Sunday, January 06, 2013

End of Eternity

"Eternity" is a monastic-like organization that whose members bounce around through time. They have complex computer formulas to calculate the impact of changes. With that, they attempt to make the minimum possible change that will make the desired alteration in the world. If some great leader is about to destroy the world, they might move his briefcase, causing him to get agitated and miss a key meeting that lead to him getting in power. New members are men recruited from various time periods who can never marry, but have great power to affect changes.

One technician falls in love with a girl and is willing to throw all of eternity to the kabosh to get her back. It turns out he is a man who was supposed to train the guy that actual invents eternity. The guy is supposed to go back in time to "invent" the time travel. So, out protagonist alters the controls sending him back too early. Only, he has a change of heart after he is promised his girl, and searches magazine adds for the appropriate time period to find the guy. He gets the girl first, then goes back with her to the ancient past. Only, then he discovers she is a double agent. She came from a future that developed an even better time travel where they can see all possible outcomes. "Eternity"'s meddling has eliminated major conflicts, but because of this they have also eliminated major achievements, and led to the gradual extinction of man. He felt he had been used by eternity to bond with her and set up eternity. Then he discovered he had been used by her to kill eternity. But, in the end, she loves him, so who cares about the rest of the world? They then decide to live happily ever after, killing "eternity" they can improve the world. And as a bonus, they live happily ever after.

Ok. That is quite a jumble. This book tells a fairly compelling story, and has all sorts of ideas. Some are well executed, while others are not quite fully flushed out. (Computers can really calculate such detailed changes?) And how is it that people in the future can send things back to the past in order to invent the future? (Reminds me of how "Shakespeare" was invented in a Jasper Fforde book.)

Politically, the novel presents a strong indictment of central planning. Here it is amplified to an extreme of planning things over time. Sure, the central planning does alleviate some human wants. But the lack of these wants is often what drives the very innovation that improves society as a whole. Here Big Brother isn't just watching. Big Brother is actually changing - only it does it so well you don't even know. Freewill on the individual and societal level is very important here. Libertarians rule!

Time travel is presented in a couple, somewhat confusing, ways. With eternity, time travel an cause changes. But these changes are then "always" in place. If you change something in the past that should eliminate you, but you are still there, then the change didn't eliminate you. There is also a separate concept of "time" by those living in eternity. Somehow this time continues linearly while the "real" time is going on. Thus, they may not have "reached" their elimination yet in the linear time, even though they are in a vastly different time frame than the person sent back to invent them. Alas, this extra time doesn't quite jell. But, just set back and enjoy the flight, and try to worry about the world later.

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