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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 about the 25th 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 mankind 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[1] 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, [2]

The story revolves around Andrew Harlan, a particularly skilled Technician, and his role in the ending of Eternity. [3]

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.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Twissel's justification for the Stable Time Loop.
  • 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 undistinguishable from a modern human (to make no mention of Nöys, 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 mankind 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.
  • Knights Templar: Eternity.
  • 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.
  • Science Marches On: In fact, it's seen within the story, as the people from the Lost Centuries have much more advanced time travel technology capable of blocking the Eternity's time travel and being able to extrapolate the effects of technology much farther into seeing multiple realities at once.
  • 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.

Notes

  1. "Computer" in this novel has its original meaning, "person employed to do computations". Electronic devices built to do computations are called Summators or computaplexes.
  2. in which he is trained by the main character and his Computer superior and sent back in time to restart the loop. The Computer superior knows all of this, but the main character and their trainee do not.
  3. The people who blocked Eternity's access to the future centuries after the 70,000th have discovered a different form of time travel, and used it to discover that in the far future, humanity no longer exists. The reason for this is that once they finally left Earth with space travel, they found the galaxy already populated by other species, and were thus restricted to Earth. Thus enclosed, they decayed and died. To correct this, they cut off Eternity's access to their Centuries to prevent Reality Changes from affecting them. They then decide to send a woman backward in time to undo Eternity and open the galaxy to humanity. The woman chooses Harlan as the key because through her study she came to love him, and because his scenario (the breaking of the loop) is the easiest way to end Eternity.
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