I was in the bookstore the other day, in the science fiction section, when a handsome new trade paperback caught my eye. It was a new edition of Isaac Asimov's 1955 novel, THE END OF ETERNITY. I picked it up, read the blurbs and thought "This sounds pretty cool. I'd like to read this one." That was immediately followed by a second thought, "I think I already have a copy of this at home."
I was right. I did. The copy on my man cave bookshelf is the one pictured above. It's the Fawcett Crest paperback edition published in October 1971. I think the cover art is terrific and, now that I've read the book, I think what's behind that cover is pretty terrific too.
In the far future, a place called Eternity exists outside of and removed from regular time and space. There, the Eternals, a group of highly trained, brilliant men, constantly monitor centuries past, present and future. They search for key events that cause things to go bad in history and when they find them, they institute changes (some small, some large) that cause the event not to occur and for a new reality to come into being. The Eternals are acting out of beneficence and have only the best intents for mankind but by robbing man of his chances to make disastrous mistakes along side supreme triumphs, the Eternals are forcing mankind along a safe path of evolutionary development and an ultimate dead end.
All of this is discovered over the course of the novel by our hero, Andrew Harlan, a Technician who is destined to play a crucial role in a cause and effect time loop that creates Eternity over and over again. Harlan dares to fall in love with a woman from another century and he takes her "out of time" and hides her in the far "upwhen" centuries of Eternity.
But that's only the beginning of his crimes and as things rocket along, Harlan (and the reader) experience one mind-shattering revelation after another as the many truths and secrets of Eternity are finally revealed.
THE END OF ETERNITY is a great science fiction novel, bursting at the seams with heady ideas and concepts, all of which are skillfully explicated by the master, Isaac Asimov. The narrative starts slowly but gradually builds tension and excitement with each new twist and turn. While there's little physical action, this is still a page turner. I couldn't stop reading once I reached a certain part of the book because of the secrets that were being exposed in each chapter, all of which jibe perfectly with everything that has gone before. Asimov plays fair with his mystery here. All the clues and information is there, you just don't know what's important when you read it for the first time.
I grew up reading a lot of science fiction but somehow, I never picked this one up. I'm glad I've finally done so. THE END OF ETERNITY is a winner, a classic science fiction novel by a master of the genre. Highly recommended.