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La Fin de l'éternité by Isaac Asimov
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La Fin de l'éternité (original 1955; edition 2002)

by Isaac Asimov

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Title:La Fin de l'éternité
Authors:Isaac Asimov
Info:Gallimard (2002), Poche, 352 pages
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The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov (1955)

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Due to circumstances within our control... Tomorrow Will Be Canceled. In the fantastic world of The End Of Eternity this terrifying forecast was entirely possible. The Eternals, the ruling class of the Future, had the power of life and death not only over every human being but bver the very centuries into which they were born. Past, Present, and Future could be created or destroyed at will. You had to be special to become an Eternal. Andrew Harlan... ( )
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  Tutter | Feb 23, 2015 |
One of Isaac Asimovs SF masterpieces, this stand-alone novel is a monument of the flowering of SF in the 20th century. It is widely regarded as Asimov’s single best SF novel and one every SF fan should read.

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 always costs.

During one of his assignments, Harlan meets and falls in love with Noÿs Lambent, a woman who lives in real time and space. Then Harlan learns that Noÿs will cease to exist after the next change, and risks everything to sneak her into Eternity.

Unfortunately, they are caught. Harlan’s punishment? His next assignment: kill the woman he loves before the paradox they have created results in the destruction of Eternity.

### Review

Praise for *The End of Eternity:*

“His most effective piece of work. Asimov’s exemplary clarity in plotting is precisely suited to the material at hand.”
*—Locus*

“By literary standards, this tale of time travel from the 95th century is generally rated Asimov’s best.”
*—Entertainment Weekly*

“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*

### About the Author

**Isaac Asimov** lived in Boston and in New York City most of his life. He died in 1992 at the age of seventy-two. ( )
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  Hans.Michel | Sep 13, 2013 |
I can remember reading this decades ago and thinking it was the least satisfying of the Asimov novels I'd encountered so far. (This was a long while before he re-entry into the field with the gasbaggy recursions.) For about the first half of this new reading I was thinking much the same -- in part because it took me a while to adjust to Asimov's flat, deliberately unflowery (I'm tempted to say deflowered!) style. The characters seemed to be comic-book stereotypes, with unsubtle, adolescent reactions and motivations. I was concerned, too, that there seemed to have been almost zero physical or even cultural evolution over periods of millions of years.

But, now that I've finished the book, I realize that a lot of this was deliberate on Asimov's part: he was trying to present a society in which people had become that way because of (a) their constant exercise, however benign the intent, of the power of life and death over billions and (b) a long, self-imposed cultural isolation from others not of their kind -- even including, because this society is almost exclusively male, an isolation from women. This isolation despite the fact that the society's denizens are viewing and on occasion interacting with all human cultures over a period of no fewer than 70,000 centuries.

I'm kind of getting ahead of myself.

Eternity is a sort of timeless but dimensional structure created to exist alongside Time (the capital T is deliberate). It's possible to travel "upward" and "downward" in Eternity, as if by elevator, from the time of its creation in the 27th century to the very far future, stopping off along the way to view or enter Time. The people who live within Eternity have as their task the regulation of trade between different periods and the monitoring of Time to ensure that, always, all will work out for the best for humanity in the best of all possible worlds. They do this by giving Time's reality occasional -- or not so occasional -- tweaks, these manipulations bringing into being new and supposedly preferable realities, whose substitution for the status quo ante will do good in the relatively short term and won't in the longer term adversely affect the triumphant story of humankind.

As a Technician, one of the castes in the rigidly stratified society of Eternity, Andrew Harlan is one of those whose task it is to effect such Minimum Necessary Changes (MNCs) -- and he's an expert at it. One day he's virtually thrown by his superiors at Noys, a beautiful aristocrat from the 482nd century, when fashions in female clothing were conveniently scanty. Soon, despite Andrew's determined Man-of-Steel persona, they become lovers -- in case it's an obsessive love, one that barely flickers when it's broken to him that there's a superstition rife in Noys' time that women can become immortal through boffing Eternity employees. (Now, I wonder who could have started that rumour?) The liaison is in a legal grey area; but when Andrew discovers the next MNC in the 482nd century will eliminate Noys's existence entirely, he starts breaking every law in Eternity's books.

Adventures ensue.

In the final stages of the book we find that Andrew has been thoroughly manipulated -- not simply, as he himself elicits, by those in the Eternity hierarchy who're using him to help set up the closed time loop that is necessary if the creation of Eternity is to have been effected in the past, but more complexly by the inhabitants of the very, very far future, who have realized the existence of Eternity will eventually doom our species and have sent back Noys to engineer, through manipulation of numerous others as well as Andrew, a situation where Eternity has never been invented:
Any system like Eternity, which allows men to choose their own future, will end by choosing safety and mediocrity, and in such a Reality the stars are out of reach. (p180)
This is a point subtly different from, and very much more interesting than, the usual free-will speculations and philosophizing I'd been expecting -- although there are some of these as well. In this light, we have to recast our ideas of what all of the earlier text was actually about -- as indicated above, suddenly so many things that had seemed like defects or clumsinesses are instead revealed as yet another piece of manipulation, this time of the reader by the author! It's a wonderful piece of volte-facery. ( )
2 vote JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
This is one of my favorite novels by Isaac Asimov, and I think underrated among his works, perhaps because it's a one-off, not something that ties into his Foundation or Robot series. I remember the outline of the story even decades after my first read, which is a sign of its ability to have an impact. What particularly stands out is the world-building. This is as intriguing, imaginative and well-thought out a world than any you can find in Asimov. Eternity is an organization that holds itself out of time. The "Eternals" are from almost all the centuries of man's post-industrial existence--and control and continually tweak that existence, altering reality without the knowledge or consent of those in "Time."

Andrew Harlan is a technician in Eternity, helping to make those changes and quite self-satisfied in his role--until Lambent Noys throws a wrench into the gears of his mind and heart. Noys, even if she fits a fairly traditional role in the book, is still one of Asimov's stronger and most memorable female characters. She's more than she seems and in the end Asimov delivers through her quite the critique of patriarchy and paternalism, particularly through the growth of Harlan, one of his most misogynistic characters. I found myself amused by this passage with its reversal of the usual assumptions of women's impact upon history:

Women almost never qualified for Eternity because, for some reason he did not understand (Computers might, but he himself certainly did not), their abstraction from Time was from ten to a hundred times as likely to distort Reality as was the abstraction of a man.

And there's something about the themes and conclusion of this one I find very satisfying. Like all of Asimov's writing, it's great at making you think--but this also had heart. ( )
2 vote LisaMaria_C | Aug 8, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
The End of Eternity is a love story. Our questions about Andrew’s love are right. In the end as the mists melt — indeed by reflecting on Noÿs — we recognize what he has been and done. His mistakes are worse, and his character better, than we thought. We are left with a man who learns.

Asimov's spare prose is here at its height. It stands in his language, his focus. Hills of detail are at a stroke given to the imagination. Minds and hearts — and this is a novel of the mind and heart — are painted partly by silence, by the author's silence, by what is set before us and what goes unsaid. The reader, the re-reader, who looks, who notes, is rewarded. Theodore Sturgeon used to say "Science fiction is knowledge fiction." That is true not only of physical knowledge.
 

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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 No?s Lambent, a woman who lives in real time and space. Then Harlan learns that No?s will cease to exist after the next change, and he risks everything to sneak her into Eternity.… (more)

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