Although it has the same title as an Arthur C. Clarke novel (1953) or a Marillion song on their 1985 album Misplaced Childhood, the song is actually unrelated to either of them. Whereas Clarke's story is about an alien species that comes to Earth to prevent Man from travelling to the stars by enslaving him in a society of entertainment and shallow pleasures, and Fish's text deals with the end of a comfortable childhood and the beginning of a responsible adult life, Iron Maiden's song is about all the terrible suffering, pain, injustice, and fear in the world. The lyrics summon those terrible images of children dying of starvation in countries where the leaders do not care for their people, and stress the fact that humans cannot remain children for long on this this planet due either to "natural" catastrophes engineered by man or simply to pointless wars that lead whole countries to ruin.
Pretty much everything about this song is excellent it is among the best songs on the album and has all the makings of a classic. Strangely however, Maiden haven't played it live in concert.