The End of Eternity
Cover of the first edition
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The End of Eternity is a
In The End of Eternity, members of the time-changing organization Eternity seek to ensure that their own organization is founded as history says it was, by ensuring the conditions for that event happen as history says they happened. The protagonist, Andrew Harlan, is placed in a situation where he must decide whether to allow the "circle" to close and Eternity be founded, or to allow the opposite to happen and Eternity never to have existed.
Many years later, Asimov tied this novel into his broader
In the future, humanity uses
Andrew Harlan is an Eternal and an outstanding Technician – a specialist at implementing reality changes – who is fascinated by the Primitive times. Senior Computer Laban Twissell, the Dean of the Allwhen Council, enrolls him to teach a newcomer, Brinsley Sheridan Cooper, about the Primitive. Harlan's work requires they stay for a week in the 482nd century with non-Eternal Noÿs Lambent, a member of the aristocracy of that time. Harlan falls in love with her, and discovers that in the new reality planned for that time, she does not exist. Against Eternal laws, he removes her from time and hides her in the empty sections of Eternity that exist in the Hidden Centuries.
Harlan later finds that the kettles will not travel to the time he hid Noÿs (there is a block at the 100,000th century), and confronts Assistant Computer Finge with a weapon, accusing him of sabotaging matters out of jealousy. Finge states he has reported Harlan's conduct, and did not place the block. Harlan is summoned to the Council but is not reprimanded; he deduces that because his transgressions were ignored, he must be there to serve a larger purpose. Harlan confronts Twissell and explains that he has been teaching himself temporal mathematics and believes that its 23rd century inventor, Vikkor Mallansohn, must have been helped in his discovery by someone from his future; he concludes that his current role is training Cooper to do this. Twissell confirms this, adding that unknown to Cooper, Mallansohn's secret memoirs show that Cooper will take over Mallansohn's role and in effect, become Mallansohn. This must be kept from Cooper, so that Eternity will be founded as it historically was. Harlan
Twissell is aghast, but as Eternity still exists, he theorizes he can undo Harlan's damage, and send Cooper back correctly for his mission. They think Cooper might try to communicate using an advertisement in one of Harlan's Primitive magazines that would only stand out to an Eternal. Harlan finds a magazine from 1932 has changed, and now shows an advert in the form of a
On arrival in 1932, Harlan holds Noÿs at gunpoint, revealing that he suspects her of being from the Hidden Centuries, and that he has brought her so that she could not harm Eternity. Noÿs acknowledges she is from that time, and explains that her people had also developed time travel but their method shows many possible futures rather than just one future as seen by Eternity. They learned that humans would have been the first species to spread into the universe, but in each future where Eternity existed, safety was given a priority and by the time humans reached the stars, other species predominated and prevented this. In each future, humanity died out afterwards, in a species-wide depression. Noÿs' mission was to make the minimum change to history to remedy this – which was to prevent Eternity from ever being founded. She chose an approach in which she and Harlan were together. Noÿs gives Harlan the choice of killing her and preserving Eternity, or letting her live and allowing a different future to arise. Harlan, remembering the unhealthy interpersonal relationships between the Eternals, and the sociological damage he has seen done to people whose original "homewhen" had ceased to exist, begins to agree with her. Suddenly, a reality change occurs; the kettle disappears, indicating that Eternity now never happened. The book ends by stating that this was "the end of Eternity – and the beginning of Infinity".