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The Gods Themselves

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In the twenty-second century Earth obtains limitless, free energy from a source science little understands: an exchange between Earth and a parallel universe, using a process devised by the aliens. But even free energy has a price. The transference process itself will eventually lead to the destruction of the Earth's Sun--and of Earth itself.
Only a few know the terrifying truth--an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun.  They know the truth--but who will listen?  They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy--but who will believe?  These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to the Earth's survival.

288 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1972

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About the author

Isaac Asimov

4,015 books24k followers
Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He has works published in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (lacking only an entry in the 100s category of Philosophy).

Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series, both of which he later tied into the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series to create a unified "future history" for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He penned numerous short stories, among them "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time, a title many still honor. He also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as a great amount of nonfiction. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.

Most of Asimov's popularized science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include his Guide to Science, the three volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery.

Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly; he described some members of that organization as "brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs" He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, the magazine Asimov's Science Fiction, a Brooklyn, NY elementary school, and two different Isaac Asimov Awards are named in his honor.

Isaac Asimov. (2007, November 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:50, November 29, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_As...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,499 reviews
Profile Image for Richard.
40 reviews119 followers
August 19, 2007
Isaac Asimov rarely wrote about either aliens or sex. In response to critics who complained about these omissions, he wrote a book about alien sex. Rather, a book whose middle third is mostly about alien sex. (Mostly.) The other two thirds of the book tell one of the "purest" and "hardest" science fiction stories I've ever read.

By pure, I mean that there's a single, science-related "what-if," and that the story hinges upon that. (In contrast to, for example, a space opera such as Star Trek, in which there are many imaginary technologies, most of which serve as background, rather than as the impetus of the story. Not that there's anything at all wrong with a good space opera.) The motivator for The Gods Themselves is the question, "what if there were a parallel universe in which the laws of physics were a little different?"

By hard, I mean that the science is accurate. Which is not to suggest that this reads like a textbook at all; only that the fiction is grounded in reality, as it should be.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
August 20, 2020
There’s No Free Lunch

The wonder of Asimov’s fiction is that it has so many possible interpretations, many of which are acutely philosophical and often counter-cultural. Here’s one about The Gods Themselves:

Scientific method is the modern intellectual fetish. We talk like we know what it means; and that what it means is the rational expansion of knowledge, leading to an improvement in the human condition. But both presumptions are questionable. Historically, scientific progress has been more accidental and the consequence of less than creditable emotions than a rational search for knowledge. And the real value of scientific results can’t be assessed by the method that produces them. In other words, as with Asimov’s Electron Pump (or with nuclear power which is a bit closer to home), we can’t tell if science is rational or not in its output. We’re flying blind, celebrating the fact that we’re flying without caring in the least about our destination or that flying might be dangerous.

Our blind spot about scientific method is its source: Thought. There is a cost to the ability to think. But because this cost is deferred, it looks like its a free gift in and to the universe - mind appears as something different than body. As if thinking were a character of existence rather than of something that exists. Cogito ergo sum: Descartes’ dualism is the practical philosophy of everyday life even if the professionals have debunked it long ago. So, for example, those things associated with thinking - language, mathematical analysis, contemplation, meditation, reading, story-telling - are considered more or less spiritual. That is, they appear unaffected by the iron laws of material economics.

But the reality is a very strict physical law: Think now, pay later; and pay big. Thinking takes energy. Not just the energy required of the organism in which thinking is taking place, but also the energy required to execute the ideas that thinking produces. The central resource of the cosmos is the local differentials in energy. To the extent these are present, work is possible. Thought is the instrument that seeks to minimize work by minimizing the potential for work. Thought seeks to exploit these differentials, and thus annihilates them. The ultimate victim is thought itself. The more we think, the closer to death we come. Thought is a suicide mission.

Consequently, the evolution of thinking beings is an ecological disaster for the universe. The universe, and its separate components like the Earth, consume themselves much more quickly with the existence of thought than without it. Thinking sucks up energy differentials and flattens them. Thinking then begets technology which begets waste heat which begets entropy which is another name for death. Thinking beings have an inevitable death wish that even Freud never considered.

Therefore to the extent that Asimov is thought-provoking (and he clearly is that), he is destroying the capability of the universe to maintain thinking beings at all. Makes one think, doesn’t it?

Postscript: Perhaps Asimov anticipated Alain de Botton. See: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
554 reviews1,093 followers
February 23, 2013
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 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.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,619 reviews986 followers
February 19, 2023
SF Masterworks (2010- series) #48: In 2100 it has been decades since the discovery of a parallel universe that led to sustainable, clean, 'free' energy for both realities. An outlier scientist discovery that if the Electron Pump technology continues to be used it will lead to an extinction event, but nobody believes because he can't provide any scientific proof!

Asimov breaks this book into three chronologically overlapping parts; the first part on Earth follows the rogue scientist trying to get buy-in to his theory; the second half is in the parallel universe which is what made this book an Hugo Award winner 1972, Locus Award winner 1973 and Nebula Award winner 1973, as he goes completely left-field with his non-humanoid alien race with so much detail, like family make-ups, reproduction, child development, classes/levels and all this while keeping up the main story about the energy tech. The final part set on the Moon is another masterpiece as we not only get an admirable hard-science approach to identifying and possible solving the issue, we get all the dynamics of a Lunar community that lives in one sixth of Earth's gravity and is slowly becoming a human offshoot and the politicking that comes out of this. Asimov's favourite book, was what he said of this one. Read it and enjoy peak Twentieth Century sci-fi, a well deserved Masterwork edition. Four Star, 8 out of 12 read.

2023 read
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,253 followers
September 6, 2020
the soft-formed, tri-sexed aliens have their roles: the Id, the Ego, the Superego: the Feeler, the Thinker, the Carer. they flow together and apart like mist, like amoebas making love; they watch the stars, they study their lessons, they nurture their young; they report dutifully to the hard-formed ones. their hard kin have a plan to save their cooling universe: transmute energy from another, warmer dimension! and so they enact their attack on Earth, on our dimension.

this middle section in the tripartite Gods Themselves is fantastic. I never expected Asimov to go full-bore into developing an entirely alien species and civilization. I was fascinated, from its jarringly strange beginning to its thrilling smash cut of an end. this is the most meaningful and challenging section of the novel and it is clearly where Asimov was challenging himself the most as well, going to places he's never been before. it gets all the stars.

sadly, it is bookended by a first part that dryly recounts the internecine struggles between various (human) academics and a third part set some years later, detailing the slow adaptation of a disgruntled Earther to the free-floating, free-living, free-loving ways of Lunar culture. that first part was dull; the third part was interesting and sweet, but the lack of gravitas after the thought-provoking middle was frustrating. still, the novel's structure is necessary. the alienating, absorbing second part may be the story's heart, but it would have collapsed without those bookends into a confusing chaos of disconnected ideas. despite two lesser parts, as a whole the story is an original, surprisingly oblique take on an alien invasion story, minus any invasion, and a prescient commentary on the dangers of climate change. I also enjoyed the focus on my two preferred fundamental interactions: strong force and weak force!

synopsis: “Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.” fortunately there are some less than stupid characters striving to save thoughtless, selfish humans from themselves, and from equally thoughtless, selfish aliens.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
April 1, 2011
One of the Holy Grails of science-fiction writing is the Convincing Alien Sex Scene. Has it ever been done? You get these claimed sightings, but then the sceptics move in. Okay, it's sexy and alien, but is it really convincing? Or, it's alien and convincing, but does it come across as sexy?

Anyway, this book is one of the stronger contenders, as Asimov treats us to a graphic, no-holds-barred description of how a three-gendered species get it on. I found it convincing, and many people agree that it's sexy. But is it truly alien? It's been said more than once that you just need to make a few substitutions of words, and it all becomes disappointingly mundane. I'm not sure I agree though. What exactly are these substitutions?

I'm curious to know what other candidates there might be. Philip Jose Farmer's The Lovers must get an honourable mention at the very least. And then there's the bizarre sequence from Brian Aldiss's little-known novel The Interpreter, where the human hero gets trapped inside an alien porn cinema and experiences an extraterrestrial erotic movie with full touch and smell. Any more suggestions?
Profile Image for seak.
434 reviews473 followers
February 19, 2015
Though a science fiction novel, The Gods Themselves is also primarily about magic.

Throughout the courses I took for my my undergraduate degree in Economics, we talked a lot about the driving forces behind the choices people make. One of the greatest is magic. We all want to find that magical thing that makes us not have to work as hard; magic makes life easier.

This quest for magic has helped us innovate on a grand scale and use the resources around us for our own benefit. Whether it's been good in the long run, I'll not get into just this second.

In The Gods Themselves, a magic is found which makes life easier and it's the Electron Pump. Somehow, some beings have reached across the universe, time, or something, to impress themselves upon our world and made possible an endless energy source, which benefits all of humanity.

The only problem is whether it is really for our benefit and what happens when the worst is found out? Would humanity easily give up such a gift?

It's interesting to read this book, published in 1972, in light of today's problems with humanity's stewardship of the world. I'm sure, actually, that Mr. Asimov thought his day was bad.

This book is told in three separate parts, each of which was published independently in Galaxy Magazine and Worlds of If. They focus on three quite different groups of people and their interaction with the Electron Pump.

The first focuses on the physicists who discover and deal with the Electron Pump. The second focuses on those others and it's absolutely otherworldly, so much so, that it was quite difficult to read at first until you understood what was going on a bit more. It reminded me a little of Orson Scott Card's Mithermages series.

The final part focuses on a human colony on the moon. One of the parts I can talk about without spoiling things is the description of gravity on the moon. Those who've lived there all their lives are essentially trapped there because their bones couldn't survive Earth's gravity and those who travel there have to take frequent, excruciating, trips home to Earth to keep their bodies in shape. After listening to a Star Wars book, it's interesting to note how little they care about the different gravities of worlds. Must be some hyper-technology that accounts for it right?

Because Asimov is himself a scientist, the physics are competently explained, at least to a lay person like myself, and the dire consequences of humanity's actions are understood ... through science. Amazing!

And a note on the audiobook reader, Scott Brick. Brick has been around the block, I don't know how many times I've come across his recordings. You can always trust him to bring the gravitas to any recording and you'll find nothing less here.

This cleverly named book won both the Nebula Award in 1972 and the Hugo in 1973. And as the origin of the name of the book says, quoted from Friedriech Schiller, "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." (for the German speakers: "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.")

As apt today as it was ... when it was written.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,251 reviews233 followers
July 2, 2023
A classic masterwork created by an acknowledged master!

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
Profile Image for Adrian.
570 reviews209 followers
August 2, 2020
More tomorrow, but it’s Asimov and 5 stars⭐️ , what did you really expect?

I have to say up front that Isaac Asimov is probably my favourite author. Yes I have favourite books by other authors, but taking into account that a large percentage of my favourite novels and stories are by this fantastic author, I think it qualifies him (today at least) as my favourite.

So, I am guessing that I first read this book back in the mid 1970s, and maybe I haven't read it since as I remembered very little of it.

The book has three distinctly separate sections. Initially we are focussed on the work of the Electron Pump and its founder Dr Hallam. This wonder machine provides unlimited energy for the Earth and seems to have no drawbacks. Dr Peter Lamont newly appointed to the project fears otherwise.
The second section switches to the para universe where the power is transferred from. Here we meet the para creatures who designed the pump and sent the plans to Earth where Dr Hallam, used them to build the pump.
The third section is located on the moon, where a (now middle aged) discredited scientist who had tried to criticise Dr Hallam, works with a lunar "Intuitionist" to prove his discredited theories and help solve Earth and the moon's energy problems.

A fantastic book, with some great hard science , but also some excellent characters and Asimov's recognisable conversations that move the story along.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 12 books103 followers
March 13, 2008
I just reread this book for the umptieth time over many years, and was struck once again by what a fine piece of work it is. This is one of the best pieces of pure science fiction every written. It isn't the best STORY, of course -- Asimov himself has better ones, as do many other science fiction authors from the post WWII era. But only a handful of other stories such as Forward's Dragon's Egg come to mind as being such excellent science fiction.

I am a physicist, mind you. The amazing thing about this book is that it was written decades ago and yet STILL I find the underlying physical premise plausible. This is one of the earliest, and best, multiple universe theory books out there, and actually implicitly postulates physics that explains e.g. the big bang by means of a directed coupling across those Universes. They are differentiated, for example, by the strength of the strong nuclear interaction. Places where it is weak do not experience a big bang, but as they couple to universes with a stronger one, the strong interaction "bleeds through" and eventually tips a pre-bang state over to where it explodes.

The story itself isn't bad. Some of the characters are overdrawn -- the bad-guy physicist is a bit too petty, the rest of the world's scientists a bit too pusillanimous to be strictly believable, and yet we all know at least SOME people who are actually like the caricatures. The inhabitants of the second universe who make up the middle third of the book are almost as spectacular as the underlying physical theory -- very, very different and yet not entirely implausible. Again, just as much fun as the cheela in Dragon's Egg.

At this point, some of it is period piece. Nudity on Luna, the Heinleinian, slightly repressed sexual tension that is taken to an entirely romantic conclusion, the politics. At the time, perhaps, daring -- now merely quaint. Still, this is a book I'd definitely recommend to people wanting to explore the roots of science fiction as portrayed by one of its Grand Masters.

Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,255 reviews2,298 followers
April 5, 2017
Isaac Asimov is a writer of ideas: and this is one of his best.

The concept is mind-boggling. Energy transfer between parallel universes, a universe which contains a three-gendered species, a convincing thermodynamic problem solved in a convincing way: it's all there for the aficionado of Hard SF. Also, the shortsightedness of governments regarding possible disasters, when there are goodies available for the taking by ignoring the dangers seem strangely prophetic in the face of the Climate Change controversy we are going through now. The Schiller quote, which gives the novel its title, is strangely apt.

Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.

I am deducting a star for the structure of the novel, which is a mess.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews26 followers
January 8, 2018
The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov
عنوانها: خدایان هم؛ ایزدان هم؛ نویسنده: ایزاک آسیموف؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و هفتم ماه آگوست سال 2002 میلادی
عنوان: خدایان هم؛ ایزاک آسیموف؛ مترجم: هوشنگ غیاثی نژاد؛ تهران، پاسارگاد، 1373؛ در 383 ص؛ شاهکارهای ادبیات علمی تخیلی؛
عنوان: ایزدان هم؛ ایزاک آسیموف؛ مترجم: حسین شهرابی؛ تهران، تندیس، 1393؛ در 344 ص؛ شاهکارهای ادبیات علمی تخیلی؛ 9786001821141؛
ماجرای بیگانه‌ های جهانی موازی، که قوانین فیزیکی ��نها با دنیای ما متفاوت است، آنها قصد دارند با رد و بدل کردن ماده با زمین، از تفاوت‌های قوانین فیزیکی سود ببرند. این رد و بدل شدن ماده، منبع انرژی تازه‌ ای در جهان رو به مرگ آنها به وجود می‌آورد. با این حال، نتیجه‌ ی نهایی این رد و بدل کردن ماده نواختر شدن خورشید و حتی تبدیل شدن بخشی از کهکشان راه شیری به یک کوازار است؛ ولی این امر انرژی خیلی بیشتری برای جهان موازی تولید خواهد کرد. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,066 reviews1,759 followers
March 11, 2022
داستان سه بخش اصلی داره، و هر بخش در یک جهان جداگانه اتفاق می‌افته که قواعد خاص خودش رو داره و خواننده باید ازش مطلع بشه. به خاطر همین بخش بزرگی از داستان، اکسپوزیشنه. دو شخصیت با هم گفتگو می‌کنن و ضمن گفتگو یه سری از قواعد دنیای خودشون رو توضیح می‌دن. بعد دو شخصیت دیگه با هم گفتگو می‌کنن و یه سری دیگه از قواعد دنیا رو توضیح می‌دن و همین طور... نقص بزرگ داستان اینه. البته دوست داشتم داستان به جای پایان خوش با یه پایان فاجعه‌بار تموم بشه. اما فکر کنم اون دوره اینقدرها مرسوم نبوده که داستان پایان خوش نداشته باشه.

جدای از این، داستان خیلی مفرح بود. خلاقیت زیادی داشت و هنوز دوست دارم بدونم فیزیک شگفت‌انگیزش چقدر واقعیه و چقدر صرف تخیل.

کار مترجم هم واقعاً دست‌مریزاد داشت. موقع خوندن فکر می‌کردم من این همه داستان از ایزاک آسیموف خوندم، ولی این اولین داستانیه که ترجمه‌ش روانه. داستان‌هایی که توی دورهٔ دبیرستان از آسیموف خونده بودم کتاب‌هایی پاره پوره چاپ دههٔ هفتاد بودن با ترجمه‌هایی نازل و خیلی وقت‌ها رسماً بی معنی. مترجم‌های خوب سراغ داستان‌های علمی‌تخیلی نمی‌اومدن چون علمی‌تخیلی توی ایران هنوز ادبیات حساب نمی‌شد. خوشحالم که اون دهه گذشت و حالا نسلی از علاقه‌مندان به علمی‌تخیلی کار رو دست گرفتن و ترجمه‌های خوب عرضه می‌کنن.
Profile Image for Iloveplacebo.
384 reviews212 followers
May 5, 2022
Estoy dudando entre las 3 y las 4 estrellas. (Bueno igual no dudo tanto.)

Un libro dividido en 3 partes:

1.-Contra la estupidez...
En esta primera parte nos encontramos con el problema que nos plantea el autor. Estamos en la Tierra y vemos como el ser humano hace frente a ese problema.

2.-Los propios dioses...
En la segunda parte nos encontramos con el mismo problema visto desde otro punto de vista. Nos trasladamos a otro universo, y conocemos a otros seres.
Esta parte quizás sea la más entretenida y, sobre todo, la más especial. La más especial por lo diferentes que son los seres blandos.

3.-...¿Luchan en vano?
Y en la última parte el problema se resuelve. Esta vez la localización es la Luna.
Esta parte para mi es la "peor". Es la menos entretenida, y la que me ha descolocado un poco (para mal).

Las dos primeras partes me han encantado. Mi problema llega en la tercera, que no me ha convencido. No me ha gustado el desenlace, no me han gustado la mayoría de personajes que aparecen en esta parte, y no se, esta parte hace que le baje la nota al libro.

Aún así es un libro que recomiendo, porque la idea es buena, y porque te tiene intrigada hasta el final.
Y si conocéis a Asimov, ya sabréis que tiene el don de crear historias y crear ciencia. Y digo crear porque se la inventa, aunque parezca mentira. Es tan detallista con su sistema de ciencia que es imposible no creérsela.
¡Y, joder, qué inventó las leyes robóticas!
Profile Image for Maede.
287 reviews412 followers
July 13, 2016
به کسانی که با حد و مرز محدود نشدنی تخیل و مباحث فیزیکی مشکل دارند توصیه نمی شود
موجوداتی تصور کنید که جسم متراکم ندارند و شناورند. سه جنسیت متفاوت دارند و به جای جفت گیری "سه گانه گیری " می کنند و ستاره خورشید مانندی منبع تغذیه آن هاست
آینده ای از زمین را تصور کنید که بشر به منابع بی نهایت، پاک و عملا بدون هزینه انرژی دست پیدا کرده است. اما به چه قیمت؟
ماه را تصور کنید که به یک قمر مسکونی با فرهنگ ویژه ماه نشین ها تبدیل شده است
توصیفات دقیقی از این سه شرایط تخیلی در سه فصل کتاب دا��ه می شود که افرادی از این سه دنیا را با یک تئوری توطئه به هم مربوط می کند
علمی که درکش و تخیلی که تصورش دشواره ، که همین مفاهیم علمی پیچیده یکی از درگیری های من با این کتاب بود. مورد دیگر اینکه توقع داستان پر هیجان تری داشتم که البته بیشتر کتاب صرف توصیفات جهان ها و زندگی ها شده بود که به نظر میامد محوریت کتاب هم بر همین بود و ستاره ی چهارم این کتاب به دلیل همین فضاسازی های عجیب برای این کتاب شد
اولین تجربه من از دنیای آیزاک آسیموف

“There are no happy endings in history, only crisis points that pass.”
Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves
Profile Image for Francisca.
189 reviews83 followers
October 23, 2018
This book came along in 1973, at the time Asimov was dedicated to write books which were all connected; not exactly in a series but with common themes and even characters. So, looking at it from that point, The Gods Themselves is an outcast that doesn't follow the pattern. It's a book with marked differences to much of what Asimov wrote, and that's exactly one of the reasons why I like it so much.

One of the first interesting differences is that this book is told from two quite opposite points of view: a human one and an alien one.

The first section of the book is all humans. It tells about how Lamont (a self-obsessed scientist) is set to prove that Hallam's (an ego-maniacal scientist) new energy source and the answer to all mankind's energy problems (an electron pump that relies on the transfer of radioactive matter from a parallel universe) is actually going to destroy the earth. The relation between these two scientists, and the portrayals of many other scientists and politicians, reminds me of the realities of academic life: lots of bitchiness and back stabbing. It's all egos trumping scientific significance, even evidence. It seems to me, Asimov was perhaps disenchanted with academic life and decided to let it show. Of course, this overlaying scientific bitchiness is one of the things I enjoyed the most. The small, mean personalities shine hard, and even Lamont's last sentence, "No one on earth will live to know I was right," brings to mind the image of a spoiled brat angrier at his parents not believing him than at the world ending.

The next section of the book is the one adding another dimension to this story (both literally and metaphorically) as Asimov takes us into a parallel universe. We go all the way to the place supplying all that free energy earth's enjoying. Suddenly, we find ourselves in an unmanned planet, populated by beings that survive by absorbing all their sustenance from a cooling sun. Two groups seem to co-exist in this world: The Soft Ones (which are divided in three different types: Rationals, Parentals and Emotionals) and, The Hard Ones. Again, Asimov is anything but subtle, and not disappoint after such names, there are long passages given over to the mating habits and even the auto-erotic proclivities of these aliens. Passages that are a testament to Asimov's matter-of-fact writing style. It's like watching a documentary on matting otters, all fact, no emotion but oh so much fun! Of course we could not go all the way to the Para-universe just to learn how these aliens like to get freaky, so there's also a lot said about what the aliens think of us and about their no-so-secret agenda for our world.

The next and last section is where the action takes place. Here, Asimov takes us to the moon, our moon, where a large station has been active for decades and where, finally, someone tries to understand and counteract the ill effects of the electron pump. The moon people, all looking young and liking to go semi-naked around, showing the advantages of reduced gravity, are good people but they distrust Earthies (and not without good reason). Moon people can't go back to earth, because gravity will crush them, so they are fiercely protective of their native world, the barren moon.

The book comes to a great conclusion with wild ideas flying left and right, and clear warnings about not listening to what scientists have to say because you're just to happy enjoying a convenient type of energy. So, swap electron pump for climate change and you turn Asimov's warnings into present life realities. An excellent book, entertaining, original and oh so naughty!
Profile Image for Dave.
3,106 reviews353 followers
September 6, 2023
The Gods Themselves is an extraordinary novel in scope and imagination. Heavy on Physics, Asimov takes us readers on a journey to discover alien life, but it’s not what you expect or how you expect. Because the thing is that alien life just might be found in a parallel universe next to our own, but with no portholes whereby we can see the other ones.

The novel is divided into three parts, which feel so distinct from each other. The first part is an argument among scientists as an endless and boundless supply of energy crosses from the parallel universe. And the debate ensues on who gets credit for the discovery and who is banished from the headlines. It’s an element-exchanging pipeline (known as the Inter-Universe Electron Pump) answering energy needs for all foreseeable future and in the process changing everyone’s lives. There is but a little bit of communication between the two sides, first with instructions on how to build the pipeline and later perhaps cautions or a poor attempt at language. Thus section seems heavy with physics or science fiction physics, but it’s beauty is in its logic problems and the concern that, in reality, the aliens are puppeteers and we have been tricked into doing their bidding.

Within this context, we also get a glimpse of how truth works in communities with Hallam, a great PR man, but not such a great scientist, taking credit for everything good and others who challenge his orthodoxy having their careers ripped from them. Indeed, one scientist is told that, if he is going to take the attitude that we are all puppets in the hands of the para-men, his work will not be published. I will not have mankind downgraded and have para-men cast in the role of gods, he is told. So truth sometimes takes a backseat to pragmatism. Of course, the truth is that the para-men sent instructions on how to set up our part of the pump. And the question sits out there for those willing to ask: "Was the Electron Pump the key to human paradise? Or was there, by Heaven, a catch?"

Part two of the novel takes place entirely in the parallel universe and it is appropriately entirely different in focus and tone. Thus, of course, makes sense because the perspective of an alien species is so different. Here we get a world of tri-part species where they mate in trios of a Parental, a Rational, and an Emotional. Their bodies combine and literally melt together to reproduce. It is told from the perspective of Dua, an Emotional, but one who is unique and doesn’t fit quite in the normal pattern. Dua’s perspective eventually allows us readers to see the construction of the pipeline from the other side, how the communication takes place, and why.

Dua is tripled with Tritt, a parental, and Odeen, the rational. Dua slithers over rocks and lets her edges overlap theirs. Odeen's body lacked the "attractive shimmer of Dua, and the comforting stockiness of Tritt." As a rational, Odeen wanted to learn with an intensity that superseded everything but the triad itself. Tritt wanted children to raise.

And then it gets interesting as we get a glimpse of alien mating between the members of these triads: "There was no sense of penetration, none at all. Tritt felt no resistance, no friction. There was just a floating inward and a rapid palpitation. He felt himself beginning to thin in sympathy, and without the tremendous effort that accompanied it. With Dua filling him, he could thin without effort into a thick smoke of his own. Thinning became like flowing, one enormous smooth flow." This is incredibly creative and shows the reader a world so different and so foreign from our own.

As part two goes on, we slowly and with Dua's eyes learn more about life in that universe. It is a universe with cold suns and where the entities feed on energy. There are lifeforms called the soft ones, the members of the triads, and lifeforms called the hard ones, who are completely unlike the soft ones. And there are very few of everyone, essentially a dying universe.

The third part returns us to our universe, but again a different perspective. We now are on the Moon, a place with a small underground (literally) population that doesn’t benefit from the pipeline. We get a scientist (who is not a physicist) who experiments with the universes connecting. We learn how lunar society has developed and how different it is from Earth society, including the clothing-optional world they live in.

This third section ties the first two together, both theoretically with regard to the energy transfers between universes and in terms of completing the story and having it all draw together. It is only when you reach the end of the novel that you can see how all the parts fit in together so well.

All in all, this novel is quite an amazing tour-de-force from the shifting perspectives to the logic quandaries to the revealing of universes so different from ours as to be barely understandable.
Profile Image for César Bustíos.
278 reviews102 followers
September 28, 2018
"Creo que no me afligiría el suicido colectivo de la humanidad por pura malevolencia de corazón, o por mera inconsciencia. Hay algo odiosamente mezquino en este marchar hacia la destrucción por simple obstinada estupidez. De qué sirve ser hombre si así es como tienen que morir."

Novela ganadora de los premios Hugo, Nebula y Locus en la década del 70. En 1982, Asimov declaró en una carta que "Los propios dioses" era su novela de ciencia ficción favorita.

Es un gran libro, sin duda, aunque, en mi escala personal de Asimov, he disfrutado más de otras novelas como El fin de la eternidad y muchas de las novelas en las sagas de Robot y Fundación.

Profile Image for Krell75.
299 reviews29 followers
August 10, 2022
Asimov al meglio della sua immaginazione.
Probabilmente uno dei suoi romanzi più originali e coraggiosi.

Un inizio disorientante e faticoso da comprendere. Naturale, stiamo entrando nella mente di esseri alieni, cosa vi aspettavate?
Un mondo strano con creature ancora più strane, decisamente extraterrestri.
Poi finalmente si fa chiarezza, tutto si spiega e si rimane a bocca aperta.
Non resta che applaudire.
Profile Image for Ivana Books Are Magic.
523 reviews201 followers
July 18, 2016
I remember reading the first few sentence of this novel not being terribly impressed, not that I would ever considered giving up reading of one of HIS novel, but the descriptions of character seemed childish and I may have even though (blasphemy) there is something lacking there, but then I pulled myself together and told myself 'What do you know? This is Asimov. Have you ever read anything by Asimov that didn’t amaze you? Off course not. So shut up.' Anyhow, it didn’t take me long to become engrossed in the story (all it took was a page or two).

After the introduction of characters, the story takes off quickly and develops quite nicely. Without further ado, we find out what the problem is. The world might be destroyed. How dramatic! What is need is bravery and intelligence, for this is not the kind of crisis that is easy to resolve.

The first part of the novel takes place on Earth in 22th century, where our protagonist Peter is trying to prove how and why using the revolutionary clean energy source i.e. Electron pump might destroy the world. The second part of the novel is placed in a parallel Universe and the third part (and the final part) of the novel is situated on the Moon. As for the science aspect of this book, it is brilliant. Not that I can vouch for it as a physicist, because I’m clearly not one, but the science part sounds absolutely logical, with the added plus of being wonderfully imaginative. The idea of parallel universe is masterfully handled. The narrative is easy to follow. I can’t say that there isn’t a dull moment in book, but I can say that for me there wasn’t one. Once I got over those opening paragraphs, I was absolutely amazed with the story, the setting and the characters. I enjoyed greately the philosophical,the psychological and the scientific aspect of the story.

The novel itself is divided into three parts. They work well together and they made perfect sense to me. My personal favourite is the second part of the novel, it is the one that captivated me the most. I will touch up a bit on all three parts of the novel, trying my best to avoid spoilers.

The first part: Against stupidity…..

Mediocre scientist Hallam accidentally makes a great discovery. He is a predictable villain, one that doesn’t care about anything but himself. You might say that the writer created a character that is too one dimensional, but you know what? Some people are really like that. Anyway, Hallam’s sample get changed and after accusing a co-worker of pampering with it, he figures out that it might have been changed in a parallel universe. Here comes the “Electron Pump” and humanity gets free energy. How marvellous!

I found that part pretty plausible and I liked the irony of a great scientific discovery occurring to someone who isn’t exactly brilliant but just lucky to find himself at the right place at the right time. Moreover, the fact that the human kind never dared to explore the parallel universe or try to find out how this contact with the parallel universe came to be…. now, that is something that I found even more convincing.

Hallam gets his Nobel prize and all he wants to do now is to live off his fame. Who is it then that will to do something? Not the society. Not the government for every government is a living organism with a strong instinct for survival that will act with the sole purpose of defending itself (I’ve also been rereading Heinlein tonight- Stranger in a Strange World and I’m stealing his line). So, who is about to ask questions? Individualist. Physicist Peter Lamont makes the discovery that the Electron pump might destroy not just our world but the parallel one as well.

Needless to say, the politicians and the man of science aren’t too anxious to hear Peter out. Wait a second! Shouldn’t man of science and the brightest minds of humankind be prepared to take dramatic actions to save the planet? Aren’t they the ones who will use their supreme intellect and won’t stand at nothing to save our planet? Think again. Yes, I found this part pretty believable. I won’t say anything else, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. What will Peter too? How will he save the world? How will he get attention? You will have to read to find out. I liked the first part a lot. I could relate to the protagonist and feel his frustration but I could also understand the others (by understand I don’t mean that I approved of people being people, not willing to be brave and think with their head but that I got it. We're all like that most of the time, content to live our lives and not willing to act with courage). Let’s face it. Human kind isn’t exactly famous for long term planning and getting rid of treats to our kind. So, that's the first part. That was some great science right there and the fiction part was darn good ! Fantastic news? It gets better.

The second part: The Gods themselves…..

Here comes my favourite part. Why? Because it presented beings in another universe that felt completely unique and different from us, yet it was possible to relate to them on many levels. Very few writers have succeeded in that. To create aliens that feel alien, but that you can still connect with. To create a whole society of aliens that feels real and unique is always a challange, but to create it and place a memorable set of characters who also happen to be the protagnists in an epic story. Now, that's something!

This parallel world is inhabited by ‘hard’ ones and ‘cold one’. Hard ones appear to be teachers or mentors of the soft ones who are divided in 3 sexes. In the very beginning of the story, we get familiar with our protagonist Dua. Dua is a she (in a matter of speaking). You see the soft ones are divided into three genders:rationals (he pronoun), emotionals (she pronoun) and parentals(he pronoun). Together they form families. To simplify (perhaps too much) rationals are the intellectuals, emotionals are the intuitive ones and parentals take care of children. They can reproduce only by coming together in an unison. However, Dua is an independent spirit, the sort that most question everything and will hence set things into parallel universe into movement. Did I mention that the parallel universe is also in danger? But let get back to the characters.

Dua forms a family with Odeen and Tritt and their family dynamics is very interesting to observe. I absolutely love the characterization of them as individuals and as a part of a family. The exploration of the genre identity in this one was brilliant. The narrative flows effortlessly, the story pick up right where it stopped in part two and it proceeded to the part three. When we think of ourselves limited by our biology, by that physical aspect, we don’t think of what another being in another (material) universe might be facing. Possibly the same thing. We each in our own way have to struggle to overcome our biological impulses and that doesn’t mean ignoring them (for a creature can’t ignore eating for example), but seeing the bigger picture and developing a sophistication of spirit.

The third part: Contend in Vain?

I can’t really say too much about the narrative part three because I don’t want to ruin this read to you. In fact, I think it is best I refrain from mentioning who the protagonist is or what happens on the Moon. All I’m going to say is that there is a new set of protagonist and that I find it to be a satisfying conclusion to the novel. Getting the story out of the way, I can say something about the setting because to do so won’t be really giving too much away.

Asimov created another memorable setting. The moon is inhabited by good-looking and highly intelligent people (supposedly because it was originally populated by scientists) and its society is very different from that on Earth. Being able to theorize and create new cultures and worlds to contrast our own is one of the best things about SF. It was quite a joy seeing Asimov’s version of this new society. It made me think of Heinlein, his short stories and naturally The Luna is a a Harsh Mistress novel.

It is interesting how well the narrative worked its way through different settings and universes. The science aspect of this book was fascinating, but the fiction part was just as fabulous. To develop so many characters and yet to find a place for them all, to manage to make them all an integral part of the story is quite an accomplishment! The characterization was pretty good, I found all the protagonists quite convincingly and well written. There is no much soul- searching (except in Dua’s case) and novel doesn’t go into great depth in that sense. There is linear switching between the settings and the protagonists so it is not hard to follow. If you have a strong preferance for a solo protagonist, you might be put off by that.

To whom would I recommend this book? To Asimov's fans and lovers of science fiction obviously. Is it a good introduction to Asimov? I'm not sure, it was not my first read, I was already a fan of his when I picked this one. However, if you want to read an Asimov's book that is not part of a series, try this one. It is set in future, but it is not an integral part of any of his series and it can be read on its own. It is said that it was the author's favourite and I can certainly see why. There is something optimistic about it, I feel that at its core it brings a message of hope. Receiving such a message in a form of intelligent writing is always good, right? This novel made me believe that we should always do our best and try our hardest, I know it sounds cheesy but so it is. Despite it being quite entertaining, The Gods Themselves is actually a very profound story and it did make me think a great deal about gender, identity, politics, morality, society and the individual.

Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,537 followers
December 29, 2015
This reread for me was still fun, well-paced, imaginative, and thought provoking. The tale concerns an opening with a parallel universe discovered by a physicist whose tungsten is converted into an impossible isotope of plutonium. When it decays usable energy is produced. At the point of the story when a science historian is interviewing this scientist, the massive construction of “Electron Pumps” is producing free energy on a scale sufficient hold the prospect of a coming shift to utopia for humanity. The journalist gets onto the trail of secret knowledge that aliens in the alternate universe are the true inventors of the interuniverse pump and that initial warnings of dangers to our universe by a now discredited scientist are well-founded. The strange matter that results from the process implies a universe where the strong nuclear force is stronger, making fusion more likely and fission less likely. Enough matter exchanged could lead to a local build-up of a stronger nuclear force and theoretically cause the sun to explode. The motivation to ignore or not accept the danger is high among the economic powers and the stupid scientist who built his empire on harnessing the phenomenon. A method of marking the tungsten that gets swapped away leads to the beginnings of communication. The big question is whether the apparently smarter aliens know better or possibly continue with the pumping without concern for the risks to our universe.

For a third of the book we slip into the story of on particular alien who is struggling with the knowledge of dangers to the other universe, ours. Most science fiction writers fail at creating really believable aliens because they end up infusing human characteristics to make them comprehensible. The best succeed by keeping their mentality at a distance and giving us only outward signs and behaviors that speak inscrutable otherness. Here Asimov puts us in their minds and society, a bold move worthy of respect for the care he takes. Inevitably, however, it only becomes engaging when human-related behaviors and emotions come into play. He envisions a three-gender photosynthetic species composed of Rationals, Emotionals, and Parentals, with the corresponding basic modes for life roles. A fourth type of alien, the Hard Ones, are running the society and keep knowledge of their lives to a minimum. Jealousy, pride, ambition, loyalty, shame, and fear are all key human emotions that come into play with the otherwise plausibly plot concerning the threat from insights that come when the Emotional member of the triad transgresses her role by learning more about the physics of the Electron Pump (Positron Pump in their universe).

In the third section, decades later, the discredited scientist who prophesied doom arrives as an immigrant to a long-established colony on the Moon. As the society receives no benefits from the Electron Pump, the people are more open to more serious studies on its dangers or on solutions to the problem, and the scientist gets a chance to return to his interrupted work. With a little showing and more telling, Asimov takes a great stab at the likely open, progressive society that might develop on such a colony. I like how the scientist comes to value the society for its frontier qualities:
The Moon is a world constructed by man from the start and out of basics. …On the Moon, there is no past to long for or dream about. There is no direction but forward. .

Since the late 50’s we have been faced with the theoretical reality of parallel universes splitting off from own, but it is only in recent decades has modern physics made a strong case for a multiverse of alternate universes within which physical laws may vary. From this perspective this 1972 novel is prescient and pretty plausible in imagined details of the scenario, which is rare to this day. He may not achieve in-depth characters, Asimov has plenty of strength in a good storytelling, compelling ideas, and deep knowledge of the foibles of the scientific enterprise due to his career in biochemistry. For someone who wrote hundreds of books, one has to be selective, and this one should be lumped in with “I, Robot” and his Foundation series as among his best.

P.S. The title comes from Shiller:
Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,813 reviews315 followers
May 17, 2015
Asimov foresees the climate change debate
29 May 2012

The title of this book is a part of a longer title, which is used to split up the three sections of the book: Against Stupidity the Gods Themselves Contend in Vain'. I believe that that is actually an Ancient Greek saying, which is not surprising at all. Nope, as it turns out I am incorrect (thankyou Internet), it was in fact a saying of a German Poet named Friedrich von Schiller, but it is not the saying or the meaning of the saying that I really want to write about here, though I must admit that it is something that I can relate to because, in a way, it is true: even the gods themselves cannot deal with stupid people.

This is the first Asimov book that I have read that deals with aliens, but then again Asimov never really wrote about aliens, and I suspect it is because he never really saw a need. His science-fiction explores ideas and concepts, ones that could be theoretically possible (such as the positronic brain, which is a device that allows robots to think, learn, and to grow) and it is quite possible that he saw aliens as being a little too speculative for his tastes. However, in this book we do have a taste of a non-human culture, and one cannot get more non-human than these aliens because they exist as three parts which at maturity come together to form a new entity. It is interesting because the middle section of the book, which deals with the aliens, has us follow one particular trinity to the point where they metamoph into the new form.

The other interesting aspect of this book is about energy. Earth has discovered an infinite source of energy from a device known as an electron pump and it appears to be cheap, clean, and unlimited. However a scientist has discovered a flaw in the pump, in that quite subtly it is destroying the sun. However people either do not care, or simply write him off as a quack. The middle section is important though because it also deals with the electron pump and suggests that not only is the pump subtly destroying our universe, but it is destroying this second universe as well, and there is no way for them to be able to communicate with us to tell us what is happening.

As I look back at this book I notice that the timing is quite impeccable simply because it was published at the beginning of the 70s, which was seen as the end of the twenty year bull market that began at the end of World War II, and the main reason for the end of this bull market was an event known as the oil shock. Up until this time, the United States believed that they had enough oil to last them for a very long time, when suddenly the tap was turned off by the Arabs (and that was namely due to the Israel problem). Suddenly they discovered that their almost unlimited supply was not as unlimited as they expected, and this sent shockwaves across the world.

Yet in another was it is very prescient. Oil is our electron pump: it allows our society to function and without it we are in a lot of trouble. However, there are concerns being raised as to the effect of our dependence on oil and there are debates in the scientific community as to whether our over use of oil is destroying the planet (and I fall on the side of the argument saying that it is). In a way we are seeing the events in this novel being played out on the world stage as we speak. We are so dependant on oil that to suddenly stop using it would destroy our society however we cannot help but use it because we want our luxuries and there is no viable alternative (though since I wrote this there has been a significant increase in the use of renewable energy). Further, we consider that the problem is not ours and leave it for our children and our grandchildren to solve. One thing we should remember: we have only one Earth and if we don't look after it, then it does not matter how rich we are we are all in the same boat.
Profile Image for Ajeje Brazov.
726 reviews
July 17, 2020
Neanche gli dei è un romanzo di Asimov diviso in 3 parti. Mi è piaciuta soltanto la seconda parte, in essa vi ho ritrovato l'Asi delicato, indagatore scientifico ed il grande scrittore di fantascienza di cui avevo letto il ciclo de La Fondazione o il ciclo dei Robot. Invece la prima e l'ultima, la terza, assolutamente no, mi è sembrato di leggere qualcosa non scritto da lui, al limite del noioso e prolisso, con un'infinità di dialoghi e per la maggior parte inutili, giusto per riempire più pagine.
Insomma una mezza delusione viste le premesse!
Voto 6
Profile Image for Trish.
2,016 reviews3,436 followers
March 20, 2021
No wonder this thing won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1972 and the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1973!

The story is divided into three parts:

Part one first opens on Earth in the year 2070, about 70 years after the "Great Crisis", where an ecological and economic collapse reduced the world's population from six billion to two billion.
A scientist, Hallam, discovers an isotope from a parallel universe: plutonium 186. This leads to the development of a cheap, clean and apparently endless source of energy by exchanging one of our elements with an element from a parallel universe, thereby creating a nuclear reaction.
The actual narrator of this part tells us all this about 30 years later: Lamont is a physicist and trying to prove that the discovery wasn't actually Hallam's but the deed of "para-men". With the help of a linguist, he communicates with the parallel universe - and makes the terrible discovery regarding the price for using the "pump" (as the process is referred to).

Part two is telling the story from the alien perspective which was a little weird and downright disorienting at first but had an awesome way of tying back in by the end of the second part (I can't go into detail as that would spoiler too much) but suffice it to say that the energy humanity gets isn't as "free" as we thought and definitely dangerous.

Part three takes place on a lunar colony. As happens in many SF stories, the Moon's lower gravity has resulted in the humans living there having altered physiques to those on Earth. In fact, the different lifestyles and physiques have resulted in many colonists considering themselves a different race.
Protagonist here is a former scientist called Denison, who used to be a colleague / rival of Hallam's in part one. He independently found out about the danger the "pump" poses and is now trying to use lunar tech (and to escape Hallam's influence) to warn humanity. I can't go into much detail about what Denison is eventually doing, scientifically, as that would spoiler too much. Suffice it to say that proving the danger of the "pump" isn't the only problem - not by far.

The only thing I thought was weird was something Asimov (in my opinion) has never been good with but often addressed in his books: sex. Be it masturbation or a taboo-free existance, the way he writes about it is weird (and often too cerebral). *lol*

Other than that, this book was not just choke-full of the stupidity the title already suggests ("the gods themselves" is the short form of "against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" in Friedrich Schiller's The Maid of Orleans), but also of great scientific theories and a pretty cool story about how even noble science can be twisted and bastardized if one is greedy and arrogant.
Despite the temporary disorientation, I also very much enjoyed the exploration of "the other side of the coin", namely what benefit there might be for aliens and what their driving force could be.

The ending, I thought at first, almost petered out and the focus shifted away from the danger the energy source posed a bit too much. In hindsight, though, not everything has to end with a bang (excuse the double-pun, or is it a tripple-pun even?).

Asimov's writing style is and always will be pretty darn great and I always feel right at home when reading one of his books - this was no different, which is why I'm rounding up from 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
February 9, 2017
*sigh* Some books should remain fond memories.

I'm dropping a star on the re-read. Enjoying the insistence of intuitionalism doesn't make up for the abysmally uninteresting aliens or the 1970's culturally-locked ideas surrounding smart human women and smart alien women. It was actually pretty groan-worthy.

As for the actual story idea, I enjoyed the extrapolation of a modified natural law and the SF conversation Asimov was having with Silverberg, but it turns out that a tiny handful of ideas isn't enough to carry the novel. I'm a firm believer in truly excellent characters and story. As this novel is, it's more of a thinly-veiled science instructional tidied up with a few SF tropes and a single good Science Idea mixed with a single good cultural/mental/personal Idea.

I like intuition. I love it, even. Asimov does, too. Bravo. Moving on.

Destruction of two universes feeding off each other. Sound cool? It is. But even Lensman did it better than this. :)

Alas, this is NOT Asimov's best work. Foundation is much better and I had a grand lot of fun with the Robot books. This one is Far down that list, and I'm sad. I can't believe this made a Hugo. 1972 must have been a very lean year.
Profile Image for Craig.
5,141 reviews123 followers
April 12, 2023
The Gods Themselves is a pretty good science fiction novel, but not among my favorites of Asimov's work. It won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and other awards as the best of the year in 1973. (I voted for Silverberg's Book of Skulls, and thought Asimov's won more because it was his first sf novel in fifteen years than anything else... but my opinion is solidly in the minority.) It's about a future Earth that gets limitless energy from a parallel universe, and the consequences thereof. The story is told in the form of three consecutive novellas, the middle one set in the other universe. There's a lot of challenging scientific speculation, but there's a lot more conversation than action. It was touted as a true science fiction novel because it was about scientists doing science, which is cool, but I couldn't connect to the characters. Doubleday issued the book with just title-and-author words and no illustration on the front cover and a photograph of Asimov hailing a cab on the back cover, which I found representative.
Profile Image for Joy D.
2,066 reviews239 followers
January 26, 2020
"Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." – Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, The Maid of Orleans

The overarching storyline involves a method by which matter is exchanged between our universe and a parallel universe, resulting in what at first appears to be an unlimited supply of free energy to both. The process has been initiated by otherworldly beings, but Dr. Hallam, a scientist from earth, takes credit for it, to great acclaim. Later, a lone dissenter, Dr. Lamont, believes the exchange may cause our sun to explode, but faces tremendous opposition from Hallam and those who are enjoying the unlimited free energy and don’t want to give it up. They say there is no proof of an upcoming explosion and dismiss Lamont as a crackpot.

This is hard science fiction. In order to fully enjoy it, the reader will need to internalize the overall concept and follow the scientists’ trains of thought, and in order to do so, will need to have a certain level of interest in scientific detail. It does not require advanced knowledge of physics or chemistry, as the principles and processes are described in layman’s terms. For example, it references such topics as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, radioactive isotopes, electrons, protons, fusion, fission, electromagnetism, quarks, and the like. Here’s an example of what to expect:

“We are faced with a substance, plutonium-186, that cannot exist at all, let alone as an even momentarily stable substance, if the natural laws of the Universe have any validity at all. It follows, then, that since it does indubitably exist and did exist as a stable substance to begin with, it must have existed, at least to begin with, in a place or at a time or under circumstances where the natural laws of the Universe were other than they are. To put it bluntly, the substance we are studying did not originate in our Universe at all, but in another—an alternate Universe—a parallel Universe. Call it what you want.”

It is divided into three sections, which are related only by the overall story arc. Section 1 sets the stage, beginning in the year 2070. It shows how the universes interacted initially to establish the energy exchange, and how the rivalry between Hallam and Lamont developed.

Section 2 is my personal favorite. It describes the lives of the beings in the para-universe, comprised of “hard ones” and “soft ones,” who have differing levels of ability to move through each other. The “soft ones” live in triads: one rational, one parental, and one emotional, who bond together in a reproductive process called melting to produce offspring. A “hard one” is assigned to each triad as a mentor. Dua, an emotional “soft one” is the protagonist of this section. She is an atypical emotional, and anyone that has ever felt “otherness” will easily identify with her. She brings up the ethical questions of what the energy exchange is doing to the two universes.

Section 3 takes place on the moon, with one of Hallam’s discredited rivals, Dr. Dennison, doing research in conjunction with the Lunarites (humans born on the moon) to either prove or disprove Lamont’s hypothesis regarding whether or not the sun will explode. It provides an engaging picture of what life on the moon is like and how that proof is obtained.

As with all great science fiction, it not only tells a great story, it imparts plenty of observations about our own time. People with power are not easily persuaded to release it, even for the greater good. People live in denial and engage in short-term thinking, even when the results could be disastrous. I’m thinking specifically of the climate change debate. I find it amazing that it was published so long ago (1972) and yet the themes are still very relevant.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,977 reviews163 followers
March 16, 2021
"The Gods Themselves" by Asimov was an interesting read. One of those books I've been meaning to read for a long time. One quick thing- I noticed the three Parts titles all combine to say "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" and can assume Asimov is quoting Friedrich Schiller who, in "The Maid of Orleans", said "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.", which is exactly that saying in German.

It is an interesting premise. Frederick Hallam , a scientist, has found a new isotope plutonium-186. It does not occur naturally in this universe. It comes from a parallel universe. Hallam comes up with a way to use this effect to create endless power. But what if that power came with a hidden cost?

The book, broken into three parts, looks at that question from different viewpoints. The 2nd part is viewed from the aliens in the paraverse. This part was rather strange, but near the end what they were describing made sense and the reveal of what was really going on was very well done.

I'm not going to give away any spoilers for what is a rather interesting story. It brings up quite a few interesting ideas about the cost of "free" energy, as well as questioning the motives behind scientists who have a vested interest in the outcomes of their thesis. Something to think about.

This is a great sci-fi read. Interesting science and interesting concepts. Worthy of being considered a sci-fi classic.
Profile Image for Azumi.
236 reviews166 followers
April 15, 2017
La historia empieza con el descubrimiento accidental de intercambio de energías con dos universos regidos por leyes totalmente diferentes, uno es el nuestro el terrícola y el otro es un universo alienígena. Plantea cuestiones muy interesantes para reflexionar.

La segunda parte del relato, que está ambientada en el lado alienígena, es sencillamente genial y sorprendente. Asimov se saca de la manga un parauniverso único con los seres duros y los seres blandos con sus tríades y su forma de reproducirse.

La tercera y última parte nos traslada a la luna y seguimos con el problema del intercambio de energías, pero Asimov nos describe la vida en nuestro querido satélite con unas ideas también muy interesantes.

En resumen, si te gusta la Sci fi no te la puedes perder por nada del mundo, es imaginativa y original 100%. La parte de los alienígenas no tiene igual, es para quitarse el sombrero. Solo por ellos vale la pena el libro :D
¿¿¿No escribió Asimov ningún otro libro o relato basado en los seres blandos???

"Contra la estupidez, los propios dioses luchan en vano" Schiller
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,565 reviews1,891 followers
April 7, 2017
Sometimes particularly when reading about Octopuses editing their DNA, giant fungi in the USA, or super Ant colonies I wonder why anyone ever bothered to write any science fiction - the variety and strangeness of actual life on earth seems to trump with ease the modest products of human imagination, perhaps that is precisely the point, the story is a way of controlling the world, of reducing its complexity to the manageable oddness of a novel.

In this case if it looks too good to be true - it probably is. Or as Montaigne asked, when I think I am playing with my cat, is my cat playing with me?

The publication date is the same as the club of Rome's the Limits of Growth, a curious coincidence as both deal with the unexpectedly high cost of that free lunch we were all enjoying.
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