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The Gods Themselves: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 305 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Asimov was a polymath, of the widest ranging fields of study. His library of original writings, much more than science-fiction, remains astounding. I recommend the reader dip into his work, and to start with "The Gods Themselves." Avoid reading it too rapidly.
Please read this entirely subjective review accordingly.
So what is "The Gods Themselves"? A story based on the idea of exchanging energy between universes where the strong nuclear force is slightly different, written in three parts. Parts one and three are in our universe, and part two in the "para universe". The strong nuclear force is explained enough for the story to engage the reader who has no background in physics. In short, it is the force that governs how nuclear fusion works. A difference in values means there is a chance for energy exchange in *both* directions. At least that is the conceit, and as far as it goes it is backed by scientific fact (at least in models of the two universes involved).
The idea is explained well enough for non nuclear physicists to grasp, but this isn't Star Wars SF: no blasters, spacecraft or heated battles. Just a terrible existential threat to our solar system, and the inertia of a population wanting something for nothing and led by short-sighted and/or self-aggrandizing fame-hounds who have everything to lose either way, but don't care.
I rode along, gradually immersing more in the story, and being overcome with a sense of helpless fury at the inevitability of it all. The alien section started in what seemed to be a frivolous way that I feared would be a waste of reading time, but became perhaps the most emotionally engaging and angering part of the story.
I can't five star this, but I can't say why. It won both a Hugo and a Nebula when it was first published, about the best any SF novel can do, but it doesn't push my five-star button somehow. Without that oh-so cleverly done part two this would be a three star story for me despite the really clever idea at it's heart. Maybe it's because I'm too old and academic and political inertia are old tropes I've read about too many times. That might very well be it, in which case this book could well be a five star experience for you. I hope so.
I hope too that there is still an audience for this sort of Science Fiction, that not everyone sees SF as bound by the barely literate stuff coming out of the Kindle mill these days.
THE GODS THEMSELVES by Isaac Asimov brings it back to me.
Think about it: The whole plot is initiated when a second-rate scientist finds a sample of an impossible (literally!) plutonium-186 isotope on his desk. I wouldn’t even know what a possible plutonium isotope would be (and what’s an isotope?) But I believe it if Asimov says it. (Who else would even think of such a thing, much less its possible ramifications?) A brief investigation leads to the discovery of a parallel universe and creation of a device that will give humans a cheap and limitless supply of energy.
Except it would eventually be at the cost of destruction of the world.
That would be plenty for most SF writers, but in Part 2 Asimov introduces a parallel universe inhabited by strange creatures completely different from us in in body, spirit, and philosophies, yet who we also identify with as if they are human.
Even more interesting, Asimov shows these creatures engaging in three-party sex in which their alien ways are described in more sensual detail than human pornography. And at the same time Asimov provides a sly commentary on the way many of us humans view sex.
In Part 3, Asimov returns to the original characters almost a generation later in a plausible hard-science space station setting as the truth is slowly discerned. The second-rate scientist is now considered the savior of humanity (even though plans for the "invention" were planted by the aliens for their own purpose) even while, to preserve his fame, fortune and honor, he hides or discredits the proof that his invention will lead to the death of all.
And for still more wonder, Asimov seems strangely prescient of the debates going on in our current world when technology threatens our very existence (climate change) but we (or at least many of us and most of the industries that have gotten rich off of raping and slowly destroying the planet) choose to deny the reality because the very acts of planetary violence have given us pretty comfortable lives.
Consider this from THE GODS THEMSELVES:
“It is a mistake,” he said, “to suppose that the public wants the environment protected or their lives saved and that they will be grateful to any idealist who will fight for such ends. What the public wants is their own individual comfort .”
I understand that though Asimov had a super-size ego he did not consider himself a genius. A profile in the New York Times said, “Genius he may be, although he disputes it. In the matter-of-fact way in which he writes, he puts it thus: ‘Just say I am one of the most versatile writers in the world, and the greatest popularizer of many subjects.’ “
THE GODS THEMSELVES, however, would make a pretty good case for genius.
Most recent customer reviews
The characters were real.
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