Literature / The End of Eternity
The End of Eternity
is a science fiction book by Isaac Asimov
The story is set in a world where Time Travel
is highly sophisticated. A group of people known as Eternals
reside in a space outside of our normal reality, but linked to it via vehicles called Kettles. They recruit people from the normal timeline, and control the period from the 28th Century to the 70,000th Century. Within this period, they are constantly making Reality Changes, which are used to erase wars and technological advances deemed contrary to the human race
. One of the main themes is that space-travel, a staple in Asimov's other science fiction works, has been repeatedly stomped out in order to preserve the status quo and keep humanity on Earth (not out of sheer malice — but because advances in space travel always seem to coincide with increased drug use, crime etc, so these advances are undone "for the greater good".)
Eternals are comprised of several groups — Sociologists, Technicians, Life-Plotters and Computers note
are mentioned, in addition, there are also Maintenance people. Sociologists accumulate data and analyze it for possible Reality Changes. Computers narrow down when and where the Reality Change takes place, and the Technicians pinpoint and make the Reality Changes themselves. Because of this, Technicians are highly revered, yet feared. They are also supposed to suppress all emotion because of the nature of their job, and thus rarely find love.
The start of Eternity is explained to be a time paradox
. The man who "discovered" time travel in Primitive times (before Eternity) wrote a journal. In the journal, he detailed his life, spoiler — click to reveal
The story revolves around Andrew Harlan, a particularly skilled Technician, and his role in the ending of Eternity. Large spoilers — click to reveal
The book, though relatively obscure (for a science fiction book written by Isaac Asimov
), has achieved an interesting place in the minds of Foundation fans who either
consider the Twist Ending
to be the reason the Robots/Empire/Foundation series even began
or others who (plausibly) claim that The End of Eternity
is not part of the Foundation
series's canon. The former seem to be the majority and considering how Asimov's fanbase still survives, it's strange that it took so long for the book to be printed again.
(If you're looking for the completely unrelated RPG, that's on the wiki as Resonance of Fate
, its English title.)
This work features examples of the following tropes:
- Alternate History: Several different versions of history occur over the course of the book, due to the interventions of the Eternals.
- Always Someone Better: Twissel.
- Bat Deduction: First subverted, Harlan's discovery that Cooper is Mallansohn was actually implanted by Noÿs, later played straight with Harlan finding out that Noÿs is an agent from the later centuries.
- Because Destiny Says So: Twissel's justification for the Stable Time Loop. He's utterly wrong.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: 10% of the people are busy with constantly rewriting the past, the other 90%, despite being looked down upon, are actually better off, you need a special permission for a relationship with a woman... Can we say Nineteen Eighty Four?
- Double Meaning Title: The title initially appears to refer to Eternity's purpose, the thing that supposedly justifies its means. It turns out to also refer to that which is the opposite of the Beginning of Eternity.
- Evolutionary Stasis: Discussed and arguably justified. Twissell, from beyond the 30,000th century, is virtually indistinguishable from a modern human (to make no mention of Noÿs, who's from beyond the 100,000th century and still there's no way to tell). Twissell is convinced that this stagnation is due to some machination from beings in the future, but it's revealed that Eternity itself has deprived humanity of any evolutionary drive.
- For Want of a Nail: The Eternals exploit this professionally and with mathematical precision. The book begins with the main character changing the course of history by moving a small object onto a different shelf.
- Forbidden Fruit: Noÿs to Harlan.
- Heel–Face Turn: Twissel.
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Subverted: World War II did not end with a nuclear strike in their reality, but the heroes cause it by sending instructions to a scientist on how to create a nuclear bomb and prevent Eternity from ever forming.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Noÿs seems to be one at first, being a sexual free spirit that breaks Harlan out of his repressed shell, but this is repeatedly subverted over the course of the book. It turns out the reason she was interested in him was because of a rumor in her time that sleeping with an Eternal will make a girl immortal. But then she tells him that she actually was attracted to him, and the immortality, if true, would only have been a bonus. But THEN it is revealed she is actually one of the unknown far-future humans, who came back in time to manipulate Harlan into a position where he could unmake Eternity... but she actually is still in love with him (because she spent so much time studying him in preparation for her mission), and fully intends to live out her life with him in the past... if he doesn't kill her.
- Place Beyond Time: Eternity itself.
- Public Secret Message: A stranded time-traveller leaves a marker of his location by placing an advertisement in the paper constructed of references to a significant event that hasn't happened yet at the time he places the ad.
- Rubber-Band History: The new history that is created at the end of the novel by the intervention of the Lost Century people is ours — after all, our history books tells us the first detonation of an atomic bomb has happened, and was in 1945...
- Science Is Bad: Averted. The novel is an explicit rejection of the trope.
- Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Eternity, in their quest to raise the sum total of happiness, keeps these from ever being made. In fact, they keep serious space travel from ever happening at all.
- Stable Time Loop: The whole story is about breaking one, but the characters don't realize there is one until late in the story.
- Time Travel
- The Time Traveller's Dilemma: The whole point of the book.
- Title Drop
- We Will Not Have Appendixes in the Future: This is actually a plot point.
- Wham Episode: As is probably implied by the amount of spoiler tags on this page, the twist ending is one hell of a twist ending.
- You Will Be Beethoven: Tied to the invention of the time machine.