The End of Eternity

The End of EternityFinal review, first posted on Fantasy Literature Re reading a favorite book from your teenage years is always a risky endeavor I ve been dismayed by how often my youthful memories are tarnished by a re read, and I end up wondering if my taste as a young adult was all in my mouth.But I couldn t resist trying The End of Eternity 1955 by Isaac Asimov again, partly because I remembered liking it so well as a teenager, but my memories of it were so extremely hazy for the longest time, until a Google search saved me, I couldn t even remember the title of the book, it was just that really cool Asimov time traveling book in my head So I bought a used copy, got a few chuckles out of the 1970s sci fi cover and how short novels used to be 192 pages here , and settled down to read.Andrew Harlan is one of the so called Eternals, men almost invariably men who have been pulled into kind of a bubble called Eternity that exists outside of normal time Eternity, and a time traveling machine called the Kettle that acts as a type of elevator through the years of the Earth s existence, give them the ability to easily travel backwards and forwards in time Eternals can change the past, present and future, which they frequently do when they think that society is taking a turn that leads to an undesirable outcome Strangely, however, the Kettle is inexplicably blocked from stopping anywhere during the 70,000th to the 150,000th centuries, and afterwards lies only emptiness Earth and its inhabitants are gone.Love and marriage aren t permitted for Eternals, other than brief sexual liaisons that are required to go through authorized channels But Andrew, despite his best efforts to avoid it, manages to fall into a relationship, and then love, with a woman, N yes Lambert, who has been temporarily brought into Eternity Soon he finds himself in the middle of not only his own small personal rebellion, but also a series of events that may affect Eternity and change the entire history of the Earth.I m vastly relieved to report that The End of Eternity has held up quite well over the decades It s certainly dated, and for a while I thought I was going to have some fairly serious issues with the secondary role of women in this novel, but that all actually resolved itself quite well in the end though to explain why would spoil the tale The End of Eternity has the retro charm of 1950s science fiction, but withdepth than most sci fi novels from that age It has its weaknesses Asimov s scientific theory and technology for time travel are a little wild and woolly, female characters are non existent other than N yes, and all of the characters except to some extent Andrew and N yes are strictly one dimensional If you can roll with it, however, it s a fun and interesting ride, with a few twists and turns that definitely make the story memorable.Initial review I ve been asking myself for ages, what was that time travel story of Isaac Asimov s that I loved when I was a teenager and the question suddenly becameurgent after an interesting discussion I was having with some GR friends about time travel novels we ve liked see the thread to Joe Valdez s review of The Time Traveler s Wife And it occurred to me to Google Isaac Asimov time travel, duh, and there it was So the four stars here are based purely on my love for this book ages ago, and unfortunately I ve found that my teenage taste in books is not always a reliable indicator of literary quality, so don t blame me if you read this and think it s a dud I d like to read it again, but I just checked and my local library doesn t have it on their shelves maybe ILL Will have to see sometime so it ll probably be a while before I re read this But Uncle Isaac was a big reason for my teenage love for science fiction, which has lasted for my entire life Just for that, he gets as many stars as I care to dish out No apologies. Nutshell antisocial nerd, responsible for historical amendments to spacetime continuum, dicks it up for everyone in order to lose virginity Eternity is an interdimensional NGO, set up in the 27th century 32 , initially to carry on intertemporal trade 43 , which trade was promoted as its primary purpose Its true primary task is to prevent catastrophe from striking mankind and to breed out of Reality any factors that might lead to such knowledge of its biotemporal management of human history 43 44.We see that the main component of biotemporal management is actually wealth management for each century The Sociologists had an equation for the phenomenon of uneven wealth distribution 45 Biotemporal managers allowed aristocracies to form, so long as they did not entirely forget their responsibilities while enjoying their privileges 46 Analogues to marxism here to the extent that the managers viewed the aristocracy as a ruling entity, a class, not as individuals 38 Generally, the point is to protect the species from destroying itself in nuclear war, but there s talk in the NGO of abolishing space travel, which always turns out to be a disaster.Some odd gender politics no women in the NGO, for the bizarre reason that removing females from the spacetime continuum actually has adeleterious effect than removing males something to do with the birthrate Plenty of commentary, express and implied, on freedom determinism Strikes me that determinism is the default position when the premise of the story is that changes initiated by the managers at one point alter later effects That said, some characters believe in temporal inertia 169 , and that effects from changes return to a hypothetical baseline after a nunber of centuries, rather than creating further diremptions.Anyway, lotsa paradoxes, including the central paradox of the novel or, rather, of the Setting, rather than the Story how is it that changes to history do not effect the NGO when the NGO interacts with and draws from history Nifty link toward the end to the Robot Empire Foundation setting safe to say that the denouement is the condition of possibility for that narrative.Recommended for those who stumble upon temporal field theory without being aware of its mathematical justification, persons for whom human appetites carry a quivery repulsion, and readers who associate the mushroom cloud with the system by which private capital was invested in business. If you haven t read Asimov s SF classic, it s one of those time travel stories where you can change the past The people with the time machines are a shadowy, infinitely powerful organisation called the Eternals They flit around in time, changing things for the good of humanity Except that, as I m sure you already guessed, it isn t quite clear after a while that humanity is benefiting from all this attention The agents who are responsible for making the changes are called Technicians, and they pride themselves on always finding the very simplest way to effect the change They don t start a war if it s enough just to assassinate one key person they don t assassinate him if it s enough just to organise a traffic accident so that he misses a meeting and they don t organise the traffic accident if it s enough just to put his address book in a different pocket, so that he makes the critical phone call twenty minutes too late In a word, they re minimalists.I was talking about this book the other day with an American friend who d also read it If the premise of the story really were true, we wondered what evidence you could find to suggest that Eternals had been at work We couldn t help thinking that the 2000 Butterfly Ballot was suspicious Not least the name perhaps some Technician had been unable to resist the joke, and planted a larger clue than he really was supposed to After posting this review and that for The Naked Sun , I did somegoogling on the background to Eternity Among other things, I discovered that Asimov claimed he got the original idea when he saw an ad in an early 30s newspaper, showing a picture that looked rather like a mushroom cloud Well, he thought to himself, no one in 1930 knew what a mushroom cloud looked like Maybe it s a message from a stranded time traveller And, from that beginning, he constructed the rest of the novel.I liked it, but I was dubious about the reliability of the method Time travel probably won t be invented very soon it sounds like extremely advanced technology If you really did want to send a message into the distant future, you d want something farpermanent and noticeable than an obscure ad Something, in fact, that would have a decent chance of surviving for thousands of years, in unchanged form, and which would be as prominent as possible The ideal thing would be an immortal work of art.And then it struck me in a different thread, we d been talking about Shakespeare s mysterious Sonnet XVIII Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to your august consideration the hypothesis that this is a message from a time traveller who crashed their machine in the early 17th century To start off with, the poem explicitly says that its central purpose is to be remembered for ever It s so beautiful, and every word is so perfectly chosen, that it has a decent chance of surviving unchanged for thousands of years maybe, even until people get around to inventing time travel If you want to turn this into a short story, please credit me somewhere I just had to do a little retro SF catch up, grabbing those old classics by big name SF authors that I haven t yet had the pleasure to read, and this one kept cropping up as one of the best of the best by Asimov You know, OTHER than Foundation and the Robot novels Of which, a few are sub par We ll ignore all of these for now and focus on this standalone.About time travel in a kettle, kinda like Wells time machine, only let s make a society of men, only men, living outside of time a la Time Lords and have our MC be a pre Doctor kind of character who s ACTUALLY willing to fall in love with a girl and is willing to DESTROY this little bubble of Eternity for her sake You know, because a society of nothing but men will obviously think with nothingthan the spout of their kettles.And don t get me started on this 50 s assumption that only men can do the work, but because even Asimov recognized all that and turned her into a femme fatale and made the girlsbadass than the boys So we learn LATER So let s move on from there.This is basically Doctor Who on steroids and less buddy buddy unique eras and a hardcore dive into escaping a whole society of time travelers who meddle with the past to erase the really bad stuff, fixing whole timelines on massive scales over vast time periods ALL FOR THE SAKE OF TIPPING HIS TEAKETTLE.Oh, and he decides it s okay to destroy all the Time Lords Ahem Sorry Eternals.What could have been a relatively average and not bad at all novel right HERE is then given the full Asimov twist and he turns it into a full adventure with deeper and deeper intrigue, reversals, surprises, reveals, and mystery Not bad, Asimov And then he even goes for the short story twist at the end and makes us re evaluate EVERYTHING that has happened before in a new light.NOT BAD AT ALL.So if you can get over the naming conventions and the cardboard cutout characters and the whole psychosexual mess, I can ABSOLUTELY PROMISE YOU that there s a very fine and fun novel in here Worthy of anything we ve got today and somewhatambitious, even with the length, than most of the same I m very glad to have read this. Asimov is doing a couple of things here that raise a dull story to interesting, but you won t be able to catch it until the final two chapters Dare I say this is a feminist critique of society I mean, as critical as a 50s dude from sexist academia could deliver And delivered in quite possibly the most offensive way possible, at least to modern sensibilities It partly serves as a polemic against critics of the space program I smell a colleague confrontation brewing, Asi , partly an effort to challenge the 50s male view of, ahem, girls, but mostly just a lame time travel romance with a pretty cool twist ending almost exactly the kind my cynical self always hopes will happen in romance stories but never does BUT, is this the very first time a time travel story employs magazine ads as communication between eras If so, that s pretty cool This is a unique one for Asimov, and not connected to his usual fictional universe Ironically, this is his first book I tried to read, in Malayalam translation, no less But either the translation was bad, or the story was untranslatable, or I was too young for it I dropped it after a few pages I am glad I did, because I could read the original afresh.This story is about a group called Eternals who travel outside of linear time, stepping in when required within the time stream to make things better for humanity Well, it all ends up rather like America making the world safe for democracy I don t remember much other than the main character almost meeting himself as he enters the time stream from different points For some reason, this is considered a disaster I don t know why If I get chance, I would like to go forward and meet my older self, just to know how I made out. This is somehow my first Asimov book At first, I was underwhelmed However, as the book went forward, I found that there was muchdepth to the writing than originally met the eye and that the shallow characters were shallow with a purpose Asimov sets up a group of scientist who are outside of time called the Eternals While everyone on earth thinks that their main job is to facilitate commerce between various centuries, their true function is to manipulate history to make it play outfavorably Thus, the Eternals have become gods without the people of the world knowing it They ve become puppeteers to a population that doesn t know to fight back, thus leaving the Eternals seemingly untouchable It makes for an interesting polytheocracy where the people aren t even aware that their scientist have turned themselves into gods It seems that only the brightest, most analytical, most unquestioning, most inexperienced in life, and most naive need apply for the job of Eternal Recruiters would need to find someone who lived their entire life with those qualities to hopefully ensure that they d not eventually change into someone who would call for a revolution in Eternity because they could no longer agree with the level of control and puppetmastery that the Eternals wield With such a combination of personality traits, Our Hero falls in love with the first scantily clad woman that throws herself his way And, in so doing, he puts the very existence of Eternity in peril because he s willing to do whatever it takes to keep her And upon this small rebellion, our story turns.An interesting mystery is that the Eternals are shielded from being able to visit the future beyond a certain point Apparently, future humans don t want the daliance of the Eternals in their affairs Asimov makes the point that species evolve to adapt to their environment However, since humans are able to adapt their environments to suit them, he postulates that humans have and will continue to evolve at much slower rates than beings that are unable to modify their environments So we guess that future humans aren t that much different genetically from present day humans One wonders My next read is Hominids a book I ve been wanting for ages which I received as a birthday gift which imagines a parallel universe where Neanderthals did not die out or intermix with homo sapiens and eventually becametechnologically advanced than we have during the same time period I have a strong intrigue concerning the what ifs of our evolutionary might have beens or our evolutionary future I think fiction like this appeals to me simply because I only have one life to live and will never see our evolutionary future thousands or millions of years from now beyond an author s imagination I d love to see a far distant future as imagined by Asimov I ll certainly read Asimov again The content of the story was merely okay, but the questions that he created for me while I was reading have left me wanting . Andrew Harlan Is An Eternal, A Man Whose Job It Is To Range Through Past And Present Centuries, Monitoring And, Where Necessary, Altering Time S Myriad Cause And Effect Relationships But When Harlan Meets And Falls For A Non Eternal Woman, He Seeks To Use The Awesome Powers And Techniques Of The Eternals To Twist Time For His Own Purposes, So That He And His Love Can Survive Together 4.0 to 4.5 Stars Superb Asimov story and his best novel not set within the Foundation and Robot Universe. Even though I tend to pick them apart, I love stories dealing with time travel Most end up creating what should be a paradox or forget little things that I tend to pick up on Not this one Asimov did a spectacular job I thought I had him a couple of times but he covered everything.Eternity, in this case, is something separate from our reality The people who live there, the Eternals, have the ability to tweak our reality to produce different outcomes from those that occurred naturally They start tweaking from the 2700 s going right up to the 70,000 s Things ran smoothly for a long time until Eternal Harlan meets a girl Everything always gets mucked up because of us, right So Harlan decides he must have this girl, but because he s not allowed he progressively gets intotrouble Harlan s real problem is that he doesn t have all the information, nor do we until the very end, so he keeps messing things up and then has to fix themuntil he has to break it all in the biggest way.The writing was dated but not horribly so Women were still not equals, but I think in the end we actually were There wasn t a lot of speculation as to how we would live in the future as the story focussed mainly on Eternity rather than reality, but it gave enough to make you dream of where humanity might be headed A definite must read for time travel lovers

Isaac Asimov was a Russian born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards He has works publish

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  • Mass Market Paperback
  • 192 pages
  • The End of Eternity
  • Isaac Asimov
  • English
  • 10 February 2018
  • 9780449016190

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