Saturday, December 17, 2011
Book Review: The Gods Themselves by Issac Asimov
The Gods Themselves By Issac Asimov
Classic printed in several editions
So I named my cat Asimov. I consider Asimov's Lucky Starr novels as the books that got me excited about writing and story telling, and Azzy just sounded like a robot when she walked in our back door. I have a soft spot in my heart for the man that almost published a book in every part of the Dewey decimal system. Besides being the geek's geek Asimov was also a committed environmentalist before he died in 1992 having written a non-fiction book on the topic ( of course he did) called "Our Angry Earth."
Being a militant environmentalist and Asimov fan it's strange that I have not read his Hugo and Nebula award winning environmental novel (released in 1972) The Gods Themselves. I thought I had read it before but I had confused it with Nemesis one of the last novels the grandmaster of Science Fiction wrote.
I enjoyed this novel, but this is a hard science novel that is for serious Sci-fi or environmental nerds. I can't tell you this is must read, but it presents interesting ideas. Is it worth the time you'll put into the book. Not sure.
The story is split into three separate novellas. Each could stand alone, but they are not really meant to. So read them together if you plan to. The first Novel is about a scientist who accidentally creates an unlimited power source, eventually one of his rivals discovers that the energy comes from a transfer between our universe and a alternate dimension. The trick is you'll have unlimited power but it's a good chance you will cause the death of the sun. Kinda important to life on earth. Opps.
The second novella is about that alternative universe. This part is really interesting, instead of just adding a beard and diabolical plans to the people of this para-universe Asimov goes super bizarro. The society of this universe and the people in it are not human in the least. Society is divided into three units and their families are super different from ours. Part of it is some of the people are not physically solid in the world. You see there are hard ones, and the soft ones who can travel threw matters. The third unit are emotionals which is only really important in my eyes to how the characters and the fictional society operate and effects the plot less.
This second part is a reaction to Asimov's early 70's critics who called him a prude so there is tons of of para-dimension sex just because. The important point to the story is how these very different people react to the impending doom created by the energy transfer.
Both of the first parts end with Twilight zone-ish twists that lead directly into the next part so the third kinda ends with a dud. It comes back to the future on a moon base in our future. I can't really talk about it without spoiler. So stop reading if you plan on reading this novel. The end is a ho-hum anti-climatic solution to the crisis created by the energy transfer. When I say it's ho-hum I when it is not the twist of the first to parts but it is thought provoking. Because in order to off set the problems created by the energy transfer the scientists effectually create another big bang, perhaps they have started a new universe. They don't really know, but maybe they did.
I think Asimov was trying to say the answer to environmental problems can be found in science, that we need to look for creative solutions. Life comes from life, and there is a universe of possibilities.