What’s a man supposed to do? Here is a novel that is greatly revered by critics and fans alike. It received both the Nebula and Hugo awards for best n...moreWhat’s a man supposed to do? Here is a novel that is greatly revered by critics and fans alike. It received both the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novel (1972 and 1973 respectively). Asimov himself identified this as his favourite. And yet…
I normally really enjoy Asimov’s works. Foundation, especially, is one of my favourite SF novels. I am going to go against what appears to be the norm by not giving this novel four or five stars. It’s a novel I respected rather than enjoyed.
I can certainly recognise The Gods Themselves as a good Science Fiction novel. It’s no surprise it won awards. The science is hard enough to break rocks, even in one sixth of gravity. No doubt using this book to teach some of the fundamentals surrounding atoms and isotopes would be a good ploy for a science teacher. This is Asimov in full-lecture mode. There is also a lot of dialogue as characters use one another as sounding boards to drive the science home. To borrow from the comment below: it’s a bit wordy.
And perhaps most importantly. The novel opens with an apocalyptic notion of epic proportions. The universe is going to explode! Or, more specifically, our “arm of the galaxy is going to be turned into a quasar”. You’d think this garnered some sense of urgency. You’d be dead wrong. The story plods along at its own pace, focusing on relationships and theories to a mind-numbing extent. But what about the imminent end of all things? Oh, well, I suppose we’ll get to that later. In the end it would have been more satisfying if the universe did explode, just to shut up all these people.
Now before I get crucified. I liked the novel (hence the three stars), I just didn’t like it quite enough. In fact I feel that it is far inferior to Foundation. That is just my two cents’ worth, and looking at the current rate of exchange it probably isn’t much at all. (less)
The linguistic issue introduced here is not entirely new. For example, in The Languages of Pao (Jack Vance) a similar theme is addressed. Babel-17, ho...moreThe linguistic issue introduced here is not entirely new. For example, in The Languages of Pao (Jack Vance) a similar theme is addressed. Babel-17, however, is considered a Science Fiction classic. It was released around the same time as Dune, with a year or so separating them. Therein lies the problem. Dune had become the new standard, or benchmark, against which all Space Operas were gauged. And it had set the standard pretty darn high. So, Babel-17 is a colourful, clever book, but it's no Dune. To be fair: it is a very good book, but the language gets too flowery in places and the excitement of the plot waxes and wanes a bit too much, alternating between dullness, psychedelia and high drama. It's almost as if the author is too 'clever' for his own good.
In the end, it was enjoyable enough. There are some absurdities, especially concerning the oh-so-strange cast of characters, which I rather enjoyed. If you're a Sci-Fi connoisseur, you'll have to read this. If you're catching up on the Sci-Fi classics, ditto. If, however, you're neither of the previous, you might consider reading the likes of Dune first.
Note: I do realise I am biased, since Dune is a personal favourite. You might want to bear that in mind as well.(less)
In order for you to truly appreciate Ringworld you would have to mentally backtrack forty-odd years.
Big Ideas in Science Fiction are a dime a dozen. Today.
But in 1970…?
Perhaps Niven’s vision upstaged his characters. Perhaps. But I could still lose myself on the ring. It fascinated me then; it fascinates me now. This novel made authors sit up and pay attention to just how big you could think if you really applied your imagination. Also, I’ve spent years wracking my mind trying to think just how that horizon must look, curving up like that for millions of miles…
Hugo Award – 1970 Nebula Award – 1971 Locus Award – 1971