are classified as a Collective Intelligence of the highest power. Basically the Overmind from this book. They come to planets and determine if the species there is smart enough to be absorbed into the collective minds of thousands of other races. It's the main goal of the group of Mutants that inhabit Earth in the far flung future.

    Oddly enough, Star Wars has the opposite of this. In that when someone dies they return to The Force and go from an individual to a collective. It's detailed that those who are strong in The Force are able to keep their individuality after death and basically goes against Clarke's goal for humanity.

    It was described that the Overmind had always just been a part of Overlord culture ever since they could remember. They never got directions are any one-on-one conversation but they just figured they would follow it around and do its bidding for....some reason. It's not even mutually beneficial so i have no clue why they keep helping the Overmind.
     
  40. Sawneeks

    Sawneeks Queen Doppelpopolis

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    501
    Likes Received:
    199
    Gender:
    Female
    Definitely agree that the visuals were wonderful. The description as the Earth slowly faded away was a great picture to have. I also enjoyed when the son started to explore other worlds and galaxies; the places he explore were so varied that I really wanted him to keep going in the descriptions of them. The flat world that may or may not know the 3rd dimension, the pillars in the center of the universe, and the crystal race that moved so slowly that a thought took centuries to form. I love visual pictures like that in stories.
     
  41. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    155
    Gender:
    Male
    Yep, those descriptions were great. I wonder if that first planet was a nod to Flatland, the description is too close for it to be a coincidence IMO :D
     
  42. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2017
    Messages:
    508
    Likes Received:
    222
    Gender:
    Male
    Ah, yeah I forgot about that bit then. Still though - I'm not sure it holds up as a particularly great explanation. I know we just talked about something similar with the last book we read as a group, but in this instance I feel like the 'entity behind the curtain' was a much bigger focal point of what the story was building to for such oversights to be waved away.

    Yeah, I can agree with this. It was probably a highlight of the book for me.
     
  43. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    1,019
    Likes Received:
    521
    Gender:
    Female
    I'm not done and I don't know if I'm gonna be done. I'm having a really hard time with this book. I understand being a product of its time, but it's egregiously sexist and racist in ways that I find a huge turnoff - and I say that as someone who grew up reading Heinlein, and he's definitely troubling.

    The use of South Africa and the poor white people who swept in and tried to colonize early on in the book was such a red flag to me. I keep thinking about the context of when this was written - you're talking a decade after massive bombs on Japan, the Holocaust, racial unrest in the US, so much more... and at a time when apartheid was just taking hold, the sole example Clarke plucks from his vision of the future is that in the future, poor, persecuted white people will fall from power in South Africa and need to be protected.

    It's frankly appalling, and it gets worse as the book goes on. It's internally inconsistent, too, when addressing white supremacy. English takes over. What seems to be a western (white) culture rules the day, with some small bone thrown to Buddhism as the single sole religion that sort of survives. But labels somehow still persist when there's no reason for them to - because there's no religion and no real need for politics, but Clarke is quick to point out, when he's defending his use of n***er, that it's just another label, like Republican or Methodist! Just a descriptor! But we don't need those labels anymore in this world as created. Why continue to use that word? And why was the onus on the labeled population to just accept it and not on white folks to stop using it?

    I have a ton of things marked that really bothered me. I'm a little over halfway and I just don't feel much desire to read it. It's been a slog.
     
    turmoil7 and weemadarthur like this.
  44. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    1,019
    Likes Received:
    521
    Gender:
    Female
    I wrote mine before I replied.

    Yeah, I think this is part of it - he was ill-equipped. Incapable of visualizing equality. I brought up Heinlein in the last post because while Heinlein was, y'know, unconscionably deviant, he was capable of imagining a more equal society and I keep comparing that to Clarke, where everything is pretty much told through the lens of a white male patriarchal dominance. He calls it equal, but it ain't. The sexual freedom offered by the birth control? Benefits men, which is why it's reported in the same breath as the paternity test. Men are expected to be polyamorous, which is considered a boon to the wifeys, who don't want to be bothered, I guess, because women just tolerate sex in this world. Otherwise they largely seemed to exist on the fringes.

    Not into it.
     
  45. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2017
    Messages:
    508
    Likes Received:
    222
    Gender:
    Male
    Yeah, I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for being turned off by it. It can be a sign of the times, it can be well intentioned, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less uncomfortable to read in present day.
     
  46. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    1,019
    Likes Received:
    521
    Gender:
    Female
    I think I hit the last straw with the "nobody here but us chickens, Massa" "joke" today.

    So the thing is, that was originally the joke - situation was slave(s) as chicken thieves trying to hide, haha, look how ignorant. But it was repurposed in the 1930s and used in Our Gang and the "massa" was dropped. Going forward, that form wasn't much used. But again, Clarke uses it. And why? Why on earth in this society would anyone reference slavery as part of a joke? Are they so far removed? Doesn't seem like it when it hasn't been but a few generations since people were concerned about the Overlords (and like... talk about references to masters). But shouldn't someone like George, growing up in this world, be disgusted by concepts like slavery? Like I said, I don't feel like enough distance has been established for it not to be horrifying. But nope, it's a joke.
     
    weemadarthur likes this.
  47. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Messages:
    1,019
    Likes Received:
    521
    Gender:
    Female
    I think if I was invested in the story or the characters I might be able to work around it... but I'm not. I don't like the worldbuilding - I find it too glossy, too internally consistent, too many questions swept aside - and I don't think there's much to the characters or themes. On to the next book, I guess.