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Tomorrow's Eve Paperback – 1 Nov 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Paperback Ed edition (1 Nov. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252069552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252069550
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 568,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This surprising and fascinating science fiction tale has lost none of its charm and vitality even after 100 years. Robert M. Adams's translation should prove highly diversionary and entertaining for a wide range of readers." -- Choice "An interesting and controversial novel... This first translation is graceful and smooth." -- Library Journal

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TWENTY-FIVE LEAGUES from New York, at the heart of a network of electric lines, is found a dwelling surrounded by deep and quite deserted gardens. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
entertaining and unexpectedly deep 7 July 2005
By amazon customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Is birdsong still beautiful once it has been scientifically explained as the product of bland mechanical phenomena, acoustic vibrations, and animal tissues, cells, and atoms? Is it better not to know these details, and simply enjoy the sound? Is it better to reject reality and live in a fantastic world of your own imagination? When waking from a dream, it is easy to use reason to convince oneself that the dream was not real. But if the dream made you happy and reality makes you sad, why would you want to do so? Could an escape into dream be so wrong? Even when in a rational state of mind, how much of your perception of the real world is filled in by your imagination, anyways?

Such are the questions addressed in this English translation of Villier's L'Eve Future---Tomorrow's Eve. The novel relates the story of a fictionalized Thomas Edison's efforts to create an Ideal artificial woman to rescue a dear lovesick friend from ending his own life in order to escape loneliness. The Ideal in this case encompasses more than physical beauty; Edison's quest focuses on endowing the machine with a beautiful soul capable of joy, sorrow, love, and an appreciation of the tragic limits faced by all mortals. But how can a machine have such human attributes? Or is it merely necessary for the lonely man simply to believe that it has?

Beneath the novel's strange love story, beneath its adventure into the frontiers of an imaginary 19th-century science, an equally engrossing philosophical argument plays itself out pitting idealism versus practical materialism, spirituality versus rationalism. Who is really the puppet, Edison or his creation? Is the artificial woman actually the product of science, or of the supernatural? Will the lovers' fate ultimately be triumphant or tragic? Tomorrow's Eve is an unusual combination of entertainment and edification.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Decadent masterpiece 15 Feb. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This little known novel is a masterpiece of Decadent literature (a brief movement localized in France around the turn of the last century that was influenced mainly by the poetry of Baudelaire and the theories of evolution put forth by Darwin). It tells the story of a fictionalized Edison who builds a female cyborg to exist in place of the unattainable love object of a tortured young man. She is animated by the spirit of a ghost and has the appearance of a Venus statue. Villiers, in the decadent tradition, lauds artifice above "nature," writing characters who traverse the world of illusion as that which is more real than real, a world in which appearance and the material are everything. This book might be of particular interest to feminists: Villiers only writes women as artifical beings, hysterics, ghosts, objects of fetishism. This book is a must read for any one interested in metaphysics and the rhetoric of "image" versus "being."
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Excruciatingly slow 12 Feb. 2004
By AMH - Published on
Format: Paperback
This novel is hard to read because most of the 220 pages consists of a conversation between the Thomas Edison character and his friend--and Edison is a very verbose speaker. In this conversation Edison is persuading his friend to go along with the idea of replacing his fiancee with Edison's android, who can be made to perfectly resemble the fiancee but who will not be an airhead. The highlight of this dialog is when Edison catalogs a bunch of feminine beauty products to demonstrate that his friend is already dealing with the artifical: "in that case, one artifice for another, why not have the android herself?" Later on Edison makes this statement: "Since our gods and our aspirations are no longer anything but scientific, why shouldn't our loves be so, too? In place of that Eve of the forgotten legend, the legend despised and discredited by Science, I offer you a scientific Eve....In a word, I have come, I, the `Sorcerer of Menlo Park,' as they call me here, to offer the human beings of these new and up-to-date times something better than a false, mediocre, and ever-changing Reality; what I bring is a positive, enchanting, ever-faithful Illusion." This seems very relevant to today, with our browser-mediated lifestyles.
If you are patient, and are not repulsed by full-on Victorian sexism, and can overlook a lack of character development and plot, and won't be irked by a throwaway ending in the last page, then you may find this novel worthwhile. It is one of the earliest science fiction works and can be read for its curiosity value. There are a number of interesting ideas and sparkling moments.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Symbolist Science Fiction - Bizarre and Fascinating 14 Jan. 2008
By D. Venning - Published on
Format: Paperback
The symbolist movement is based on the ineffable, the unknown, the sacred and/or profane, the irrational, on truth that is obscured behind veils of metaphor, individual consciousness, the occult, and the aesthetic. Symbolist works resist analysis to some degree--many can only be done justice by the original text. Some even are too opaque for good descriptions. In contrast, science fiction, while fictional, is based on existing scientific principles, likely but unproven theory (or unproveable theory, such as Einstein's theory of relativity), observed but currently unexplained phenomena, current or projected technology, in short, on some sort of fact. Science fiction is rational, logical to the extreme (like the Vulcans of Star Trek), even in its fantasy. These two genres thus seem diametrically opposed: truth versus fact, the science of the occult versus the science of the material. Yet the symbolists produced science fiction: Villiers de l'Isle Adam wrote the android novel Tomorrow's Eve.

Comte Jean Marie Mathias Philippe August Villiers de l'Isle Adam is often seen as the father of symbolism; his Axël has been called "the epitome of Symbolist drama"; around the same time as he was beginning to work on Axël, Villiers was writing Tomorrow's Eve, a science fiction novel revolving around a man's love for an android--created by Thomas Edison in New Jersey---who was still alive and known as "the Sorcerer of Menlo Park" at the time Villiers was writing.

Villiers' story follows a standard science-fiction narrative---the creation of an artificial humanoid, which has been designed for a relationship with a human partner. This plot outline hearkens back to the Romantic science-fiction/horror story of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as well as forward to the novels of Asimov, films such as Blade Runner, and television series such as Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Villiers was also influenced by contemporary science fiction authors such as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. However, Villiers uses this structure to completely different ends than do more standard science fiction versions of the android trope. Villiers' goal is not to make a social comment on nature or soul of man, or man's ability to create things of which he will necessarily lose control. Nor, conversely, does Villiers' novel attempt to display a world in which humans and the artificial must learn to live together. Instead, Villiers' novel follows the symbolist agenda of establishing a world of "inner existence," the "private worlds of thought and cryptic styles of communication," made material through Edison's creation.

While Villiers is entirely successful along the symbolist lines of writing, science fiction enthusiasts might find the writing and structure of Villiers' novel somewhat opaque or difficult. Robert Martin Adams's translation from the French is as clear as it can be, but this is not an easy novel, or one for beginners in the science-fiction genre--or the symbolist genre. This is a novel, anticipating the steampunk genre, that will challenge most and please few, but for those it does please, it will be a great gem.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
look to the past to preview the future 16 Jun. 2002
By roberta montalto - Published on
Format: Paperback
this book is brilliant. it captures perfectly the obsession of the french decadent movement with the female and what the male will do to control "woman." I will not give away any details of the story, but i must say the female as vampiric, hysterical, and simply put, sick, is what the character of thomas edison in this novel tries to put an end to by making his own version of "the female" that will be better suited to the world and society, but actually selfishly, to the needs of the male, and in particular mr. edison in the novel. it is a brilliant novel and i recommend THE DECADENT READER, from which i read this novel, it contains more unknown and unfortunately unread literature from this extremely fascinating movement at the end of the nineteenth century.
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