I originally read this book in the mid- to late '70s.

The premise was a bureaucracy whose job it was to manipulate events in human history by making the smallest possible change that would effect the desired outcome. Not time cops in the sense of going after law breakers. The intent was to maintain a policy of non-interference as much as possible but when interference was warranted then to make the least possible change and to do so invisibly.

For example, they might take someone's keys off the dresser and put them just out of sight underneath the dresser where they plausibly might have fallen. The subject would never know of the manipulation but would then be delayed getting out of the house and the ripples grew from there to avert a war or otherwise affect events on a large scale.

After reading that, whenever I would lose something - especially in an improbable way such as dropping a screw at my feet and then finding it on the other side of the room half an hour later - I would take some consolation in the thought that I had just averted some global catastrophe. I was pretty scatterbrained as a kid (we call that ADHD nowadays) so I experienced this a lot. Given that I've spent so much time pondering the ideas from the book, I'd love to re-read it.

  • Not what you want, but this reminded me of All You Zombies at first. If you enjoy time travel and haven't read it yet. Go read All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein.
    – DampeS8N
    Feb 18, 2011 at 4:18
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    Reminding me also of Asimov's The End of Eternity a little. Feb 18, 2011 at 5:08
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    @T.Rob - A suggestion: "Time lord" in the title makes this seem like a Doctor Who question at first. Perhaps rephrase? Feb 18, 2011 at 5:09
  • @neilfein that occurred to me but I could not think of a better description. It involves an overseer class who could either travel through or at least see across time and who occupied a plane outside human existence.
    – T.Rob
    Feb 18, 2011 at 5:37
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    Asimov also wrote the short story Spell My Name with an S, which has a similar theme. Apr 29, 2012 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


Perhaps The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov?

An organization made of people called "Eternals" sits outside of time, making changes to keep humanity safe. Humanity is kept safe to the point of stagnation in the book.

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    I've been looking for this book for 20 years and in one hour here I have an answer. Note to Jeff Atwood regarding "Identify this [book | game | ???] threads" - this was priceless. Thanks so much neilfein!
    – T.Rob
    Feb 18, 2011 at 12:49
  • This may be my favorite of Asimov's books. You're welcome! Feb 18, 2011 at 17:21

It sounds a bit like The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert Heinlein, though the book wanders for about 250 pages before you realize that that is the plot.

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    Actually, the first half of the book was, to me, the better part of the story by far. Once it connected to the whole world-as-myth saga, it went downhill. Feb 18, 2011 at 17:20
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    @neilfein: Agreed. It wasn't introduced well, so you're left scratching your head and going, "WTF just happened?!" Feb 18, 2011 at 17:26

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