Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Review: The End of Eternity

Fair warning, I get Arthur C. Clark, Issac Asimov, and Robert A. Heinlein mixed up all the time since I've never read much older sci-fi. It's not that I don't like them (well, I like Asimov and Heinlein, Clark not so much) but we the tons and tons of new books these days and people only talking about newer books on book blogs (and none of my friends read nearly enough for me to talk books with them, hence book blogs become the only place I can chat reading material) there is certainly less incentive to do so. But there is something to be said for reading the older stuff in any genera, I know I mentioned when I was reviewing The Key to the Kingdom that fantasy has gotten rather tired and authors seem to focus more on making their characters snippy and edgy than creating a truly unique story package, the same is true for sci-fi these days. So it was a delight to see that Asimov puts the science in science fiction and created something I haven't seen.

The End of Eternity by Issac Asimov

This is not actually the cover I had, the cover I had was an off-teal blue background with a series of circles inside circles inside of circles that seemed to be melting in this horrid puce green. It was the epitome of early sci-fi covers and it does not appear to exist on the internet, I used this one because it was the ugliest cover that google was giving me instead.

Summary: In the 24th century a certain type of temporal field was invented and in the 27th century scientists became of aware of how to use it for time travel and created Eternity, an organization that is outside of time yet only exists in the time where there is time travel. Eternals, as they call themselves, are obsessed with changing time to make everything flow as smoothly as possible, even if a few dozen people die in changes or that it's getting harder and harder to make positive improvements. Harlan is one of the people who observes time to make suggestions for these observations and finds himself a bit frustrated at his position, in love with a woman from time, and caught in an endless loop of continuity where nothing seems to be going the way it should.

The Good: Wow, I wasn't sure if I was going to get past the first few chapters where Asimov doesn't pull the punches and the characters are talking in grade-A techno babble every other page. It does take a bit to get used to but it's really neat to see the characters espouse on theories of time travel, what could happen, and how many of today's theories are the same as they were back in 1955. As odd as it sounds, Asimov was really trying to make the idea of time travel as logically possible as he could and his characters not only talk theory but run into problems about time travel throughout the book (unlike say, I don't know, Doctor Who where the problems of time travel fly out the window if they mess up the plot too much).

The Bad: Still trying to figure out why space flight keeps getting wiped out because of interference from Eternity and I'm sure Asimov could've worked in a half decent explanation for it (heck, the characters wonder about it too and I'm sure one of them could've offered up a theory). I didn't like the explantion on why humans haven't really evolved by the 700,000+ century however. He probably is correct that if a species doesn't have a pressing need to evolve it won't and he was probably trying to show not tell just how large Eternity's influence was but I found it hard to believe when dealing that far into the future. Also, there is an explanation in the book for why there aren't women in Eternity and it's a pretty sexist one, the idea that "women always have families and men don't so it's easier to find a man whose removal from Time won't do anything" probably worked well in the 1950s but doesn't stand up to close scrutiny today.

Reading this reminded me that I haven't read I, Robot yet and really need to (I've seen the movie, liked it, and yes I know it's totally different) and I'm thinking of doing a reread of Citizen of the Galaxy, which is by Heinlein not Asimov, since it's been years since I've read it but I liked it then too. Up tomorrow, well, I'm not 100% sure yet but I think to mix it up I'll do a manga post on Shugo Chara. Not quite looking forward to that though, it started getting really strange towards the end and soured my opinion on the whole thing so it could be a toughie.