Toward the End of Time: A Novel
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Set in the near future of 2020, this disconcerting philosophical fantasy depicts an America devastated by a war with China that has left its populace decimated, its government a shambles, and its natural resources tainted. The hero is Ben Turnbull, a sixty-six-year-old retired investment counselor, who, like Thoreau, sticks close to home and traces the course of one Massachusetts year in his journal. Something of a science buff, he finds that his disrupted personal history has been warped by the disjunctions and vagaries of the “many-worlds” hypothesis derived from the indeterminacy of quantum theory. His identity branches into variants extending back through the past and forward into the evolution of the universe, as both it and his own mortal, nature-haunted existence move toward the end of time.
east of the Mississippi. The strategy is to absorb the little carriers first, and let UPS come to us when it’s ready.” He moved closer; a sour male essence wafted from his jowls and armpits. “Between us, they’re working on a way to remote-control the trinkets, with radio signals; the little things’ brains are just a few transistors, after all. Once the kinks are out it’ll be the biggest thing in warfare since the taming of the horse.” “And the invention of horseshoes and the stirrup,” I said.
we could hear him shout. It was hard for me to imagine my playing golf next summer. Another year, all those seasonal gears to turn, those heavy heavenly bodies to push into place. “Who’ve you been playing with?” I asked Ken. He blinked and stared straight ahead, as if looking for a vision of those other players on the backs of my uniform Winston Churchill. “Oh, we’ve had some nice games with Fred, his pacemaker seems to be getting less loud, and we had Les out for the Columbus Day Best-Ball, he
else we would continually scream. Scarcely fifty years ago—a mere wink in the history of our planet, a mere smothered yawn within the saga of our species—was it discovered that all the galaxies are rushing toward us at titanic speeds. Well, not all, for those the farthest away, at a distance of more than twenty-five billion years, are moving away, as a so-called “red shift” in their spectra inarguably reveals—which is to say, twenty-five billion years ago they were moving away. Now—but “now”
two million, if you tell me what you were really doing all day.” “I was doing housework and feeling fond of you, if you must know. I was thinking how much I wanted to go to bed with you when you got back from skiing with those jerks. I swept and cleaned the whole upstairs, and picked up winter sticks and stuff outside on the lawn.” Tears, confounding me, had appeared like rheum on her lower lids, shellacking brighter the brown of her eyes. We are each a slimy apparatus of interacting liquids.
Jane Fonda tape of Gloria’s while I rummaged in the encyclopedia and the seldom-consulted family Bible, nagged ever since Easter by thoughts of St. Paul. Without him, there might have been a Christ, but there would have been no Christology, and no crisis theology. From the standpoint of two thousand years later, his travels seem wormholes in petrified wood, the already rotten eastern end of the Empire, dotted lines traced from one set of ruins to another, or to empty Turkish spaces where even the