Saturday, January 12, 2013

The End of Eternity: Isaac Asimov

I have a theory that all novels have an element of mystery to them. I don't read enough of any other genre except mystery, crime fiction, and thrillers to really test this out. But when I did read mainstream fiction and science fiction or fantasy in the past, I remember that the "mystery" elements were the ones I enjoyed. What is the problem or issue of the book? How will it be solved? What is the author going to do with this story? What will happen with the main character or the relationships?

And, coincidentally, this evaluation of The End of Eternity at NPR Books says that this book by Isaac Asimov comes close to being a mystery or thriller.
Eternity also works as a futuristic thriller and is particularly effective as a straight-up mystery novel. The last 30 pages of the book move with terrific velocity through a series of startling revelations. Asimov snaps together a dozen story elements cleverly obscured throughout the other chapters.
The End of Eternity was written in 1955, and is one of Asimov's lesser known science fiction novels. The edition I read was a reprint edition published in 2011 by Orb books. It had not been in my reading plans at all. I had picked out other books for the 2013 Sci-Fi Experience at Stainless Steel Droppings.. But my husband saw the book in Carl V.'s list of best books and films for 2012. He bought it and I decided it would be perfect for a science fiction read for this month.

This description from a review at SF Signal provides a good introduction without revealing plot details:
Andrew Harlan is an Eternal, those who live outside time, Observe and create Reality Changes which positively affect the greatest number of people throughout history. Only two periods are unaffected by them – the prehistoric age, before time travel was invented, and the far, FAR-flung future. Harlan’s skill as an Observer in the 482nd attracts the attention of Computer Twissell, who arranges for him to become a Technician (someone who actually performs the change) and teach his hobby of primitive history to a student.
I enjoyed this book very much. There is a love story which is uneven; women did not figure in the book hardly at all, which I usually find a negative. But I was not reading this book for a love story, and I thought that portion of the story worked well in the context of the overall story.

As usual with books I like a lot, it is hard to define why. Within a couple of chapters I was hooked. I liked the way the time travel issues were just handled. I am not really concerned with whether the science behind the story makes sense. There was not a lot of character development; the story was more plot and idea driven. But I found the characters to be believable and the plot entertaining and thought-provoking throughout.


Check out the Review Site for the Sci-Fi Experience here to see other blogger's reviews and related posts.



I am also submitting this post for The Vintage Science Fiction Month not-a-challenge at the Little Red Reviewer. For that event participants will be "talking about time travel, laser guns, early robotics, first contact, swords and sorcery, predictions for humanity and the authors who came up with it all. Haphazardly, the defining year for 'vintage' is 1979.".

13 comments:

  1. Tracy, I have heard much about this book by Asimov, a writer I have forgotten over the years. Thanks for putting me wise to this sf classic.

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    1. Prashant, in addition to following up on more of his sci fi books, I also plan to read some of his mysteries (non sci-fi). I have (and have read) Murder at the ABA, but there are others.

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  2. Tracy - You know, I tend to agree with you that most books have an element of mystery about them. To me that's part of what keeps readers turning and clicking pages. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, 'though honestly I can't say I'm surprised. Asimov was a genius with a lot of writing talent.

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    1. I also got a copy of The Caves of Steel which I plan to read by the end of February. Excited about that one. I know you have a spotlight article on that book, but I am saving that until after I read the book.

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  3. I read quite a few of Asimov's books as a young teen but this one doesn't ring any bells so I guess it must have passed me by. Just added it straight on to my wishlist! I completely agree with you about needing a hint of mystery in all your reading. The book I've just read had a big reveal about half way through, after which the ending was inevitable - it was so difficult to keep myself interested after that!

    Marie
    http://www.girlvsbookshelf.blogspot.com

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  4. I've never heard of Asimov but I enjoyed this review so much so I went online and looked him up.
    Is Foundation (first in foundation series) a good place to start?

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    1. I am just getting back to science fiction novels, and I can't even remember if I read the Foundation books years ago. So I don't have much expertise on the subject. Based on what I have read at other blogs, I think Foundation would be a good place to start.

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  5. So glad you enjoyed it. As I said in my review it may be my favorite Asimov of all I've read. As much as I enjoy the Foundation books, and I really do, I would actually recommend starting with this one or with The Currents of Space if a person hasn't read Asimov at all. The nice thing about those novels, in addition to them being very engaging, is that they are one-novel stories. With Foundation the story only works if you read all three novels of the original trilogy.

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    1. I am glad you commented with suggestions on where to start reading Asimov. I was hoping someone with some expertise would. I will note that I went and read some of the Foundation Group Read posts and that convinced me I should read Foundation. But maybe next year.

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    2. Don't get me wrong, I love the Foundation books, but I also have read enough negative reviews to know they are not everyone's cup o' tea. The biggest difference between them and these novels I recommended are that the Foundation books are short stories and novellas strung together that have huge chunks of time between stories. It truly is a galaxy-spanning, time-spanning story. But if a person doesn't like that structure they can be difficult to start with. They are fascinating books.

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  6. I really like Asimov - well, I've only read a little but I like what I've read so far. I also read Carl's review and will definitely pick this up at some point.
    Lynn :D

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  7. Hmm, a very intriguing premise! I love the idea of the Eternals observing and creating changes...so interesting!

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  8. It does look very interesting indeed. I too tend to gravitate to mystery, suspense, thriller type stories. But I am always looking to branch out and I am forever looking for good suggestions. I am just finishing up R.S. Guthrie's Blood Land, more of a Crime Fiction, but very good. He has a couple others as well that I have on my list, rsguthrie.com if anyone is looking for a good crime based story. So I will add this one to my list and see how I like it! Thanks for the review!

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