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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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2,483572,460 (4.02)60
Member:ubermuda
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)

  1. 61
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (codeeater)
  2. 00
    Great Work of Time by John Crowley (whiten06)
    whiten06: Two great time-travel novels with similar premises
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Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov was a reread from my teenage years when the author was a favourite of mine.

I've always found the subject of time travel compelling and here, Asimov creates a lot of tension in this sparse 1955 novel that has become a classic of its genre.

I won't retell the story here, but rather share my opinion that the mechanics of time travel are well thought out, as are the social constructs. Our "hero" is rather vapid throughout and I enjoyed the nicely conceived twist that puts the whole plot in place.

The characters are rather one dimensional and definitely take second place to the thought provoking description of the future society and its role in controlling human destiny.

Not your average time travel novel. Recommended. ( )
1 vote Zumbanista | Mar 6, 2017 |
I think I picked a good first read of the year with this one! I really enjoyed End of Eternity, which I picked up after reading about it in Jo Walton’s What Makes this Book so Great? I think this needs to be the year I read more Asimov.

“Eternity” exists outside of time. It is manned by the “Eternals” - led by supervisors called “Computers” who manage Technicians, Observers, Life Plotters, the looked down upon Maintenance men and the “Cubs” in training. The Eternals can travel back and forth along the timeline - “upwhen” and “downwhen” - via a system of “kettles.” They exist outside of time and must give up any ties to family, forsaking family, marriage, children, etc. They literally can not go home again after becoming Eternal, because part of what the Eternals do is create changes in reality. They are constantly calculating the minimum necessary changes they should make in various centuries to avoid wars, or to stop society from branching off into “extremes.”

These changes always have ripple affects, changing realities further down the centuries and meaning social mores, science and technology, etc. are constantly in flux throughout the centuries. Some sacrifices have to be made for the greater good, or so the Eternals say, as things like space travel are gradually erased from time. As well, the people living in these centuries change completely. Of course anyone outside of Eternity isn’t aware of the changes, so they don’t know their lives are being overwritten again and again, sometimes to terrifying or tragic degrees.

The Eternals can view a massive amount of time, but they can not alter time before the creation of Eternity in the 27th Century, and if they go “upwhen” too far they come across “hidden centuries” they can’t access and then mysterious, empty centuries where the entire planet seems forsaken.

The set up is really cool and neat. Our protagonist is Technician Andrew Harlan and he is frankly a bit of an ass, but it’s necessary for the story. He becomes infatuated with a beautiful woman named Noys who is not an Eternal and, after a forbidden liaison, brings her into Eternity against the rules to preserve her from future time changes. But, while this is all necessary and integral to the plot, the overall plot is about much, much more than this. It’s about time travel, and cause and effect and changing time and parallel realities. It has really satisfying twists and turns.

At first I was put off by the character of Noys because I found her a sexist caricature BUT there is more to her than meets the eye, in fact she’s really the hero of the whole thing, infiltrating Eternity form the hidden centuries in order to convince Harlan that the Eternals are wrong and are crippling humanity with their interference. It is solely thanks to her that Eternity is undone in the end and humanity has a chance to achieve its full potential among the stars. ( )
2 vote catfantastic | Jan 5, 2017 |
In his recent book on the "history" of time travel, James Gleick commented on this wonderful old Asimov novel. The commentary inspired me to now reread the novel, my first enjoyment of which had occurred a seeming (small-e) eternity ago. If you recall reading it yourself, you may know what I mean when I say, with due regard for capitalization, that it might be a good thing if there were an Eternity whose Allwhen Council approved a Reality Change affecting *our* particular Century.
  fpagan | Dec 6, 2016 |
5 ( )
  ronchan | Nov 14, 2016 |
Colonial studies have been part of the curriculum for over two decades at literature faculties on universities across the globe. I wonder how many professors and scholars realize lots of science fiction can also be considered as literature that deals with colonialism. There’s the obvious Prime Directive in mainstream culture’s Star Trek. There’s a variant of that in Banks’ Culture novels: how and when to intervene in other – technologically less developed – cultures? There’s Ursula Le Guin. China Miéville explored the theme a bit in Embassytown. And so forth… The fact that lots of SF deals with encountering and engaging with other, alien cultures makes it a perfect genre to explore real world colonial issues.

The End Of Eternity fits into this way of looking at SF as well. It is one of Asimov’s stand-alone novels, and is considered among his best by many. The protagonist is Andrew Harland, one of the few who live in Eternity, a location outside place and time, where “Eternals” enact “Reality Changes”, small, calculated shifts in the course of history made for the benefit of humankind. Though each Change is made for the greater good, there are also always costs.

For those who have read it, 1971’s The Lathe Of Heaven of Le Guin instantly springs to mind. I have written extensively about my view on utilitarianism – an important theme in both books – in Lathe's review, so I will not repeat those here. Le Guin is more overtly critical on the matter than Asimov, who doesn’t necessarily fault utilitarianism, but instead faults placid, safe, stale thinking, and pleads for ambition, difference, diversity and risk.

“Whom do you mean by ‘we’? Man would not be a world, but a million worlds, a billion worlds. We would have the infinite in our grasp. Each would have its own stretch of the Centuries, each its own values, a chance to seek happiness after ways of its own in an environment of its own. there are many happinesses, many goods, infinite variety… That is the Basic State of mankind.”

(...)

Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig ( )
1 vote bormgans | Aug 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (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.
 

» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Asimov, Isaacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giancola, DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Horace L. Gold
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Andrew Harlan stepped into the kettle.
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If there was a flaw in Eternity, it involved women.  He had known the flaw for what it was from almost his first entrance in to Eternity, but he felt it personally only that day he had first met Noys.  From that moment it had been an easy path to this one, in which he stood false to his oath as an Eternal and to everything in which he had believed.  

For what?

For Noys.

And he was not ashamed.  It was that which really rocked him.  He was not ashamed.  He felt no guilt for the crescendo of crimes he had committed, to which the latest addition of the unethical use of confidential Life-Plotting could only rank as a pecadillo.  

He would do worse than his worst if he had to.

For the first time the specific and express thought came to him.  And though he pushed it away in horror, he knew that, having once come, it would return.

The thought was simply this:  That he would ruin Eternity, if he had to.

The worst of it was that he knew he had the power to do it.
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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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