Audible The Gods ThemselvesAuthor Isaac Asimov –

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 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 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 open to 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 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. 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 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 k mpfen G tter selbst vergebens As apt today as it was when it was written.4 out of 5 Stars highly recommended For Years Of A Career Stretching From To His Death In , Isaac Asimov Wrote Little SF Instead Produced Popular Non Fiction In Enormous Quantities The Gods Themselves Was His Comeback SF Novel, Welcomed By Both Hugo Nebula Awards It Opens In The World Of Big Science That Asimov Knew Well, Full Of In Fighting The Race To Publish First The Inter Universe Electron Pump Sucks Unlimited Energy From Nothing, Making All Power Stations Obsolete Bringing A New Golden Age No One Especially Not The Scientist Who Got The Credit Wants To Listen To The Doomsayer Lamont Who Calculates That The Pump S Side Effects May Detonate The Sun Worse, There S No Kudos For Him And No One On Earth Will Live To Know I Was Right Part Two Moves To The Dying Parallel Universe Whose Hyper Intelligent Aliens Actually Invented The Pump Don T Care What Happens To Our Sun Asimov Cleverly Focuses On Three Immature Aliens Whose Intelligence Is Less Daunting Who Slowly Learn With Very Different Personal Reactions About Their Race S Weird Analogue Of Sex, About The Pump S Moral Implications, Eventually About The Unexpected Meaning Of Maturity These Are The Most Original, Engaging Aliens Asimov Ever Created Part Three Is Set In A Carefully Worked Out Moon Colony Grapples With The Para Physics Of Inter Universe Loopholes Can A Politically Acceptable Replacement For The Pump Be Developed Solid, Workmanlike SF With Far Talk Than Action One Of Asimov S Rare Standalone Novels David Langford 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 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 suggestions 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.rgb 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. The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov 2002 1373 383 1393 344 9786001821141 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 There s No Free LunchThe 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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.