Cover of Childhood’s End (Image via Del Rey)
1. Childhood’s End
At first, it’s not entirely clear that Childhood’s End is an apocalyptic novel. This 1953 tale, written by famed science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, starts off as a strange, but generally calm story. A series of vast alien ships park themselves above major Earth cities. After the initial freaking out period, the aliens (who refuse to show themselves) claim that all is well. They’ll be taking over management of the planet in order to keep humanity from killing itself.
Humanity is generally okay with this, as the aliens, eventually called the “Overlords,” make things pretty great. Everyone is healthy and well off, though creativity suffers without the force of pain or unhappiness behind it.
Then, the Overlords reveal themselves. This is a delicate procedure for, you see, the Overlords are the inspiration for many of society’s devils. I mean, they have horns, cloven hooves, gigantic, leathery wings, the whole package. Given that it’s now fifty years after their first contact, the humans just sort of roll with it.
However, the Overlords are really here to usher in a new era. The coming generation of children will be so vastly changed that they may no longer be considered human. Indeed, they develop new psychic powers in order to prepare for an eventual merging with something called the “Overmind”. Eventually, all of the old-style humans fail to reproduce and die out.
This is not exactly a cheerful situation, but it’s a far distance from total annihilation of our species. If you’ve paid attention in biology class, then surely you understand that evolution is natural and implacable. While the change of Childhood’s End is admittedly rough on the adults, the new children have a much better deal of it, even if it means that end of our species as we know it.