End of Eternity: the Non-Foundation Asimov
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Humanity has found the ultimate way to fix its own mistakes, make
them never happen. In this book, a group of men that
lives outside of time, the "Eternals", modify time. Harlan Andrews, a low
is loyal to the idea that unites all Eternals: it is better to change time to
many, even if it means hurting the few.
That is, until he learns that the woman he has fallen in love with,
Noys, will be eliminated in a soon to occur time change. So, violating
the principals he had always held to as an Eternal, Harlan saves
his lover. But soon, he finds that he is part of a much larger
I have never been that crazy about Asimov. I never disliked his
writings, but never understood why so many people loved the "Foundation"
and "Robot" books. His writing was not bad, just not very
entertaining. Therefore, I was surprised at how much I liked "The End
of Eternity". This, one of Asimov's early works, is very different
from many of his later, better known novels. Asimov for once does not
endorse the idea of social engineering, a theme that he became famous
for in his "Foundation" novels. Instead he opposes it.
Humanity's attempt to change its past and increase "the net happiness
quota", only stunts the development of the human race, and leads to its
extinction; almost diametrically opposed to the philosophy behind "Foundation".
In addition, this book's main character is very different than characters
found in other Asimov books. Harlan is unique in the way that he passionately
follows his emotions, often times not thinking of the long term affects of his
actions. When he learns that Noys will be destroyed in an upcoming time
change he quickly acts to save her. He does this despite the knowledge that
his actions might well have effects on the rest of time, and could possibly hurt
many people. This passionate/self-centered act is something that you will
never find (at least of this magnitude) in a Foundation novel.
Harlan also has many petty concerns. In just about every other Asimov book
the main characters he creates are
very self-assured, happy with their lives and not
worried about their station in society. You get the feeling in this novel
that Harlan almost has an inferiority complex. As a technician, he is several
rungs down on the ladder, he does not like the way that computers
and sociologists look down on him and consider his work to be non-essential.
This, combined with the loneliness that comes with being a technician; his
does not socialize with each other and are shied away from by the other
Eternals, makes a character whose quest for happiness a particularly
Not all the characters are non-traditional Asimov characters. Twissel,
the head computer in Eternity, is a self-assured, somewhat eccentric
character who seems to be pulling the puppet strings through the novel.
Yet, he is clueless to the final effects of Eternity's actions, portraying
him in the end as a naive character.
The final, and largest difference beween this book and typical Asimov
how much Asimov deals with morality. If this novel is anything it is a book
the morality of changing the future. It first begins with the conventional
wisdom that guides Eternity, that changing time can only bring about good for
slowly shows how it stifles his ability to innovate. I do not believe that
there has ever been another Asimov book that took so much time to discuss
the benefits and negative affects of a future technology. The technology of
changing time is not just the background for the story, it is really part of
it, and so provides interesting concepts to ponder while enjoying the plot.
Why "The End of Eternity" is not credited as one of Asimov's great works
is beyond me. The novel is an enjoyable read that takes the time to analyze the
affects of changing time, something that most "time traveller" fiction
rarely does. Perhaps more importantly for Asimov fans, it is a novel
that has a strongly different ethos than his later novels.
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