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Toward the End of Time

3.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  833 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
>Toward the End of Time "is the journal of a 66-year-old man, Ben Turnbull . . . [which] reveals not only the world but the wanderings of his wits. . . . So what if he jumps from a United States in the next century, disintegrating after a war with China, to ancient Egypt, or to virtual reality? So what if characters appear and disappear like phantoms in a dream? . . . T ...more
Paperback, 339 pages
Published September 19th 1997 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,545)
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Scott Rhee
John Updike is a writer of immense beauty, I'll give him that. He's also a bit of a snobbish asshole. I recall one famous interview in which he talked shit about genre fiction and extolled the merits of "literary fiction". I could honestly care less that Updike had little respect for genre fiction---anyone who's read an Updike novel can pretty much deduce that---but then to have the gall to write and publish a science fiction novel (albeit a "literary novel" with science fiction elements), and a ...more
Oct 27, 2014 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Updike manages an amazing range of moods with his usual grace and dexterity, though this is not a novel for the faint hearted or those who are dictionary deprived. Age, time, the power struggles between the sexes are gloriously answered within the waxing and waning of the seasons as nature moves through its own cycle and place in time. Metaphors are brilliantly used and is par for the course as far as Updike is concerned. Note the uncanny use of the deer as she slyly turns into a brilliant young ...more
May 12, 2009 Ariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the first Updike book I have ever read, I was enamored with his poetic style, and his impressive respect for nature and science. I found him to be an amazing stylist with a talent for being able to decribe things in tremendous realistic detail. His writing read like poetry, but the side effect of this was that it was very dense and I was only able to read so much of it at a time. The plot was fairly uneventful: an older guy living in a broken down state of america contemplating on his past an ...more
(1.5 stars)

Only the most stalwart of Updike fans (and for the most part I consider myself one) would find much of value in "Toward the End of Time". Its half-baked musings on mortality, our place in the cosmos, and post-apocalyptic life is a really tough (and, often, creepy) tour of Updike's brain.

A good chunk of Updike's near-50 books invoke similar themes, with a schlubby, misogynistic, nearly unlikable protagonist/anti-hero coping with issues of aging, occupational success/failure and a hyper
Denis Materna
Apr 16, 2013 Denis Materna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The journal of Ben Turnbull describes one year of his life, towards the end of his life, he's 66 and life contains a lot of beauty. Where is this beauty? He's a wealthy and educated man, interested in science, history and religion.

The question is not about his own mortality, which becomes apparent in the pages of his journal, nor it is about the degradation of old age and the dying process. The question which is illuminated in these pages is one of the sheer beauty of life right into its death.
Dec 26, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Didn't think I'd like Updike. This book proved me wrong.

The story is a mish-mash of science and philosophy with some very dark and scathing ideas about the human condition. Thus, I loved it!

here's a funny review that makes me like the book alot more since I dislike David Foster Wallace's review (from wikipedia):

In a review for the New York Observer entitled, "John Updike, Champion Literary Phallocrat, Drops One; Is This Finally the End for Magnificent Narcissists?" (later published in Consider t
Mar 21, 2015 Corey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with all his books intelligence shines from every page. This is perhaps his most experimental novel, employing a science-fiction premise to meditate on time and mortality.
This book is about a lonely bored horny old man and his life after the Sino-American nuclear holocaust. Even though stylistically Updike makes the mundane seem magnificent with his words, his subject matter is still mundane therefore uninteresting. It seems the action in his books are in the characters mind and nothing else. I think this is where Philip Roth is superior to John Updike. Whereas Roth has a dynamic story line that matches the characters dynamic inner personality, Updike has his cha ...more
Yael Front
Jun 08, 2015 Yael Front rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
June 8 2015, Update: 186. That is the page I got to when I gave up. Why, you ask? Because that is the page on which the protagonist describes his fantasy of giving himself a blowjob, describing the different fluids involved. Disgusted, I decided it was not worth reading through this to see what the point of this book is (my guess is there is no point anyway). Updike, you are entitled to your fantasies. Truly. Maybe they are even very common among men. I have no idea. I just don't want to read ab ...more
Duncan Mclaren
I was intrigued by the premise of this book, which suggested science fiction themes - a future America after a nuclear exchange with China, and alternate identities - addressed by a 'master novelist'.

Yet despite clever and mesmerising writing, the combination just didn't work for me, with neither social nor scientific aspects of the scenario consistent and credible. Maybe I was missing some clever literary devices, but it just felt lazy, as if Updike thought that using science fiction concepts e
U.R. Bowie
Apr 05, 2016 U.R. Bowie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I was corresponding with John Updike he would usually reply to my letters using a manual typewriter and typing on the back of a postcard. The letter that I wrote him in Mar., 2006, mentions several things: (1) I had just read the Updike novel "Toward the End of Time." I jokingly mentioned that Updike deserved an award for being the first to use the word "opisthognathous" since Melville in 1850. I commented on my distaste for the main female character Gloria and wondered who wrote the jacke ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a challenging book and seemed, at the start, simply an exercise in decoding lengthy sentences. It also seemed that Updike's sole purpose was showing off his huge vocabulary. The writing is indeed impressive but felt too academic.

The book got slightly better as I got used to the style and started to understand how carefully-crafted every single sentence is. The descriptions are unique yet oddly accurate. However, I can only take so much botanical imagery before it starts to feel like I'm
Aug 11, 2014 Tom rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
At times while reading this Updike offering, I thought had he not already been an accomplished novelist, this book would never have been published. My guess is that he spent a year or so sitting on his porch entering observations into a journal and then attempted to patch these observations into something he could call a novel. He explores the themes many other sixty-plus male writers have explored, a more acute awareness of nature and how it relates to human life as he approaches death, deterio ...more
Oct 21, 2013 Luis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Updike channels his inner Philip Roth channeling his inner Kurt Vonnegut channeling his inner New Englander with lack of linearity.
May 23, 2011 Brenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stumbled upon this one by mistake poking around someone else's library. Excellent book.
Mike Robinson
The recipe for Updike's "Toward the End of Time" could be appropriated as thus: one tablespoon of Philip Roth (I'm thinking of his "Portnoy's Complaint"), one tablespoon of Norman Mailer, one teaspoon of McCarthy's "The Road" and a pinch of Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and Paul Harding's "Tinkers". Clearly, since "Time" precedes several of these works, I'm not implying they had a direct influence on Updike. Rather I'm trying to characterize the ingredients of my experience reading this book, ...more

Toward the End of Time "is the journal of a 66-year-old man, Ben Turnbull . . . [which] reveals not only the world but the wanderings of his wits. . . . So what if he jumps from a United States in the next century, disintegrating after a war with China, to ancient Egypt, or to virtual reality? So what if characters appear and disappear like phantoms in a dream? . . . Turnbull's journal is like Walden gone haywire. . . . If Ben's ruthlessness is evenhanded, so is his alarming intelligence; it fa

Nen Simmons
Jan 25, 2015 Nen Simmons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book you get completely lost in. It's not particularly action packed or fast paced, but it keeps drawing you in for just 1 more chapter. The book describes a year in the life of a retired middle class man in post WW3 America. There is a bit of sci-fi, a bit of philosophy, and a few surreal bits, but is mostly about him contemplating time. There are a lot of references to sex, as he gets turned on by practically everything, which are biological rather than erotic, and a bit icky, but an ...more
Mar 12, 2009 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fictional journal of a year in the life of an old man (60's) living in suburban Massachusetts...after a US-Chinese nuclear war has destroyed much of the US. Life still closely resembles the world we know - tv, the daily newspaper, golf and skiing - except for having to pay protection to the local thugs, using local script instead of US currency because the federal government is virtually defunct and dealing with the potential threat of primtive, insect-like artificial lifeforms that ha ...more
Steve Lew
(Caveat- it is extremely difficult to parse disappointment with the book on the one hand, from sheer terror at such a frank treatment of the subject matter. To wit, our gradual but nevertheless uncontrolled descent into oblivion via senescence.) At first I was all "Woo, Updike ftw!" Then i was more like "Ew, TMI." But it wasn't so bad, it turned out, so I went back to "Woo..." but with slightly less ardor. Then he pulled a couple of switcheroos that probably most folks wouldn't think were such a ...more
Jul 25, 2012 Ryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Random musings of a grumpy and horny old white guy. Pretty mundane and boring, no, sedate is more descriptive, most of the time with some interesting bits that shed light on the state of the world in 2020 - surprisingly normal given there had been a nuclear exchange between the US and China! I suppose life in a quiet almost rural New England neighborhood could conceivably still remain untouched, with hints of decay and the breakdown of central authority here and there, from roving gangs demandin ...more
Mar 31, 2014 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not sure I've read anything quite like it before... The prose was poetic, but the subject matter was hard, and sometimes gruesome.
Never read any Updike, but this is a mature author at the height of his writing abilities. It's tough getting old.
Mar 14, 2014 Terry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
nothing likeable about these characters. very bleak story. not my cup of tea.
Emer Tannam
Set in a hypothetical world after a Chinese-American war that changes the world, but not so much that its unrecognisable, or that it interferes with the plot, the protagonist is a 66 year man, musing on his circumstances, his wife (who wants him to die), his family the nature of the universe, women he wants to (and does) sleep with, and the deer that's eating his wife's roses. It is a very sensual and sinister book. There is a feeling of claustrophobia and dread throughout. For me, it was inter ...more
Aug 15, 2009 Marvin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Updike's less inspired efforts. It's about a retired investment counselor living comfortably (except for a bout with prostate cancer) in 2020 amid the chaos of a world in the wake of a destructive nuclear war between China & the U.S. Though much of the West & Midwest have been devastated & the federal government has collapsed, this middle-class man retains typical mundane preoccupations of his class in the 20th century--sex, golf, & gardening--making this feel very ...more
Rebecca Splain
Seriously could not deal with reading a book in which, by page 50, there were two explicit sexual encounters between the main character, a 66-year old icky lecher and some prostitute young enough to be his granddaughter. I thought this was supposed to be some dystopic novel, and although some war between China and America are alluded to, along with the mention of a biography of President Gore (hahaha!), it's mostly about some really lecherous guy whose wife was there and then suddenly gone. I di ...more
Sep 22, 2015 Martin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Uninspiring, boring, difficult to read.
Kate Fitzgerald
This book was sometimes good, but the story was so all over the place (like a dream sequence that didn't have a consistent plot) that it was hard to stay engaged. And I ended up putting the book down about 75% through because (spoiler alert), after reading through a second sex scene between a 66-year-old man and a underdeveloped 14-year-old girl, it just got too disgusting to force myself to finish it.
Mar 02, 2013 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've liked many of Updike's books. In this one his descriptive powers, his sensitivity to nature, and his knowledge of history and the cosmos are all on display. He draws parallels between his main character's aging process/realization of mortality and the changing of the seasons, as well as the eventual death of the universe itself. But all of this wasn't enough to overcome my lack of attachment to his main character with his obsession about sex in spite of his waning capacity.
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John Hoyer Updike was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, havin ...more
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