Good morning, readers and book lovers! Here we are again in the cozy sitting room, beyond which is the dining room for breakfast lovers. You’ll find delicious hot coffee in the urn stashed in the corner, along with cream and sugar. For breakfast, there are piping-hot scrambled eggs (in the silver chafing dish) and hot buttered toast (in the bun warmer). Those who’d rather have Microwave Pear Crisp or Pear-Pecan Muffins, help yourself!
No guest diarist today, alas! We have one promised for next week but after that there’s all of February to be filled up. Please kosmail me and say you’ll take a slot—I’m rapidly running out of ideas for open forums. So sign up please, BTCML posts are a breeze!
And now to this morning’s topic.
At age 17, being an avid reader of science fiction (and every other kind), I read Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, Childhood’s End. Now, if there are people who haven’t yet read it, I don’t want to run around waving spoilers, so let me briefly explain.
One morning in 1975, when the human race is minding its own business, getting ready to launch a couple of exploratory rockets into space, everything suddenly changes. The novel opens with a brief look at Konrad, the German rocket scientist who went to the Russians after the war, and Reinhold, who went to the Americans. Each, backed by his adopted country, wants to be the first to launch. Following are the only three paragraphs I can quote without violating copyright laws:
Then Reinhold Hoffman knew, as did Konrad Schneider at this same moment, that he had lost his race. And he knew that he had lost it, not by the few weeks or months that he had feared, but by millennia. The huge and silent shadows driving across the stars, more miles above his head than he dared to guess, were as far beyond his little “Columbus” as it surpassed the log canoes of Paleolithic man. For a moment that seemed to last forever, Reinhold watched, as all the world was watching, while the great ships descended in their overwhelming majesty—until at last he could hear the faint scream of their passage through the thin air of the stratosphere.Riveted as always by Clarke’s outstanding storytelling ability and masterly command of the English language, I read Childhood’s End and, naïve child that I was, believed that everything Clarke said was actually going to happen—that this was to be the fate of the human race. I was depressed for three days, refusing to eat or take part in normal activities until my father talked me out of it. For years afterward I recoiled in distaste whenever I thought of Childhood’s End or encountered the title in my daily life.
He felt no regrets as the work of a lifetime was swept away. He had labored to take man to the stars, and, in the moment of success, the stars—the aloof, indifferent stars—had come to him.This was the moment when history held its breath, and the present sheared asunder from the past as an iceberg splits from its frozen, parent cliffs, and goes sailing out to sea in lonely pride. All that the past ages had achieved was as nothing now: only one thought echoed and re-echoed through Reinhold’s brain:
The human race was no longer alone.
But then—how many years later? Forty? More?—I picked it up, read it again, and my opinion of the book underwent a 360-degree turn. I liked it. In fact, I thought it quite comforting. Of course no one can know humankind’s eventual fate, but if Clarke’s vision turns out to be the correct one, well,…okay. It’s fine with me.
The dividing line between love and hate is very thin, or so they say. Has this been true for you? Did you once love a book that you despise now—or did you, like me, have the opposite experience? Tell us about it: we’re all ears, m’dears!