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Tomorrow's Eve by Villiers de L'isle Adam

Tomorrow's Eve (1886)

by Villiers de L'isle Adam

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Mr. Edison making an android who was an ideal woman....
In this work, Villiers tried to search for the possibility of an existence of literally perfect woman. The android was perfect existence, and his attempt seemed succeeded at one time, but, in the end, after all, he had to sink her deep in the ocean....
  CharlesSwann | May 8, 2008 |
Tomorrow's Eve is a French novel, first published in 1886. It is, equally, a hard science-fiction philosophical page-turner -- the story of how Thomas Edison invents a robot girlfriend for an Englishman to whom he owes a favor. The conjunction of the novel's age, Frenchness, and subject matter may seem astonishing, and it is; yet their synthesis, as it turns out, makes for a plot that is contemplative yet riveting, peopled by characters who are exaggerated yet nuanced.

At heart, Tomorrow's Eve is concerned with exploring human nature, and in particular the nature of love, the soul, and (since this is a French novel) women. Author Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam is an unrepentant cynic on these themes, and his pessimism percolates into his Edison; Edison's excitement about his robotic creation derives from his conviction that a guileless machine is actually an improvement on certain humans. Some women, he argues, are walking pharmacies, treated with so many chemicals that the admirer falls in love with a facade; then why not fall in love with a robot, who is equally artificial and less duplicitous? Villiers, a devout Catholic, seems to regard his fictional Edison's work as sacrilege, but keeps his religious undertones subtle and allows the reader to form his own judgments.

And there is plenty to judge! Villiers doesn't neglect characterization; everyone brims with personality, from the darkly intense Edison to his noble but desperate English friend to his tragic creation Hadaly. Despite a superficial resemblance to the earlier character, Edison is no clichéd Dr. Frankenstein takeoff. But don't take it from me, take it from Villiers:

"Drops of sweat stood like tears on the brow of Lord Ewald; he looked upon the features, now glacial in their austerity, of Edison. He felt that beneath this strident, scientific demonstration two things were hidden in the lecturer's infinite range of severely controlled secret thoughts.

The first was love of Humanity.

The second was one of the most violent shrieks of despair -- the coldest, the most intense, the most far-reaching, even to the Heavens, perhaps! -- that was ever emitted by a living being." (p.143)

Perhaps most astonishing is the way Villiers integrates his philosophy and characters with his science-fiction; Tomorrow's Eve is possibly the most detailed sci-fi novel ever written up to its time. The operation of Edison's "Android" -- a term this novel is credited with popularizing -- is described in loving, even prurient, detail. Edison's frequent and lengthy exposition is both ingenious and diabolical; it is also the weakest aspect of the novel. I don't feel like knowing how Hadaly keeps her balance really helps me interpret the story. But then, I'm not a hard science-fiction fan. Tomorrow's Eve may be Jules Verne in diction, but it is Robert Heinlein in detail.

All in all, Tomorrow's Eve is a great read -- not life-changing, at least for me, but frank and thought-provoking. I suspect I'll find myself pulling it from my bookshelf occasionally to look up an especially incisive quote, but I probably won't reread it in its entirety. ( )
2 vote satyreyes | Sep 21, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (51 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Villiers de L'isle Adamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mallarmé, StéphaneContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vasta Dazzi, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Twenty-five leagues from New York, at the heart of a network of electric lines, is found a dwelling surrounded by deep and quite deserted gardens.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0252069552, Paperback)

Take one inventive genius indebted to the friend who saved his life; add an English aristocrat hopelessly consumed with a selfish and spiritually bankrupt woman; stir together with a Faustian pact to create the perfect woman-and voil! "Tomorrow's Eve" is served. Robert Martin Adams's graceful translation is the first to bring to English readers this captivating fable of a Thomas Edison-like inventor and his creation, the radiant and tragic android Hadaly. Adams's introduction sketches the uncompromising idealism of the proud but penurious aristocrat Jean Marie Mathias Philippe Auguste, Count Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, a friend and admired colleague of Charles Baudelaire, Stphane Mallarm, and Richard Wagner.Villiers dazzles us with a gallery of electronic wonders while unsettling us with the implications of his (and our) increasingly mechanized and mechanical society. A witty and acerbic tale in which human nature, spiritual values, and scientific possibilities collide, "Tomorrow's Eve" retains an enduring freshness and edge.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:38 -0400)

Even after 100 years, this is a captivating fable - witty and biting - of a Thomas Edison-like inventor who creates the radiant and tragic android Hadaly, and the lovelorn aristocrat who falls for the manmade perfect woman who is conveniently adjustable so he may make her at his will to his taste and social needs.… (more)

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