This stand-alone work is widely regarded as Asimov's best science-fiction novel.
Andrew Harlan is an Eternal, a member of the elite of the future. One of the few who live in Eternity, a location outside of place and time, Harlan's job is to create carefully controlled and enacted Reality Changes. These Changes are small, exactingly calculated shifts in the course of history, made for the benefit of humankind.
Though each Change has been made for the greater good, there are also always costs. During one of his assignments, Harlan meets and falls in love with Noÿs Lambert, a woman who lives in real time and space. Then Harlan learns that Noÿs will cease to exist after the next Change, and he risks everything to sneak her into Eternity.
©1955 Isaac Asimov. All rights reserved. (P)2010 BBC Audiobooks America
“His most effective piece of work. Asimov’s exemplary clarity in plotting is precisely suited to the material at hand. Asimov’s engagement with the present is clearer here than in his other works, as is his engagement with the human.” (Locus)
"Asimov’s flirtation with the tropes employed by A. E. van Vogt and Charles Harness is startling for an author deemed ultra-rational and scientific....The effects of this influential, seminal book echo to the present, in the works of such writers as Greg Egan, John Varley, Kage Baker, and Greg Bear." (SciFi.com)
I love a good time travel story, mostly to see what this author's take on the usual time travel paradoxes will be. Anyone who writes about agents changing history has to explain how they deal with things like the Grandfather Paradox, meeting earlier or later versions of yourself, and so on. There are a handful of well-known ways to deal with these issues (alternate timelines, a deterministic universe, special laws of temporal physics, etc.) and Asimov is rather inventive in using several of them at once.
The End of Eternity is brilliant in its construction of a civilization of time travelers and the history and technology that goes into their society and the way they meddle with time, but his protagonists are basically a bunch of whiny geeks who act like highly-educated monkeys fighting for the highest branch in the treehouse. Asimov's vision of a civilization that spans millions of years and thousands of realities doesn't include a single one where women become scientists and engineers and might join the Eternals' boys' club. The entire plot hinges on not one but two high-ranking Eternals who decide they are willing to throw all of reality into danger for the chance to get laid. I know this was written in the 1950s, but Asimov could have done better. It's like the idea of women as anything but sex objects to be coveted or to seduce men off the path of Righteous Scientific Objectivity just never occurred to him. So naturally when a girl shows up (the only female character in the entire book), she must spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E, and in this case, the end of Eternity.
I enjoyed the story, but Isaac Asimov has never been my favorite among the Grand Old Masters of science fiction; there is something just a little too cold and calculating in all of his stories. For the ideas and the plot twists, this is a fun book with a great premise, but don't expect Asimov to wow you with his nuanced grasp of human relationships. His characters are wire dummies to hang a story on.
We really like the book, not the reader. He was far too flat an emotionless. Just doesn't sound like the Asimov I've heard in my heard for years; almost the opposite.
I don't know if I can finish this book. The narrator's ability to very deliberately speak each word as if it stood on its own rather than in the flow of a sentence is maddening. Listen to a sample and see if its something you can stomach on your commute. Also when character's are being "emotional" we are treated to a particularly annoying whiny voice that has only one timbre.
Otherwise the book is decent, though I find the main character's motivation a little hyperbolic and rash without enough exploration by Asmiov as to why. It ends up feeling forced in order to push the dramatic plotline along.
Start to finish, not a detail was overlooked. I'm gobsmacked at the brilliant imagery. Not to mention the deft way Asimov handles the paradoxes of time travel. It's almost as if he acknowledges their existence, and playfully dances around them like they pose no threat to the story's cohesion. My only regret is not having read/listened to this book sooner.
I would not recommend this book to a friend. Asimov has other great books to recommend. This one has an interesting world, but the characters are jarringly outdated. There is a lot to delve into with time travel, and when the story is focused on that it is interesting. When the focus is on the personal story of the characters however, it lost me. There is a twist at the end, but for me it didn't make up for the sludge to get there. The one lady in the book is such a nothing character it really took me out of the story, and the love story is just unbearably thin, it would be better if it was left out entirely.
Asimov is so damb good at creating both a scientific basis for his stories but also grabbing your emotional heart strings along the way.
I always love his works.
This is one of those books you hear people rave about. On the "have to read" sci-fi list. Well, at least I can say I made it through it.
Seriously, for me this book was like trying to walk through knee deep wet cement. I actually stopped about a third of the way into the book and listened to an entirely different book, then came back to this. I almost asked for a refund. I had a terrible time keeping my attention on the book; mind mind kept wandering off to mundane daily task thoughts.
Oddly enough, the last 3-4 chapters things got a lot better and I was pretty pleased with the ending.
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