When I began to read science fiction heavily one of the first authors which I began to delve into was Isaac Asimov. That is the primary reason that I was excited when I saw “The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov on the list of the hugos. I had read this before, but many years ago and remembered very little about it beyond a few of the key concepts and while these ideas may not be as dramatic as some of those that are featured in other hugo novels in many ways they would change the way that people live even more than many of those others and in the end the concept is just as big.
The story title is from a quote from Friedrich Schiller which translates to “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain. “ this is a brilliant idea because one of the core points of this book is that people don’t want to know the truth if it will inconvenience them. This is told through the discovery of a technological advancement which seems to solve all the energy problems of earth with almost no cost.
The story begins with the explanation of the electron pump. This idea is one that delves deep into science. The idea is that there is a parallel universe with different basic laws. The law of most import in the story is that the parallel universe has a stronger strong nuclear force. The aliens in that other universe discover a way to send matter into our universe. This matter is considerably more dense, but once it is in our universe for a while it returns to the state of the universe. When it does it releases huge amounts of energy effectively creating free energy with the only cost a small change in the laws of our universe. This change is tiny, but a scientists discovers that change is more than people believe and could change the bond in the sun which would cause it to explode. The problem is that no one wants to believe him and the only evidence they would be willing to accept is changes that prove it will be too late. So they try to warn the creatures on the other side of the pump, those that started it.
The second part of the story takes place from the alien’s point of view. These aliens are some of the most unique and interesting aliens in science fiction. They are in a universe very different from ours and because of that they can be very physically alien. There are three gender, rational, emotional and parental. All three are needed to reproduce. The story follows a very unique triad and most notably the emotional part of that triad which is as smart as any rational which is odd, but also able to empathies in a way the others cannot. She discovers the danger and tries to do something about it.
The third part returns to our universe but is on the moon. This is the weakest part of the story in my opinion. It follows a man who knows what is happening but is unable to do anything about it. No one is willing to give up the pump, but naturally a solution is found. This is not only a bit simple, but adds a number of elements which felt unnecessary. The entire idea that it is on the moon feels unnecessary except for the time period being shortly after the moon walk, and it has some of the same ideas as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and in some ways feels as if it might be an answer to ideas in that book, though only a few minor scientific points.
This is an excellent book and one that I enjoyed more than many of Asimov’s more popular books such as Foundation because I cared more about the characters than in those stories and if you want to try an Asimov story this, or one of the robot detective stories because these are far more accessible than some of the more famous ones.