The End of Eternity (Isaac Asimov)

I’ve never had much time for Asimov, partly because of the media hype that surrounds his name. The problem I have with his writing here is that emotional situations seem to be taken to extremes: going from dry clinical detachment to wildly-in-love, blackmailing, murderous and suicidal, without any sort of in-between. Also, for a supposedly thoughtful and incredibly precise guy, his ability to jump to extreme conclusions based on minimal evidence is very jarring. His style is immature and his characters are flat. They are people who are so superficial and tedious that it is hard to care about any of them. So, lets turn to the plot…

Asimov sets up a group of scientists who are outside of time called the Eternals. While everyone on earth thinks that their main job is to facilitate commerce between various centuries, their true function is to manipulate history to make it play out more favourably. Thus, the Eternals have become gods without the people of the world knowing it. They’ve become puppeteers to a population that doesn’t know how to fight back, thus leaving the Eternals seemingly untouchable. It makes for an interesting polytheocracy where the people aren’t even aware that their scientists have turned themselves into gods. What bastards!

It seems that only the brightest, most analytical, most unquestioning, most inexperienced in life, the most naïve, need apply for the job of Eternal. Recruiters would need to find someone who lived their entire life with those qualities to hopefully ensure that they’d not eventually change into someone who would call for a revolution in Eternity because they could no longer agree with the level of control and puppetmastery that the Eternals wield. With such a combination of personality traits, Our Hero falls in love with the first scantily clad woman who throws herself his way. And, in so doing, he puts the very existence of Eternity in peril because he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep her. The story turns on this rebellion.

An interesting mystery is that the Eternals are shielded from being able to visit the future beyond a certain point. Apparently, future humans don’t want the dalliance of the Eternals in their affairs. Asimov makes the point that species evolve to adapt to their environment. However, since humans are able to adapt their environments to suit them, he postulates that humans have and will continue to evolve at much slower rates than beings that are unable to modify their environments. I think fiction like this appeals to so many because, (unless there is reincarnation) we may only have one life to live and will never see our evolutionary future thousands or millions of years from now, beyond an author’s imagination. The content of the story was merely okay, but the questions the author created for me were intriguing enough.

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