Isaac Asimov: The End of Eternity

30. August 2013 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

Andrew Harlan is a Technician in Eternity and as such responsible for processing time changes. Eternity administrates all centuries up to the 70.000s to assure mankind’s wellbeing. Observers travel to any century, observing society and report to Eternity. Eternity then decides if the current situation is acceptable and if not changes it into a more agreeable scenario. These changes might cause inconveniences for some people – for example someone who was able to walk might be paralyzed in the new scenario, what was a happy and content family might be hating each other now and some people might not even be born – but for the sake of the welfare of the many a few sacrifices must be made.

Such are the beliefs and convictions of Harlan as well – at least until he meets Noys, an attractive girl from a century he had been assigned to observe. In his attempt to be with her he doesn’t shy back from even destroying Eternity entirely.

Personally I find the concept of time travelling very appealing. I’m quite in a pinch to tell my opinion about this book. On one hand I didn’t like it at all, on the other hand I still read through it in no time. The writing style is captivating and I really did want to know what happens next throughout the whole novel (even though the title really is one big spoiler…) So, why did I not like it?

It’s sexist. The protagonist literally states that he perceives women as something filthy. He considers a society in which women are independent and sexually autonomous rotten. If he was permitted to confirm reality changes he’d change such a society back to complete patriarchy. I instantly felt a strong antipathy, as you might have guessed. Still I wanted to stay objective. Just because one protagonist is sexist, doesn’t mean the whole novel needs to be written in the same kind of mindset.

But unfortunately I didn’t find any such hints. Eternity is completely run by men. Apparently bringing women from time to eternity has ten times bigger influences on reality than it is the case with men. It never gets explained. Reality is in the hands of men, making them gods. Harlan literally refers to himself once as demigod.

The role of the female protagonist was simply the one of the femme fatal. She just had to be there and look pretty. During the short times Harlan was with Noys he talked exclusively about himself. He notices once in a while, that he actually knows nothing about his beloved but still never cares to ask her anything. From the very beginning he is absolutely sure that his feelings for her are mutual and – again without considering her thoughts and feelings – he kidnaps her from her time and brings her to an inhabited century where she from now on has to live in complete isolation and exclusion to never ever return to her time, family and friends again. He just nonchalantly decides, that this is exactly what she wants. In this deserted place he is her benefactor, her center of the world and in one of his generous attempts to make her as comfy as possible in her prison he personally locked her in, he raids what was once her library to find some books for her to read and pass the time. It is a very exemplary scene, since he finds to his great surprise a book about society of the century she was living in. He never knew that she liked to read „weighty books“ and even though he knows now better, he still chooses light novels to bring back to her.

In my opinion Noys should have been the hero of the story. It of course still can be presented from the view point of Harlan, but Noys is the reason behind everything. She is clever, she is sexy, she is presented as competent (though the reader never sees proof of that) and yet she never does anything. She stays completely passive.

It basically is the Genesis all over again. The man shapes the world around him and the woman is the root for all evil and the reason for the exclusion from paradise. Great.

Isaac Asimov: The End of Eternity. London: Harpercollins

(I unfortunately don’t know which copy exactly I have read, since I already handed it over to my sister for her to read. It is, as I already admitted, a captivating read after all and the topic of time travel and change is something highly interesting. I’m just not satisfied with the presentation of women in this novel. And I can’t get over it.)


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