Stand-alone time travel novel.
Publication year: 1955
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1987
Translator: Aulikki and Markus Lehkonen, with a foreword by Juhani Hinkkanen
Page count: 190
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Ursa
Eternity is an organization which oversees time travel which is only possible through devices held by Eternity. All Eternity’s employees (called Eternals) are male humans and for the most part they are supposed to live umarried and never have kids. A few can apply for a relationship with temporal (normal) women (who don’t know much or anything about Eternity) from the council. The council chooses the women in question. Eternity’s offices start from the 27th century and stretch all the way until the Sun goes nova and beyond. However, there are some centuries which aren’t accessible to the Eternals. They can go past them but not visit them.
The men have strict hierarchies according to their jobs. Their main job is to increase humanity’s harmony and wellbeing through small changes in reality. These changes are calculated very carefully in advance. Unfortunately, individual humans’ lives don’t count. That’s why the Eternals are supposed to live apart from the normal humans. However, the general populace, or the upper class, on some centuries do know about the general existence of Eternity and even buy or sell stuff from other centuries, under the strict supervision of the Eternals.
The Eternals are originally normal men from various centuries who were picked around age 15 and educated in the Eternity. They were chosen because the fact that they’re missing from reality didn’t cause temporal changes.
Andrew Harlan is a Technician, one of the people who do the actual reality changes and are despised by the other Eternals because of it. Harlan has grown pretty emotionless over the years and he’s also caught the eye of Laban Twissell who is the leader of the council. However, right at the start of the book, Harlan is doing something forbidden and we’re quick shown why: a woman.
The concepts in this book are very interesting and I can see how the story has influenced a lot of writers. Unfortunately, the characters didn’t appeal to me at all so, emotionally the book left me cold. Indeed, even though this book spans history until the very end, there’s apparently not a single reality where women are engineers or scientists. That makes me very sad and angry. Apparently, in this world women can only be seducers or objects of lust. The book has only one named female character. I’m reminded of why I don’t generally read these older SF books.
We saw small glimpses into several centuries and they seemed pretty similar. Of course, Eternity’s job is to iron out all big negatives, like wars, famines, and slavery so that’s intentional. The characters talk about, and experience, nearly all time travel paradoxes imaginable, such as seeing themselves. In this book, time travel can affect the past.