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Prologue�Chapter


Summary


Prologue


It is the late twentieth century. For years, the Soviet Union and the United States have been in a race to create the first spaceship with a nuclear drive. Reinhold is the main scientist for the U.S.; Konrad Schneider is the USSRs specialist. However, just as both scientists are poised for success, giant alien spaceships appear from the skies and land over every major world city.


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Chapter


The first chapter takes place five years after the prologue. The Overlords, as the humans call the aliens, have conquered all of Earth and set about instituting many new changes. For six days after their arrival, the ships had hovered over the cities, watching the worlds reaction. On the sixth day, the voice of the being that humans would come to call the Supervisor, Karellen, was relayed across every radio frequency. Speaking perfect English, Karellen informed all of Earth that its affairs were being taken over. Instantly, nations realized their sovereignty was at an end. One superpower attempted to destroy a rival by firing a nuclear missile at an Overlord ship, but the missile had simply vanished into thin air. Only one government had refused to submit to the admittedly fair demands of the Overlords. The Republic of South Africa would not end its policy of discrimination, so the Overlords mysteriously blocked out the sun for half an hour. Afterward, no further demonstrations of power were needed. From then on, life steadily improved for all of humanity throughout the world, as the Overlords effected their changes.


While most of the Overlords commands are transmitted through text messages, the Earth does have one personal liaison to Karellen Stormgren, the Secretary- General of the United Nations. As the chapter begins, Stormgren is about to meet with Wainwright, a clergyman and the leader of the Freedom League, an organizatio that opposes the domination of the Overlords, despite the Overlords so-far friendly attitude. The Freedom League objects to the coddling of the Overlords, meddling in human affairs. They dont like the idea of the World Federation, the Overlords plan for a world government. Even more importantly, they object to the fact that the Overlords will not reveal what they look like. Even Stormgren, who has met with Karellen for years, has never actually seen him. Stormgren agrees to address the Leagues concerns at his next meeting with the Supervisor.


Stormgren accordingly visits Karellen soon after. He is taken up in a tiny, egg- shaped ship to Karellens ship, which hovers fifty kilometers over New York. Karellen already knows all about the interview with Wainwright, because the Overlords have spying devices all over Earth. Karellen banters with Stormgren, and points out that men like Wainwright fear Karellen because he is a powerful threat to the worlds religions. He knows that they wonder how long the Overlords have been watching mankind, and whether they know the truth behind Buddha, Christ and Muhammed. As for revealing himself, Karellen tells Stormgren that he will consult his superiors and ask for permission.


Chapters �4


Summary


Chapter


Stormgren is having trouble sleeping. He goes out on his balcony and contemplates over New York City. He is becoming obsessed with wondering what Karellen looks like. He is sure that there is no form he could not come to accept and perhaps even find beautiful. The next day, Stormgrens assistant, Van Ryberg, discovers that Stormgren has gone missing.


Stormgren awakes to find himself a prisoner in an underground bunker. His captor is Joe, who claims that the bunker cannot be reached by the Overlords spying devices. At first, Stormgren believes that Wainwright has planned this, but when he remembers Wainwrights opposition to violence, it dawns on him that his kidnapping is the work of a radical contingent of the Freedom League. Joe tells Stormgren that they will wait several days for some visitors to arrive. These visitors turn out to be a group of well-dressed gentlemen, lead by an old Welshman. They are interested in knowing as much as they can about Stormgrens trips to visit Karellen. Stormgren describes the small, egg-shaped ship that transports him up to Karellens flagship and the room where he meets with Karellen. The room contains a blank viewscreen; Karellen can see Stormgren through it, but not vice versa. Stormgren tries to persuade the gentlemen that Karellen and has only good intentions, pointing out the ban on cruelty to animals. He also notes how hopeless their cause is, since the Overlords are near omnipotent. The gentlemen ignore this argument, but they suggest that perhaps a device could be used to examine the small room where Stormgren meets with Karellen.


Suddenly, the gentlemen freeze completely, as if time itself had stood still. Karellens voice comes to Stormgren from a small floating device. Karellen has used Stormgren as bait so he could locate and track these gentlemen. As Karellen leads Stormgren to freedom, Stormgren decides that he might create a device himself to investigate the small room.


Chapter 4


Stormgren meets with a scientist friend, who agrees to make a tiny device that could investigate the conference room where Stormgren meets with Karellen. The scientist points out that the blank screen Karellen uses to see Stormgren may actually be no more than a piece of one-way glass. Several weeks later, Stormgren goes to his usual meeting, carrying the paperwork for the proposed world government, the World Federation. He also has a small scanning device built into his briefcase. At the meeting, Karellen tells him that the Overlords will reveal their physical appearance to the world in fifty years. This will satisfy many supporters of the Freedom League, if not the League itself.


Wainwright is not happy with the decision, believing that mankind will have lost all its independence and memory of independence within fifty years. Stormgren disagrees, but either way the Freedom League has lost some of their credibility. Stormgren then consults with his scientist friend. Their suspicions are confirmed Karellen is standing directly behind the viewscreen, or rather, the one-way glass. The scientist then arms Stormgren with a powerful flashlight that he can use to see Karellen.


Stormgren meets with Karellen for the last time, since he will be retiring from the position of Secretary-General soon. Karellen tells him that when the Overlords reveal themselves, the human race will suffer a brief psychological discontinuity but they will recover, since the humans of that age will be more stable and used to the Overlords. Karellen also admits that the Overlords have had failures in shepherding other races, but he wont say anything more. As he finishes speaking, Karellen suddenly cries good-bye, and Stormgren barely has time to put the flashlight up to the glass. Years later, in an interview, a journalist asks Stormgren about the rumor that he once saw Karellen. Stormgren denies it, but the narrator tells the reader that Stormgren did see Karellen and understands why the Overlords must wait to reveal themselves.


Chapters 5�6


Summary


Chapter 5


It is fifty years since Stormgren retired, and the day that the Overlords will finally reveal themselves to mankind has arrived. There is only one ship now, Karellens ship, hovering over New York; all the other ships, over the other world capitals, turned out to be mere projections. The ship moves away from New York and lands in a wide field. As thousands of reporters and onlookers surround the ship, a door opens. Karellens voice is heard, inviting two children near the entrance to come up. Karellen then steps out of the ship, cradling a child in each arm. He is much taller than a human, perhaps nine or ten feet tall. He has ebony-black skin, leathery wings, and large horns protruding from his head. He also has a long, barbed tail. In short, Karellen looks exactly like a medieval drawing of the Devil. To the credit of the Overlords work on Earth, only a few humans faint at the sight of this ancient legend come to life.


Chapter 6


In the fifty years since Stormgrens retirement, the Overlords have created a single world government. In a flashback, Karellen explains to Stormgren that the best way to fight problems is through the correct use of power. For instance, if a dictator chose to lead his nation in defying the Overlords and their power, Karellen would not simply destroy the country with weapons. Instead, he would slowly drive the leader mad with whispers in their head, preventing them from sleeping or thinking clearly. With these subtle, psychological methods, the Overlords were able to achieve peace on Earth.


The brief shock and revulsion that some people felt after seeing the Overlords for the first time has quickly worn off, though some people are still panicked when they see an Overlord. The narrator suggests that this may be due to racial memory, the idea that humans may have had a disastrous contact with the Overlords in the past, and so they had developed an instinct to fear the appearance of the Devil. The Overlords now rarely leave their ship, for the gravity of Earth is too strong for them, and the sunlight too harsh. Despite the fact that they have revealed themselves, only a handful of humans have ever seen an Overlord in person.


By the standards of all previous ages, Earth is now a utopia. Every man is guaranteed food, water, and comfortable shelter, even if they choose not to work. War and violence are a thing of the past; when the resources are spread out evenly everywhere, there is no desire for theft. Even crimes of passion are nearly unheard of, for the rising standards of living have also contributed to rising intelligence and psychological stability. Many cities have been abandoned, for the methods of trade and commerce have radically changed. Production is almost entirely automatic, handled by robots and automated factories. Humans work for the sake of luxury items only. The pace of life has also slowed down; people have more time to meditate and contemplate. They spend much of their time in pursuits of leisure, such as playing sports, watching television and films, or going to school.


Religion has been almost eliminated due to a device given to scientists by the Overlords. It allows a person to look at any instant in time over the last five thousand years, although there are occasionally gaps in the timeline. But this allowed people to see the true lives of people like Christ and Muhammed, and it did much to eliminate religion as an influence. But with the end of strife comes an end to the passion for art, and the works of the current generation do not come close to those of the past. No one is worried about this but a few philosophers. Earth has yet to suffer from the greatest danger to a utopia boredom. But most importantly, while Earth may be a utopia, no one knows what the Overlords ultimate plans for Earth are.


Chapters 7�8


Summary


Chapter 7


George Greggson and Jean Morrel, a couple, attend a party hosted by Rupert Boyce. They are greeted at Boyces door by a holographic projection of Boyce himself. The device allows Boyce, a superveterinarian, to investigate all the animals over a vast area of jungle without getting too close to them. Boyce has just recently remarried, and the party is a chance for his new wife to become acquainted with his friends. The new wife is gorgeous, and George is clearly attracted to her, but Jean pulls him away to explore the rest of the house.


They make their way to the library, where Boyce keeps the worlds largest library on paranormal research--phenomena such as telepathy, telekinesis, contact with the spirit world, and other such things. They are shocked to discover an Overlord in the library, swiftly reading a book. His name is Rashaverak, and he claims to be doing psychological research. Soon, all three of them head back down to the party, where Rashaverak causes quite a sensation and is subjected to endless conversation. George decides to take a break and goes out onto the roof of the house. There he meets Jan Rodricks, the brother of Boyces new wife. George quickly retreats back to the party, but Rodricks remains outside.


Chapter 8


Jan Rodricks is a young man of twenty-seven. He has spent most of his life studying physics and astronomy. He is a restless man, not willing to be content under the utopian rule of the Overlords. He feels it is no coincidence that the Overlords arrived at the very moment mankind was about to step into space. He believes the Overlords, whatever their reasons, are deliberately preventing man from ever conquering space as they have done. Jan has watched many Overlord supply ships come and go from Earth, but neither he nor any other scientists have been able to decipher the technology the Overlords use.


Boyces party ends. Jan heads back inside, and Greg and Jean are still there, as well as Rashaverak. Boyce decides to have a little fun by holding a s�ance and having the group use a Ouija board. Jean is particularly excited at this prospect, but George is very skeptical. The responses from the board are very cryptic when asked Who are you? it responds, I am all. The board gives a surprising number of accurate answers, and to Georges surprise, he finds it is difficult to consciously alter the progress of the boards needle. Finally, Jan asks, Which star is the Overlords sun? and the board responds with NGS 5467--an identification number for a star. This answer confuses most of the participants, but it is quickly forgotten when Jean faints.


Chapters �11


Summary


Chapter


On his ship, Karellen meets with Rashaverak, who reports on his observations at Rupert Boyces party. Rashaverak tells him that Boyce himself is rather uninteresting and that, while Boyce has the worlds largest library of paranormal research, he is as much a skeptic as any scientist. This is important to the Overlords; they are about scientists actively exploring things like telepathy and telekinesis. It turns out that the Ouija board was correct the star of the Overlords homeworld is NGS 5467. Rashaverak says that Jean Morrel must have been the channel through which the information came. The Overlords do not say who--or what--this information may have come from. Rashaverak suggests that Jean be watched closely, because she may be the most important human being alive. The two Overlords also discuss Jan Rodricks, who asked the question about the star. Though he now knows where their homeworld is, Karellen dismisses him as a threat. Jan has no way of independently verifying the information--humans are not allowed to build spaceships that can travel any further than the moon.


Meanwhile, George has been shaken by Jeans fainting spell. He realizes how much he loves her, and so he proposes they join in a marriage contract. Jean agrees. Elsewhere, Jan quickly investigates NGS 5467. He discovers that it is exactly in line with the direction the Overlord ships take when they leave the solar system. His biggest problem now is figuring out what he can do with this information.


Chapter 10


The human race continues to enjoy its blissful peace and prosperity. At the same time, small problems are beginning to emerge. For instance, the narrator notes, the headlines in the newspapers are rather dull compared to those of a century before. Without war, murder, and exploration, there is little to put on the front page. Robots run all the production, while men expand their minds through education. Education is the primary way that humanity now fends off boredom. Nearly a quarter of all human activity is now expended on sports, resulting in so many good athletes that professional sports are all but eliminated. After sports, the greatest single industry in the utopian Earth is, of course, entertainment. Due to the fact that money is no longer a major factor in determine which films are made, as well as the fact that most people were generally well educated, films are now very highbrow, high-quality films. But in the midst of all this happiness and contentment, humanity cannot help but wonder where do we go from here?


Chapter 11


Jan meets again with his brother-in-law, Rupert Boyce. Boyce is preparing a stuffed elephant to be sent to the Overlords, who collect specimens of exotic alien life forms for their museums. Boyce mentions that another scientist, Sullivan, is preparing a sperm whale and a giant squid for the Overlords. This gives Jan an idea. Soon after, he travels down to Sullivans laboratory, where he asks for the doctors help in achieving his dream of reaching the stars.


Chapters 1�14


Summary


Chapter 1


Sullivan has agreed to help Jan Rodricks with his plan to sneak aboard an Overlord ship. Jan writes a letter to his sister, explaining that due to time dilation at the speed of light, the trip will only seem to take a few months to him, but to her it will seem like many years, and she will probably be long dead when he returns. His plan is to hide himself away inside the sperm whale model that Sullivan is preparing for the Overlords. Inside a little capsule in the whale, Jan will inject himself with a drug that will put him to sleep for six weeks--most of the trip to the Overlords homeworld. At that point, he will give himself up and, hopefully, get a chance to see the Overlords planet before he is shipped back to Earth, returning eighty years after he left it.


Chapter 1


Sullivan shows Jan the metal skeletal framework of the sperm whale. Rather than actually capturing and stuffing a sperm whale and a giant squid, the scientists use advanced techniques to create fake but entirely realistic models. A few weeks later, Sullivan stands on Easter Island next to his impressive achievement. He is awaiting the arrival of Karellen to inspect the model, showing a sperm whale and a giant squid locked in combat. Karellen is impressed, but both Sullivan and Jan, who watches from a few hundred yards away, wonder whether Karellen has guessed the secret inside the whale. Karellen makes a comment about the story of Jonah and the Whale, but he does not seem to have guessed the whales secret. Finally, the time comes for Jan to enter the whale. He climbs in and is locked away inside. Jan checks the systems inside the whale pod, then injects himself with the sleeping drug. He is asleep long before the Overlords ship goes to light speed.


Chapter 14


Karellen holds a press conference. He first reveals that a human stowaway has made it onto an Overlord supply ship. He provides Jan Rodricks name, but he will not say how Jan snuck onto the ship. He then moves on to the more important matter of the meeting. Karellen notes that many people have become restless to get into space and are wondering why the Overlords will not allow them to. Karellen assures them it is more for their own good than anything else. He gives the analogy, what if a Stone Age human found himself in a modern city? and shows them a holographic projection of their galaxy. With billions of stars and worlds to consider, Karellen says, humanity could not hope to be able to handle them. Karellen says that one of his duties has been to protect humans from the forces that lie among the stars. Someday, humans may colonize all the planets in their solar system, but beyond that they can never go the stars are not for man. After this conference, Karellen broods in his ship. He knows that the golden age of the Earth is coming to an end and that a future of which humans could not even imagine is approaching.


Chapters 15�16


Summary


Chapter 15


George Greggson and Jean Morrel are now married. George has become dissatisfied with his job as a television set designer, and he wants to join New Athens, a special community set up on an island. The couple, now with two kids, decide to visit the island. The community was founded by a man that feared that the Overlords, in their zeal to bring peace and justice to mankind, were destroying the soul of man. The concept of New Athens is to build an independent, stable cultural group with its own artistic traditions. The island is mostly self-sufficient, and every member of the island contributes to the society. The hope is that New Athens will help invigorate the arts again, which have stagnated since conflict ended all over the world. The creators of New Athens believed that there is too much entertainment in the world and that individuality and inspiration are dying out. Everyone is absorbing but not creating. New Athens, George and Jean are told, is intended to reverse that process. People who wish to be a part of the island must pass a number of psychological tests.


The Greggsons take the test and pass, and they soon join the island community. Jean learns the pleasures of actually cooking in a kitchen, while George learns to design sets for plays rather than television shows. Since the island is so small, there are few cars�the main mode of transportation is the bicycle.


Chapter 16


The Greggsons begin to adjust to their new quarters. They buy a golden retriever, who becomes the best friend of their son, Jeffrey. Jeffrey takes to the island fairly quickly, enjoying the freedom to crawl around the cliffs of the islands edge. Their daughter Jennifer is too young to do much other than sleep in her crib. Jean has lost her interest in the paranormal since the incident at the home of Rupert Boyce. George is becoming busy with his present and future plans.


One day, George comes home and finds that Jeffrey is out on another part of the island with friends. At that moment, a siren sounds. Elsewhere, Jeffrey is alone when the ocean water suddenly begins to roll back. A few hours after the tsunami, Jeffrey is found safe and sound on a piece of coral. His story is unbelievable he tells his parents that as he was watching the waters ebb away when a voice told him to run. He was running when the water hit, and a giant rock blocked his escape route. The voice told him to close his eyes, and suddenly the rock was gone. The Greggsons are concerned, and they have Jeffrey checked by a psychologist. He seems to think that theres nothing too unusual about the story�just a result of a young boys imagination. Jean is relieved, but George secretly thinks the Overlords were involved�and wonders why.


Chapters 17�18


Summary


Chapter 17


Karellen requests that New Athens allow an Overlord to examine the community. The islands government eagerly, though cautiously, agrees. They want to show off their experiment and test the Overlords reaction, but they also worry that the Overlords might try to shut down the experiment. George Greggson arranges to be a member of the reception community, partially from his own curiosity about the Overlords and partially from a desire to find out whether the Overlords had a part in saving his son Jeffrey from a tsunami. Jean, for her part, has grown used to her independence on the island, and worries that the Overlords might threaten it.


The Overlord arrives. His name is Thanthalteresco, but the islanders just call him the Inspector for short. The Inspector is more interested in knowing about the statistics of the colony�such as their birth rate, mineral resources, production systems, and other numbers�than their artistic achievements. When the leader of the community mentions the difficulty of raising children and likens it to the Overlords relationship with humans, the Inspector corrects him, saying that a better analogy would be the British rule of India. However, unlike Britain in India, the Overlords have a purpose in coming to Earth�or so the Inspector claims. However, the Overlord seems to be skeptical of the leaders assertion that New Athens offers humans any more potential than anywhere else in the world.


The Overlord attends a concert, as well as a play organized by George. George never gets the chance to ask about Jeff, but Jeff tells him that when the Overlord came to his school, he recognized the Overlords voice as sounding similar, if not identical, to the one that helped him survive the tsunami.


The Inspector reports to Karellen, telling him that Jeffrey exhibited no strange abilities yet, though breakthrough often occurs without warning. Karellen expresses sympathy for the humans, implying that some great tragedy will soon take place.


Chapter 18


Jeff begins to have dreams. In the dreams, he is walking through strange landscapes, with unfamiliar suns and stars. The dreams feel very real to him, and at first they upset him. Eventually, though, he becomes comfortable with them. George and Jean have no idea what to make of the dreams, and they become more and more afraid of them.


Meanwhile, Karellen and Rashaverak monitor the dreams. They can identify specific stars and planets in the descriptions Jeff gives. Apparently, Jeff is visiting real places in his dreams, describing things that even the Overlords have never seen. Finally, George requests an interview with the Overlords, and they grant it. He meets with Rashaverak, who tells him that he is well aware of his concerns with Jeff. George objects, saying that the Overlords said they no longer watched mankind with their devices. Rashaverak replies that he was watching Georges children, not him�implying that his children are something other than human. Jennifer also begins to exhibit strange powers, holding her rattle suspended over herself in midair. Her powers develop even more quickly than those of her brother. Rashaverak informs George that the Overlords have been watching them since the incident at Rupert Boyces party and that his children are very different from him and Jean. Rashaverak reveals that the Overlords are not masters of mankind, as humans have always considered them, but rather midwives attending a difficult birth. However, the Overlords can never experience this birth in their own race.


Chapters 1�1


Summary


Chapter 1


Slowly, Jeffreys dreams, in which he walks on alien worlds, begin to break into his waking world. He stops going to school, and the life of routine that George and Jean had been enjoying comes to an end. Jennifer, since she is younger, advances even faster than Jeff; she can control objects and even draw nourishment by transplanting food from the refrigerator to her stomach. Soon, children all over the world are displaying these strange abilities. No children are spared humanity had lost its future, for the heart of any race is destroyed...when its children are taken from it. Finally, Karellen speaks to the world once more.


Chapter 0


Karellen reveals the truth the Overlords were sent by a higher power, which they call the Overmind, to act as midwives to the birth of the next stage of human existence. The Overlords were sent because mankind had started to scientifically examine phenomena such as telepathy and extra-sensory perception. If they succeeded in discovering these secrets, Karellen says, they would have become a telepathic cancer that would have spread throughout the universe.


But more significantly, Karellen tells the people of Earth that the minds of the Overlords themselves have reached the end of their development. The same is true of humans in their present form, but humans are capable of making the leap to the next stage. This stage is to join the Overmind, the entity that the Overlords serve. The Overlords believe the Overmind is trying to grow and increase its awareness in the universe. The change will be swift, in a few years, and destructive. Karellen tells the adults of Earth that all the hopes and dreams of your race are ended now. The Overlords will soon round up all the children and take them to a protected part of Earth. Karellen can only give the remaining humans only one consolation that long after the Overlords are forgotten, a part of the human race will still exist�and for that, the Overlords envy humans.


Chapter 1


Jeffrey and Jennifer are taken away from the Greggsons. The same happens with children all over the world. The adults who are left either spend their last remaining days traveling the world, or they commit suicide. The people of New Athens decide to annihilate their island with a nuclear explosion, and George and Jean are there when it explodes, in each others arms.


Chapters �4


Summary


Chapter


Jan Rodricks is returning home to Earth, eighty years after he left. When he had first snuck out of his hiding place on the Overlord ship, the Overlords had not been particularly interested in him. Once arriving on the Overlord homeworld, he was locked in a room for several days until Vindarten, an Overlord who could speak English, took responsibility for Jan. Jan was then subjected to a number of tests, mostly psychological or mental in nature. Eventually, he was allowed to explore the city. The Overlord planet was not their original world. It was larger than Earth, so in order for their wings to work, the Overlords had altered the gravity of the world. The city is designed for people with wings. The design of the city is bleakly functional; they apparently lack any real artistic flair. They take Jan to a museum, where he sees many alien creatures, including the gigantic eye of a dead, cyclopean beast�an eye the size of a football field.


One strange thing Jan sees is a giant mountain, almost like a volcano. As he watches, strange colors thread around the mountain, and a ring of blue energy coalesces around the base and lifts off into the sky. Vindarten refuses to explain what this mountain is, but the narrator implies that this is an avatar of the Overmind.


In the present, the ship continues to approach Earth. To his surprise, Jan realizes that there are no lights on any of the continents. When he lands, only Karellen is waiting for him.


Chapter


Karellen explains what happened after the great announcement that humanity was coming to an end. He shows Jan videos of the children as they developed their powers. For some time, they limp about like savages until they begin to develop vast mental powers. At the same time, their faces become blank, as their individuality is eaten away. Slowly they stop moving, as their bodies become less and less important. They start altering the surface of the earth, destroying plants, animals, mountains and anything else, just to exercise their powers.


Jan now sees the universe for what it is. There are two possibilities for any race. One is the seemingly close-ended path of the Overlords supreme intellectual and technological achievement but still ultimately trapped in bodies with emotions and individuality. Like humans, their minds, despite how powerful they are, cannot grasp the infinite complexities of the universe. On the other hand, there is the Overmind, which works toward a complete awareness of everything in the universe but demands the loss of the individual and the eradication of the body in order to achieve its transcendental purposes.


Rashaverak cannot offer many answers to Jan, but he does reveal one thing why the Overlords look so much like the Devil. The reason is not, as many humans had guessed, that the Overlords had visited Earth in the past. Instead, it was a kind of collective precognition the human race had a vague premonition, a foreshadowing, of its ultimate demise, and a creature looking like the Devil would be involved. That creature was Karellen, the Overlord.


Chapter 4


Jan awakes one early morning and looks at the moon. To his surprise, it has started rotating�the children are testing their power. Soon, the Overlords tell him, the Overmind will arrive and assimilate the children into itself. The Overlords must leave, but Jan chooses to stay. Karellen asks Jan to record the transmogrification of the children as they join the Overmind. As Jan watches, a great, misty web appears across the sky. The childrens bodies begin to disappear, and soon the very Earth itself becomes transparent as the children draw on it for energy. The Earths core explodes, and the children feed on every last atom of its mass.


Karellen watches from his ship as the last remnants of Earth vanish from the solar system. A sadness fills him, for he knows his race will never achieve what he has just seen happen to man. But with a patient resolution, he continues to do the Overminds work, hoping to some day decipher its secrets.


Christian Imagery and Folklore - As frequently discussed elsewhere in the summary analyses, Childhoods End often seems like an allegorical tale, a morality play set on a science fiction stage. The play features the arrival of the Antichrist, or Satan (the Overlords), the end of humanity (as it dies out after the Overlords announcement of the coming of the Overmind), and an Armageddon and assumption of the faithful into Heaven (as the children of the last generation join the Overmind, destroying the Earth in the process). Considering its unique and transcendental nature, when compared to the rest of Clarkes works, it seems entirely reasonable to look at Childhoods End as a thinly-veiled fable with some significant social commentary (particularly about the nature of utopias), rather than a work of serious science fiction.


Collective Consciousness - Part of the description of the Overmind is that it is a kind of collective conscious, a being of thought and energy composed of the minds of millions or billions (even trillions?) of other beings, all working as a single entity. As a race, all humans�even those thousands of years before the children of the last generation�have had some latent abilities of this sort. This is what provides the explanation for why the Overlords look so similar to a Christian image of the Devil humans, as a collective, had a premonition of their ultimate end, and they feared that end. Therefore, they made the participants of that end, the demons, into an object of fear and evil. This collective consciousness also appears in specific people such as Jean and Jan, who often have slight premonitions before major events occur.


Symbols


The Overlords - As mentioned above, the Overlords can be seen as ironic symbols of the Devil. In an unexpected, but equally effective way, the Overlords bring about the end of humanity just as the Devil was predicted he would. Whereas the Devil, or the Antichrist, would have brought about much death and destruction before the final end, the Overlords bring about peace and prosperity, albeit for less than a century. In the end, humanity does degrade into violence and death, just as predicted in Revelations; and the shepherds of this end are the Overlords. Whether they are evil or not is a matter of perspective; they do the bidding of the Overmind and play a part in the end of humanity and the destruction of Earth.


New Athens - New Athens is symbolic of the inevitable decay of a utopian society and the uselessness of peacefully attempting to combat those problems. For all its hopes of artistic achievement, the New Athens colony is ultimately impotent. Without struggle, without anger, righteous indignation, rage, or hate, artists have no fuel with which to produce great works. New Athens, in its false attempts to create minor inconveniences in life (such as using kitchens and bicycles), tries to create a utopia within a utopia. New Athens is a symbol of the broader utopia of Earth around it. Both are doomed to failure through degradation.


The Overmind - If the Overlords represent the Devil, then the Overmind is the closest thing there is to God. Certainly, the way in which the children of the last generation are incorporated into the Overmind is reminiscent of Christian descriptions of the Rapture, when the souls of the faithful are called into the Divine Presence, there to remain for eternity as part of the Holy Trinity. But, in theory, the Overmind is a thing of science; it should be capable of being studied, understood, and perhaps even destroyed. By placing the Overmind in a science fiction novel, there are certain constraints on how far a symbolic or allegorical comparison can be taken. Ultimately, the reader must accept the idea that, as transcendental as it seems to be, the Overmind is just another alien.








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