Homer's Travels: Book: Isaac Asimov's "The Gods Themselves"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Book: Isaac Asimov's "The Gods Themselves"

When it comes to reading, I try to alternate non-fiction and fiction and it was time for fiction. I didn't have a long list of fiction to read so I pulled up a classic from 1972, Isaac Asimov's "The Gods Themselves".

The first non-Star Trek fiction that I read on my own was Asimov's
Foundation Trilogy which was later expanded to several more books. I really liked Asimov and I read many of his books including some short stories such as this interesting one that I discovered just a few days ago. So, after reading and enjoying so much of his writing I figured I would read another of his award winning novels.

"The Gods Themselves" is divided into three sections. The first details the invention/discovery of the Electron Pump, a seemingly endless source of free energy. The Electron Pump works by shuttling matter between two parallel universes with the difference in natural laws between the universes supplying the magic of free energy. In this first section we follow Professor Lamont who is trying to prove that the Electron Pump will result in the Sun exploding.

The second section follows a triad in the parallel universe. Much time is taken fleshing out the very alien beings and how they interact in this parallel universe. It turns out that the aliens are the true inventors of the Electron Pump and they are using the energy even though they know that our Sun will be destroyed in the process. The aliens are interesting but in the end feel almost like an afterthought added to make the story more interesting.
More time is taken explaining the alien race than explaining their relationship with the electron pump and the rest of the novel.

The third part returns you to our universe, the moon specifically, where we are introduced to another culture, the Lunerites - a society of immigrant humans and humans born on the Moon. A somewhat minor character from the first section is reintroduced and, with the help of a Moon Maiden, saves the universe.

I was a little disappointed. This story actually felt like three independent short stories and, while there was a common thread, never felt like a cohesive whole. There also seemed a shallowness to some of the character reactions that didn't feel true. Some of the reactions felt exaggerated. I just couldn't see real people acting this way.

As I read the book I wondered if all of Asimov was this way. Could it be that my expectations have been elevated by some of my recent reads? Am I more discriminating in what I read? Maybe. I am not a reader of the classics. I read predominately science fiction. I don't consider myself a sophisticated reader. Perhaps I'm learning the difference between good and bad writing. Then again, maybe Asimov wrote one book that didn't live up to my expectations.

It was an OK book with some interesting turns but in the end it just didn't do it for me. Move on, there's nothing to see here.


  1. I haven't read good fiction in far too long, methinks...

  2. May I suggest you an author if you haven't tried to read him yet? Joe Haldeman's "Forever War" or "Forever Peace" are probably some of the best fiction books I have encountered.

  3. GH: My fiction list is always way shorter then my non-fiction. I think I need to diversify.

    Gany: Your suggestions are always welcome. I will add Joe Haldeman to my reading list.