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The End of Eternity | [Isaac Asimov]

The End of Eternity

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....
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (1093 )
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4.1 (780 )
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4.0 (767 )
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Performance
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  •  
    C. A. Milus United States 08-27-12
    C. A. Milus United States 08-27-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Superior Time Travel Story"

    I think this might be Asimov's best novel. It's a very different approach to time travel stories. He uses many paradoxes that twist it's way into the perfect ending. Only Asimov can write a story like this and keep in believable.

    Spoiler:

    The story consists of Eternals live outside of time as we know it. They can travel up and down through a created time tunnel in lifts called kettles. Technicians calculate changes needed throughout various centuries to minimize human suffering and war and keep humanity balanced.

    One of these Eternals makes contact with someone from the unreachable centuries who doesn’t want Eternity to be invented, and this person wants to help end Eternity instead of creating it.

    There is a monstrous choice to be made - Asimov asks what would you do in their place? The story, in my opinion, is a foreign but credible dive into the effects of time travel, changing time and the social ramifications of doing so. Should we really interfere?

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Chippewa Falls, WI, United States 03-22-11
    Mark Chippewa Falls, WI, United States 03-22-11

    wingmark

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    "Narrator's voice will not "bore you to death!""

    I almost didn't buy this after reading the reviews about the narrator's voice, but you have nothing to worry about. This is coming from a listener who is already spoiled by great narrators like Scott Brick. The tone and inflections are very appropriate for the characters and create a mood that another narrator could not match. On the other hand, if hard science fiction bores you, don't buy this book. If you want a classic time-travel mystery that has surprising and satisfying twists and turns, then this is a great book! When you finish it, the first thing you will wonder is, "Why haven't they made a movie out of this yet?" It is that good, and yes, a movie is in the works. You will never forget the odd city of Eternity that sits outside of time, but feels like it is right next door!

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon Ventura, CA, United States 01-04-12
    Jon Ventura, CA, United States 01-04-12 Member Since 2011

    Skeptic

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    "Don't judge book until you reach the end! spoilers"

    The view of the future Asimov puts out, had me very depressed. I thought for sure the author was some sick utopian from the 50's (which sickly, seems to be coming back into fashion).. anyway, his view of 'eternity' seems to be of humans living comfortable lives without want or worry, like couch potatoes waiting for a welfare check. People losing all aspiration for life and ambition, therefore stopping most tech advancement.

    I almost stopped listening in fact.. especially with the view of the only Woman in the story. The view of women in 'Eternity' is a sex objects only, something you have to trick into a relationship. It all seemed a sick, sick world. The story was good, although the outbursts by the main character towards his superior were over the top. I cannot see any situation where I'd ever react in such a way. BUT

    The ending is so awesome and surprising that all my previous views about Asimov were swept aside. He really did get it. It was a sick society. Adversity and disaster is how we learn and strive ahead. As for the only Woman in the story... some reviewers don't seem to have finished the end, as the previous views are meaningless. I don't want to give any more away but it'll make a GREAT movie! Inspirational ending

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike From Mesa Mesa, AZ 12-09-12
    Mike From Mesa Mesa, AZ 12-09-12 Member Since 2003

    MikeFromMesa

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    "Not the review I expected to write."

    I grew up reading a lot of science-fiction and much of my time was spent in the public library looking for books by Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and others. When I graduated from High School the science-fiction content of my reading became more sparse although I still liked to read a good space opera from time to time so, when I saw an Asimov novel that I had not read, I grabbed it from Audible.

    To be honest I was terribly disappointed. The End of Eternity seemed terribly slow and plodding. Asimov has always been more interested in stories than in action and I expected that, but I found myself horrified at what the characters were doing (changing history “for the good of the masses”) and so deciding for themselves what man’s future should be. Several times during the reading I almost put the book down and, had this been from another author, I might well have done so, but I could not believe that Asimov had written and published such a tedious and disappointing book. The characters seemed two-dimensional and I found myself wondering if I would give this book a 2 star rating or 3 star rating.

    In the end I was glad I persisted. As with a couple of other books I have read, the ending justified the long trek through the middle. As with other Asimov books, the story, in the end, triumphed. Still I feel I can only recommend this book to those with the patience to get through the tedious middle to reach the satisfying end.

    Mr Boehmer's narration, although not inspired, is perfectly adequate for the book and does not detract from the book.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather redlands, CA, United States 08-01-13
    Heather redlands, CA, United States 08-01-13 Member Since 2009

    Smoke me a kipper; I'll be back for breakfast.

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    "Thought-provoking and Action-packed."

    Story content and plot in The End of Eternity were very interesting to me. At first I found the idea of eternity and how it works rather confusing and the story seemed slow. It does become easier and more clear as the details are discussed. I loved the ethical implications that come to mind as you learn more about this entity. I especially enjoyed how Asimov doesn't blatantly point out these issues because he evidently assumes your intelligence. But it's not just intellectual, it also has plenty of action.

    The End of Eternity feels like it should be broken into acts like a stage play. The main character goes through several shifts in his behavior and viewpoint and the story also takes a few big turns. The main male characters are wonderfully detailed and flawed. Asimov did an excellent job of filling out the characters but never lets you be quite sure of their motivations. The scenes where the main character has a mental break was so well-described, I could totally understand a man doing the crazy stuff he does.

    The female character is a ridiculous mix of 70's free-love hippie and 50's subservient housewife. It was like a man wrote a female character from only watching tv shows. Then you have an aha moment that makes you realize Asimov has some serious skills.

    The narrator took some adjusting to but I found his style very familiar to other sci-fi cannon narration.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emanuel Zion, IL, United States 04-21-11
    Emanuel Zion, IL, United States 04-21-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Enjoyable!"

    I really liked this one. The setting and plot may not be as explosive and dramatic as some but I felt my attention was kept. Nice twist at the end. A classic writer that knew how to tell a story and didn't need to use profanity to tell it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey S. Stein New York, New York USA 06-02-13
    Jeffrey S. Stein New York, New York USA 06-02-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Asimov at his best"

    This book is quintessential Asimov at his best. The story is classic "Science" Fiction and uses scientific concepts to ground its basic ideas and premises. If you enjoy reading a well reasoned and thought provoking story you will find it here. The book combines the best aspects of an interesting story that makes you want to know more, and Asimov's wonderful imagination that uses scientific reasoning to provide a basis for the action. The narration is also superb and gives life to the characters..

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremy Bolesky Portland, OR 05-15-12
    Jeremy Bolesky Portland, OR 05-15-12 Member Since 2002

    Jerm

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    "Good for its time"

    I don't usually like stories that involve time travel. This one seems like a reaction to all of my objections–it addresses most of the inconsistencies of time travel in a clever plot. It is internally consistent, while most time travel stories are not. In its time, it is genius, but now it felt dated. If you can place yourself in a time when computers were expected to be able to think, or if you love Asimov, this book is for you. While it is a classic of science fiction, I didn't think it measured up to Heinlein. If I could go back in time, I would recommend it to myself, but in my top 100, not in my top 10.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tango Texas 04-16-12
    Tango Texas 04-16-12 Member Since 2012

    Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not his best, but Asimov is always fun"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I would recommend all Asimov books to anyone who likes good fiction and good sci-fi. The only thing wrong with this book is that it was written in 1955 and reflects the lack of appreciation of the fast pace of technology that was soon to happen. Many of the technological developments projected out by centuries are already yesterday's news and that shows up in all the sci-fi written in the 50's. However, this book, like all of Asimov's books uses science fiction more as setting than as driver - characters and plot drive the story so it is still very entertaining and has a really fun plot-twisting ending. Even if the science-fiction is a bit dated, the story is clever and interesting.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    I had some trouble with the performance in this audio book and I think I would have enjoyed it more just reading it. Paul Boehmer is pretty good with character voices and dialog, but he sounds strangely stilted when reading the narrative sections.


    Do you think The End of Eternity needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Absolutely not! I LOVE Asimov's series' (especially Foundation), but the ending in The End of Eternity is complete all by itself.


    Any additional comments?

    Asimov just didn't know how to write anything bad. This isn't his best, but it is worth a listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Halethorpe, MD, United States 04-09-11
    David Halethorpe, MD, United States 04-09-11 Member Since 2010

    Indiscriminate Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great science fiction with cardboard characters"

    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.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
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