is a novel by Arthur C. Clarke
, originally published in 1953 (but based off of a 1950 short story of his). The plot concerns the Benevolent Alien Invasion
of an alien race called the Overlords. After stopping the Cold War
and establishing a world government, they start to maintain peace on Earth, but refuse to show any images of themselves for fifty years. Humanity enters a golden age, before spoilery events happen. Yeah, you can't read much more than that without the entire
plot being given away.
As suggested by the title, the main theme of the book is the end of humanity's "childhood" into a new era.Shout Outs
to it in fiction are not uncommon, ranging from some in Stargate SG-1
to the cover of Led Zeppelin
's ''Houses of the Holy", and the Genesis
song "Watcher Of The Skies".
- Adaptation Expansion: The first part of the novel is basically a slightly-altered retelling of Clarke's short story "Guardian Angel". The second and third parts are original, about what happens after.
- Alternative Number System: It is mentioned in passing that the Overlords count in base 14 (their hands have five fingers and two thumbs).
- Ancient Astronauts: The myths aren't from memory, but precognitive visions of the demonic-looking aliens.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The current generation of humans will be the last one- and with them, human civilization will cease to exist. As all their children born from that moment on were no longer human and will then mind-meld and ascend into a higher form of consciousness that transcends material bodies. Ultimately, that is the fate of all sentient races, except those that are "stuck"
- Assimilation Plot
- Beastly Bloodsports: The Overlords state their objection to killing animals for entertainment. They put teeth into this pronouncement by causing every member of the audience to actually feel the bull's pain at what, for obvious reasons, is the last bullfighting event for the humans.
- Bittersweet Ending, bordering on Downer Ending
- Bizarre Baby Boom: Aliens show up shortly before a bizarre new generation of humans appears, but they didn't actually cause it.
- Blue and Orange Morality
- Creepy Child: The telekinetic children.
- Dark Is Not Evil: The demon-like aliens were actually the good guys... The reason we thought they were evil and used them in our mythologies as such, was mostly because of a sort of species-wide premonition - we now realized that their very own appearance would be a sign of our 'end as a physically corporeal species'.
- End of an Age: Following a variation on the theme, setting is pure Science Fiction instead of the usual fantasy.
- Evolutionary Levels
- Gainax Ending: Indeed, probably one of the most direct inspirations for the Trope Namer.
- Genetic Memory: Discussed then inverted.
- The Great Politics Messup: Semi-averted, see Orwellian Retcon below.
- Hive Mind: A big galaxy-spanning one!
- Humanoid Aliens
- Humans Need Aliens: Humanity Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence via the help of a Benevolent Alien Invasion.
- Last of His Kind: Lampshaded. "He had always been a good piano player, and now he was the best in the world."
- No OSHA Compliance: The Overlord's planet. Justified in that, since the Overlords can fly on their world, they don't need things like railings or easily accessible exits.
- Old Shame: He mentions in the Millennial edition that he wrote this when he still had a belief in the paranormal.
- Ominous Floating Spaceship most likely the Trope Maker, certainly a contender for the Ur Example, were it not for Clarke's own comments that the Trope is older.
- Orwellian Retcon: Clarke wrote a new first chapter after the Cold War had ended.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Every religion (besides Buddhism) is then discredited.
- Psychic Powers: The new generation of babies start showing various forms of these. Most notably, telekinesis.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Earth and everything on its surface become pure energy for the new generation's journey to join the Overmind
- The Singularity
- Space Whale Aesop: Stop killing animals and ruining earth's environment because you're evolving into a new galactic form that will eventually ruin the Earth anyway!
- And oddly enough, a sperm whale diorama sent into space figures into the plot.
- The Gods Must Be Lazy: They'll just send another alien race to do their bidding.
- Actually justified, as it's stated that the Overmind has tried to directly interact with other species' development...only to fail spectacularly.
- Title Drop: Not directly, but the last third of the book is about the the end of both individual children's lives and the 'end of childhood' for humanity as a species, as they ascended to a higher plane of existence... to be part of another alien's mind.
- Trojan Horse: The diorama.
- Vichy Earth: Crossed with One World Order, but ultimately subverted.