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Toward the End of Time: A Novel Kindle Edition

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Length: 349 pages

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Updike again, understandably autumnal in his 18th novel and 48th book. It's 2020, and war with China has left the United States in a shambles. As cheerfully retired investment counselor Ben Turnbull gets caught up in the "many-universes" theory resulting from the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics, he finds his identity racing back and forth in time.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This is Updike's millennium novel. Who better than he--vastly intelligent observer of morals and mores over the past half-century--to wrap up fin de siecle life in one, big, magnificent novel that both concludes and foresees? But what a disappointment! It's set in the future--2020, to be exact. What is the point of setting the story ahead in time while at the same time giving next to no feel that things are different? A war is supposed to have happened between the U.S. and China, but it seems to have had as little effect on daily life as some small skirmish in Somalia. Ben Turnbull narrates a year in his life; he's in his late sixties, a semiretired investor, a lover of science. He and his wife have arguments over a deer who is nibbling her lawn and garden away; Ben has thoughts about science, which he yammers on and on about to the absolute distraction of the follower of this curious narrative. Ben thinks he has shot his wife instead of the deer, and the deer turns into a young woman, with whom he has an affair, but, clank, reality sets in again, and his wife is back. Huh? Even Updike's gorgeous style cannot jump-start this plot; it's gone lame at the starting gate. Still, his legion of fans will want to decide for themselves. Brad Hooper

Product Details

  • File Size: 1837 KB
  • Print Length: 349 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0449000419
  • Publisher: Random House (September 22, 2009)
  • Publication Date: September 23, 2009
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,823 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Scott William Foley VINE VOICE on September 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
John Updike's Toward the End Of Time proved a bit of an enigma to me. At times I thoroughly enjoyed it and at other times I seriously thought about putting the book down, never to open its contents again.

In the novel our protagonist goes by the name of Ben Turnbull, a retired finance expert who now haunts his home in the country as his wife obsesses with the garden, her social circles, and a gift shop she helps run. The year is 2020, and a war with the Chinese has all but obliterated the United States as we currently know it. However, New England has been little affected and so life is fairly normal.

Perhaps that is Updike's most astonishing talent. Amongst all the mundane aspects of his tale, he'll sometimes throw in facts about the war, or briefly mention a new life form that has emerged as a result of the war, or slip into metaphysical dissertations about all aspects of science that will virtually boggle your mind. Along with that, at times Ben, our narrator, will slip into . . . something . . . where he is someone totally different living in ancient Egypt or soon after the death of Christ. Perhaps just as flummoxing is the disappearance and reemergence of major characters with little to no explanation.

Amidst all this, however, exist the story of a man aging, a man who feels useless to his wife and to himself more and more with each passing day. He is a man still hot with passion for life and for love, but he finds fulfillment for these passions in the most unusual and sometimes immoral of places.

While this novel presented itself as a constant frustration, one cannot ignore the sheer talent Updike has at imagery.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By on January 14, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Toward The End of Time made the New York Times's "Notable Books" list for '97, but never really got the attention it deserves. Although set in the near future (the year 2020 should be a tip-off that Updike is having some fun with this device) the book is focused very much on the here-and-now as experienced by Ben Turnbull, an aging investment adviser whose wife may be trying to kill him, or may herself be dead; who may or may not be having an interesting and oddly touching affair with a local prostitute; and who seems to be advising a group of local hoodlums on how best to shake down the neighbors. What Ben is certainly doing is confronting his own mortality: from the opening lines, in which winter comes far too early to the north shore of Massachusetts, to the closing moments, in which, one year later, a sudden burst of warm weather stirs a midwinter flurry of insect life, Ben immerses himself in a sensual awareness of the physical world even as his thoughts seem to travel back through time, lighting on the defining moments of an unusual cast of characters. Whether a reader is jarred by these sudden digressions to ancient Egypt, Nazi Germany, and elsewhere will depend in large part on whether he or she enters into the spirit of the novel, which is ultimately impressionistic, despite its surfeit of detail. In my view Updike works wonders--who else will see the world for us this clearly and render it into such perfect prose?Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By 2theD on August 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Some titans of the English language line my shelves, among them: Gene Wolfe, J. G. Ballard, Dan Simmons, Iain Banks and Neal Stephenson. Though the I love the science fiction and borderline fantasy of these five men, one author, above all others, entrances me with his masterful use of the language: John Updike. Toward the End of Time seems to be Updike's only science fiction-esque novel so I was eager to read it with my experience of Rabbit, Run (1960), Of the Farm (1965) and The Afterlife and Other Stories (1994). Languid passages of ambiance, unique and precise descriptions of objects of affection, and the literary exhibition of human flaw are among the reasons that spark fires of inspiration in my mind.

While labeling him a "penis with a thesaurus" may suit some, a thesaurus is used for renaming lingual units in a text and cannot greatly alter the context (the text around the text) without the author's intention. If you like reading words, read the dictionary; if you like reading context, read a book... Updike is most suitable. A dictionary or thesaurus can put perspective on your search for language origin or pronunciation, but offers very little in terms of context with other words. Updike, however, offers nearly a pure sense of context within the reasons of the prior paragraph: ambiance, affection and human flaw.
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