The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
Read August 14, 2012 – August 17, 2012
(Yes, I’m back! You’ll note the over one-year gap between novels. I was in grad school and had a master’s paper to write. Now I’m thoroughly over-educated and unemployed. A lot has happened to me over that big break, but I’ll endeavor to keep the reviews the same.)
Premise: A group of catty egotistical scientists attempt to one-up each other in the realm of physics and energy while systematically ignoring the dire consequences to the universe. They create an “energy pump” which trades elements with a parallel universe where the laws of physics are opposite. In that parallel universe, a group of extraterrestrials also deals with the identical problem.
Verdict: The title of this novel is taken from a German play about Joan of Arc—the full quote being “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.” That seems to sum up the whole novel quite well. The novel is in three parts (the parts originally published in Galaxy Magazine as three separate stories)—the first part is the humans discovering the strange element, the second is a sociological almost-soft-sci-fi exploration of the social structures and scientific dynamics of the aliens in the parallel universe, and the third returns to the humans and features a moon colony and a scientist focused on the problem and not the politics. My favorite part was the part with the aliens and the novel is well worth reading if only for that section (entitled “The Gods Themselves.”) The last section suffers from the same sort of genre-disease that most male-written sci-fi of this time exhibits. Through the mid-60’s, really, science fiction was dominated by male authors which can make for some unfortunate portrayals of women in their novels. Then you have people like Le Guin (and others) coming in and stirring the pot, so all the old white dudes were like “crap! We need to put women in these books!” What you end up with is the sexually-free, independent woman who nevertheless needs the middle aged man and desires a traditional nuclear family the second she meets him. This happens constantly—particularly with Heinlein, but also Asimov. It’s tired, but it’s expected when I’m reading this from this time period, so I just roll my eyes and move on.
This book was enjoyable and a quick read. Basically, read this novel for the aliens.