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112 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
It's been a while since I read any of Asimov's books - the Foundation series has always been one of my favorite science fiction series. Therefore, I decided to read another classic of Asimov (or at least, so I've been told). "The Gods Themselves" didn't surprise me, yet I was also surprised. Why? Well, the book was terrific, definitely one of Isaac Asimov's...
Published on January 13, 2002 by Dr. Zoidberg

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable book but fundamentally flawed
I really enjoyed this book as I've enjoyed all the Asimov books that I've read, but I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed by a couple of aspects. The book is divided into three parts. The first part takes place on earth and the third part takes place on the moon. The second part takes place in the para-universe on the planet of the para-men. The para-men are...
Published on June 26, 2008 by Matthew Nigrelli

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112 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!, January 13, 2002
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
It's been a while since I read any of Asimov's books - the Foundation series has always been one of my favorite science fiction series. Therefore, I decided to read another classic of Asimov (or at least, so I've been told). "The Gods Themselves" didn't surprise me, yet I was also surprised. Why? Well, the book was terrific, definitely one of Isaac Asimov's greatest novels. But also, I was surprised to see such an amazing description of a fascinating alien society - Asimov usually does not like to write about aliens (at least, that's the impression I've gotten from reading his books), but the "alien part" of the book was SO good, and so well conceived and written, it made me wish Asimov would've written more books in this style.

What is the book about? The book contains 3 parts, each is actually a separate story which revolve around the same theme.
The first part tells the story of Dr. Peter Lamont, a physicist, which recalls how the "Electric Pump", a device which enables receiving a near-infinite amount of energy as a result of matter transferral between our universe, and another universe which has different laws of nature. Lamont finds that this device might destroy our solar system, and this story depicts his attempt to stop the pump. I really liked this story. It's written in typical Asimov style: witty, humorous and totally brilliant.

The second part tells the story of Odeen, Dua and Tritt - an alien "Triplet" (3 beings which are a family). These aliens live in the other universe and the story describes what happens on this side of the pump (as a result of the events from part one). As I mentioned before, this part was truly amazing. I wish Asimov had written more books about this world, as he created such a fascinating universe. You have to read it to see what I mean.

The third and final part, tells the story of Denison, a scientist which also appeared in the first part, and as a result of events which occured there, moved to the moon. I found this part a bit boring. This part resolves the story lines from parts one and two.

I wholeheartly recommend this book, if only for the second part. Asimov being a professor, this book is filled with real science in a way which integrates with the plot and supports it (contrary to "technobabble" use of science) - this is one of the reasons the book is so good. The only thing which bothered me a bit, is that the first and second parts aren't really resolved on their own, meaning, the story ends only after the third part is over. This disappointed me, because these really were the best parts of the book and I felt somewhat cheated that I could not see how the protagonists reacted to what happened in the end. Nevertheless, this only detracts a little from the book which is still a masterpiece.
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Asimov's best novel, August 22, 1999
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This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
I have been a fan of Asimov's fiction as well as his science essays since childhood. I've read his Foundation novels, Robot novels, and various unrelated fiction and factual material. While most of his works have usually appealed to me, I can say with little reservation that "The Gods Themselves" is my favorite Asimov novel - and certainly earns a prominent spot in my personal "Top 10".
One of the things I like about this novel is the way the Friedrich von Schiller quotation "Against stupidity, the [very] Gods themselves contend in vain" is worked into the story. The three phrases that make up this quote - "Against Stupidity...", "...The Gods Themselves...", and "...Contend In Vain?" are used as chapter titles - and, what's more, these titles are quite appropos to the theme of each chapter.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the novel is the second chapter, which portrays a most unusual, and wholly believable and consistent alien race. Science fiction authors often struggle with the difficulty of portraying an alien race that is different enough from humans to be believable as aliens, yet similar enough to make their motives and culture graspable by a human reader. Asimov succeeds brilliantly in this task, something I can say for only a few other SF titles.
At the risk of sounding PC, I was also pleased that Asimov introduced a strong female supporting character, something not usually found in most of his works. The "Selene" character introduced in the third chapter is reminescent of the strong female leads found in many Heinlien novels.
Any fan of Asimov's works - or, for that matter, any fan of good science fiction should add this book to their essential collection. There is a good reason why this novel was awarded both the Hugo and Nebula awards after it's initial publication. Unlike many modern winners of these awards, "The Gods Themselves" is both a good AND entertaining story. It's clever and stylish enough to appeal to the "artsy" types that issue such awards, while being entertaining enough to appeal to the meat-and-potatoes reader.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Asimov's best, don't miss this one, February 20, 2001
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
I love the Asimov robot novels and also the Foundation series. What Asimov lacks in character development, he makes up for in excellent plots with good surprises throughout. "The Gods Themselves" is an interesting book--it's later Asimov and it's not a robot novel nor a Foundation novel. It deals with a major discovery, the "electron pump" which looks to be a source of unlimited, free energy, and two groups of scientists in parallel universes who each have an agenda that threatens to obscure a dangerous truth.

In this novel, Asimov creates a totally believable alien race, complete with three sexes (and he deftly handles their mating or lovemaking with amazing sensitivity and creativity.) A bridge between the alien universe and ours offers something for each side, seemingly for free, but scientists on both sides begin to sense that something is evilly wrong. How the wrong is righted is quite surprising and touching. The alien adolescents Odeen, Dua and Tritt are fascinating together. Dua shines as a conflicted, troubled and unusually intelligent person who turns out to be quite the heroine. (Incidentally the names are sorta-kinda "one", "two" and "three" in Russian)

The third part of the novel is the weakest (where the people on the Moon figure out what's happening with the Proton Pump.) It has the worst of Asimov's attempts to write romance. And the first section can be a bit slow unless you have worked in academia, in which case, his characterization of professors and their internal wars is spot-on (you wonder, what was life like when Asimov was a professor at Boston University. Probably pretty acrimonious at some point.)

I rate this one of my favorite novels of Asimov, along with The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun--leaving aside the Foundation books, which stand on their own as an achievement in a series form. Asimov deftly creates alternative worlds, and if his characters are sometimes a bit wooden, it's overshadowed by his amazing imagination. This novel may actually be his best, if not his most creative. I'm not knocking off any stars for the saggy end portion, because the middle of the book in the alternate universe, and the plot is so good.

The new audiobook narrated by Scott Brick is excellent. Released January 2014.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Asimov Himself, July 11, 2002
Andrew McCaffrey (Satellite of Love, Maryland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
There are many topics present in THE GODS THEMSELVES that will be familiar to anyone who has read a good number of the late, great Isaac Asimov's work. Back-stabbing in the academic world, scientific progress, human folly, fear of outsiders and other themes can be found, not only here, but in countless other short stories and novels written by the good doctor. Using his accustomed pieces as a springboard, Asimov created in this book an almost epic tale of human hubris as it tries to take advantage of a science that it doesn't even understand. Despite having a few minor misgivings with the conclusion, I felt that this ranked right up there with the best of his stories.
The book is divided into three sections, each telling part of the tale, and each featuring its own cast of characters. Asimov was clever enough to weave the story carefully so that we get the various portions from three different points of view (this is even cleverer in the middle section but you'll have to read it to find out how). The themes and tones established at the beginning manage to thread their way through effortlessly, which is quite an achievement given how wildly different the three sections are in terms of setting, characters, and motivations.
The middle section of the three could almost be left on the cutting room floor as far as the rest of the plot is concerned. There is virtually nothing here that isn't revealed or repeated in the other two sections. But it is this alien-centric passage that makes this book the classic that it is today. Aliens in science-fiction stories can generally fall into two main categories. In the first, there are the aliens who look, act and sound exactly like human beings, with the only real difference being that they have pieces of plastic on their foreheads, or can see in the dark, or something else trivial like that. They don't really have dissimilar minds to humans; they don't think differently. The second group is the race of creatures of which every individual member is just like every other (watch any episode of Star Trek to see the war-like aliens, or the peace-loving aliens, or the scientific aliens, etc.). Yet, Asimov managed to do something really special here. He created a race of beings that are certainly much different from what we would describe as human, but he also made them into interesting individuals. A triple-gendered species is a difficult concept to develop (especially in novel form), but Asimov did a terrific job here at describing the genders in terms of general archetypes, and then making the individuals interesting in their own right, regardless of their alienness.
One of the only things that I didn't think lived up to the quality of the rest was the ease of the resolution. It's a bit too simple and slightly too neat. The conclusion makes logical and scientific sense, but one doesn't get the impression of any real emotion. It's as if the main characters can really be bothered to get excited over the impending destruction of the solar system. There's also a subplot that only really gets going very near to the end causing it to appear to have come out of nowhere. These aren't really major flaws, but they do cause a little but of a comedown after the wonder on display in the first two sections. It felt a bit as though Asimov had really let himself go wild in the beginning and middle parts, and then forced himself to reign in his story by the end. A little disappointing, but this is still quite a captivating ride.
Like many of Asimov's novels, this is a great book for fans of science fiction or for newcomers to the genre. There's a little bit of High School physics on display, but don't let that intimidate you, as Asimov's deceptively simple writing style is what made him such a great teacher of all things scientific. If you've never had the pleasure of reading any of this author's work before, then THE GODS THEMSELVES would be a great place to start. Several of Asimov's favorite subjects are offered here, and this will give you a great overview of his style of storytelling.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic masterwork created by an acknowledged master!, February 28, 2006
Paul Weiss (Dundas, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
To elevate a work of science fiction from mere novel to literary masterwork is an achievement to which few authors can lay claim. Asimov is one of those authors and "The Gods Themselves" is one of those rare classics. Asimov has expertly blended visionary and imaginative yet credible hard science with a softer side of science fiction that includes an exciting story line, both human and alien characters that are so much more than cardboard cut-outs and a thoughtful exploration of the world in which he has placed his story.

Those who prefer their sci-fi hard will marvel at Asimov's prescient cosmological vision of communication and transportation of matter between parallel universes. This communication, a source of unlimited non-polluting energy,also causes a slow leakage of the fundamental characteristics of the joined universes resulting in a reduction of the magnitude of the strong nuclear force in our universe. A few scientists have determined that as this effect accumulates, the sun will become a super nova and our little galactic corner of the universe will explode into a quasar. (There goes the neighbourhood!).

On the softer flip side of this particular sci-fi coin, Asimov has actually created three quite distinct short stories that combine to create an exhilarating unified whole. In the first we witness the purely serendipitous discovery of the portal between universes and we gasp as research into the potential harmful effects of the inter-universe communication is systematically suppressed by purely political and ego considerations. In the second story, Asimov takes us on a brief tour of the other side of that portal creating alien beings that are manifested in three distinct parts - rational, parental and emotional - and feed on pure energy. Asimov's rather imaginative exploration of their sexuality is exciting and evocative without losing sensitivity. In the final story of the three, Asimov takes us to a manned lunar station. The science issues are resolved satisfactorily in a setting that also includes a brilliant, probing exploration of the likely psychology of permanent human settlement away from earth in a physically, hostile alien environment such as the moon.

An added bonus - a warm, fuzzy ending that cannot fail to bring a smile to any reader. If you're a lover of science fiction, your library remains incomplete unless you've added a copy of "The Gods Themselves"!

Paul Weiss
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science and Sex Do Mix, December 12, 2003
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
The good doctor, over his lifetime, wrote more books than many people read in their lifetimes. Many were excellent explanations of various aspects of science written in language that a layman could understand. Some were good analyses of literature, such as Shakespeare and the Bible. But it is his science fiction works, from his vision of a Foundation to Robots imbued with Three Laws, that guarantee him a place in the hearts of fans of the genre, and a fame that spreads well beyond its boundaries.
This book was something of a departure for him, not being related to any of his other SF works, but still shows his sure hand at plotting and his deft melding of real science with a literally out-of-this-world idea. The story is told in three completely different segments, related only by the commonality of the scientific idea that drives this book, the Electron Pump, a device that can, apparently, deliver infinite free energy by trading material with a universe that operates on slightly different physical laws than our own.
The first segment is a beautiful glimpse into the sometimes not-so-nice world of the academic researcher, into who gets credit (not necessarily the deserving one) for an idea, how animosities begin and are nurtured, about the crassness of public policy being determined by those who do not and cannot understand the basics of the science that delivers the technological goodies.
The second segment is the part that makes this book deserving of its Hugo Award. Shifting from our universe to the para-universe that initiated the transfer that began the Electron Pump, Asimov invents a truly alien race that is at once believable and violently different from our own. Here we meet Odeen, Tritt, and Dua, who each form one part of tri-sexed whole. Each of these beings becomes a real person, from Tritt, the stolid, stubborn parent, Odeen as the absent minded thinker, and most especially Dua as the feeling, capricious, different one. Part of what makes this section so seductive is that Asimov has not just stated that this was tri-sexed species, but shows just how such an arrangement could work, and then throws in something I don't think I saw elsewhere till some of Ursala K. LeGuin's stories - just what constitutes the no-no's, the 'dirty' aspects of their sex lives. And these aspects, when viewed in terms of the whole life cycle of this species, make sense! A truly remarkable achievement, and I wish he had written more about this remarkable universe and its inhabitants.
The third section returns to our universe, and deals with how free investigation into reality guided by leaps of intuition can overcome even two separate hide-bound organizations, and naturally leads to the resolution of the problems introduced in the earlier sections. This section is not quite as strong as the other two, but does definitely develop one of Asimov's points: the characteristics of the universe we live in are determined by several seemingly random constants, from the strength of quark-quark interactions to the speed of light, and changing any of them would result in very radically different universes.
A strong novel, with some excellent characterization within each section, and based on a solid bedrock of real science. This is possibly the best stand-alone fiction work that he wrote, and should be placed on your shelves right next the Foundation and Robot series.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awards winning novel from the grand master of SF, August 31, 2001
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
I knew Asimov's work mostly through his Robot stories and the Foundation series, so I thought it was about time to read one of his independent standing novels. What better way than to start with his Hugo and Nebula awards winning novel from the early 70ies?

`The Gods Themselves' is about abundance of free energy and the dangers caused by it. Although on the surface it looks like a hard science novel, the science is only used to describe a too frequent human behavior: in face of free energy, would humanity become careless and threaten the existence of the very planet they live on?

Asimov described this in three parts; all parts could even stand as (nearly) independent from each other, although they share the same history, but (mostly) different characters.

The first part is about the invention of the Electron Pump which sucks energy from a parallel Universe, and about how an outlaw scientist discovers the dangers related to the Pump and therefore will be discredited by the scientific community. The third part is about how the problem will be solved on the moon by another discredited scientist and a lunar intuitionist.

The best part, according to most critics (including me), is the middle part, where the very strange inhabitants of the parallel Universe are described. Which starts as a very hard read (not only are the aliens so different, even the physical properties of their Universe are different), develops into one of the most accomplished created alien races of all times and shows that Asimov was a true visionary.

Now, nearly 30 years after the birth of this novel, some of the (human) characters seem a bit dated, but apart from that, Asimov makes us think a lot and proves beyond doubt that he was - together with Arthur C. Clarke - the undisputed king of science fiction.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three thematically distinct tales linked by a clever premise, May 15, 2003
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
'The Gods Themselves' can most accurately be described as three distinct novellas that are linked by a ingenious premise (the transfer of matter and energy between parallel universes) and several events. Taking place on different worlds, each section of the book features unique characters, divergent tones, and different themes; the structure of the book reflects the tenuous connections and detached existences of the parallel universes themselves. This trifocal approach almost necessarily results in loose ends, but the result is surprisingly effective.
The first section is nearly unadulterated satire. A persistent but not very intelligent scientist, Hallam, accidentally discovers an impossible isotope (plutonium-186), which appears on our planet when aliens in another universe place it here, and its instability proves to be a 'free' source of energy. When another physicist, Lamont, discovers a potential flaw that might endanger our universe, his actions are motivated as much as by revenge against Hallam (and by the desire to be proven right) as by any thought of saving humankind from destruction. Although the explanation of the relate scientific concepts is both witty and brilliant, their basis in reality is absolutely ludicrous--but Asimov knows it. Instead, he uses this premise to skewer the foibles and egoism of scientists he spent most of his life observing.
The second story enters the other universe and presents the bildungsroman of Dua, who is so different from her counterparts that she is an alien in her own world. While the first segment's spotlights scientists and science, the second section focuses on an exotic culture and society, and along the way Asimov comments on racism, conformism, and sexuality. Dua then accidentally discovers the link to our universe--but to say anything more would be to say too much.
The concluding section is a more conventional science fiction tale, involving an older (male) traveler from Earth who moves to a lunar colony and falls in love with one of the younger (female) natives. Again, Asimov creates two very appealing characters, who become involved in the multiversal intrigues and who, in this episode, carry them to a crescendo. Yet the ending seems a bit contrived, and this third storyline doesn't have the impact or the cleverness of the first two parts. But 'The Gods Themselves' isn't really written for its plot(s) or its ending(s). Instead, the book's strengths are the inventiveness of its structure, the relevance of its themes, and the charm of its characters--and by those standards it's an otherworldly success.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 37 people can't be wrong, March 14, 2002
jrmspnc (Maryland, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
With one exception, everyone who has reviewed The Gods Themselves has raved about the middle section, and rightly so. In part two of The Gods Themselves, Asimov reaches a level of prosaic abilities he never achieved in any of his other works. Asimov creates a strong emotional attachment between the reader and Odeen, Dua, and Tritt. The effect he accomplishes has less to do with a well-designed alien culture than with a knack for showing the deepest feelings of these beings, feelings that are based on another culture but which we find ourselves relating to.
That we end up caring so much about Odeen, Dua, and Tritt, only makes the other two parts of the book that much more uninspiring. The human characters, while not entirely cardboard, lack the depth of the aliens. Mostly it's because of a stylistic change. We see Odeen, Dua, and Tritt primarily through their own self-introspection. The humans are developed entirely through dialogue; we are never given a peek into their heads and so, frankly, don't really care about them.
Parts one and three aren't terrible, but standing by themselves they are unmemorable. Part two, however, deserves to be read by every fan of the creative imagination. Without intending to take anything away from the first three Robot novels (in my opinion, Asimov's overall best fiction works), I submit that part two of The Gods Themselves deserves all of the accolades that have been heaped upon it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book exploring thinking (and the avoidance of it) !, November 17, 2000
This review is from: The Gods Themselves (Mass Market Paperback)
There is a lot to be said in favor of this book. It has suspense, a good pace, new ideas in abundance, the opportunity for recognition, interesting new societies to explore, better rounded characters then Asmiov's usuals. It reads swiftly and entertains. For those of you who like puzzles: do try to figure out what Asimov was thinking when he numbered the chapters.But best of all: at last here is a novel dealing with the use and un-use of the brain.
"Against stupidity the Gods themselves contend in vain." Asimov has devided the book in three parts
The first part of the book (titled: Against Stupidity) has chosen everyday stupidity as central theme. How people (human and otherwise) are interested more in immediate personal comfort then in learning the thruth. How people seem to avoid to think, if thinking might lead to discovering something unpleasant. And how this opens the possibilities for mismanagement, for praise (and careers) for the wrong people, and (hey, this is SF) for the destruction of our universe. This part can give a the feeling of deja vu and recognition to those working in hierarchical environnements, with it's usual not to bright, trouble avoiding, management.
The second part (titled: The Gods Themselves) deals with the bond between intelligence, childlike emotions, and parental instructions, that are also present in every human (see Freud (Es, Ego, Superego) or Harris (I'm OK, you're OK)). Asimov paints an interesting and novel alien universe in which these three parts of us are seperate types of characters, that marry in Triads, and how the unity between the 3 transcents them into something very different from the parts.
In the last part (Contend In Vain) the concept of advanced Intuition is explored as a means of knowing things, grasping solutions, without actually having a lot of knowledge on the subject. The setting for this is the utopic society living in colony on the moon. Some genetical enginering is implied, but not proven.
A book worth your time and money (which ever comes first)!
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The Gods Themselves
The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov (Mass Market Paperback - September 4, 1990)
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