The Gods Themselves

by Isaac Asimov
Reviewed date: 2007 Mar 1
Rating: 3
288 pages
Awards: 1972 Nebula, 1973 Hugo
cover art

The Gods Themselves won both the Nebula and Hugo awards. It's a good book, but I suspect it won on Asimov's reputation more than on its own strength. Or perhaps it was just weak year.

The novel is told in three loosely connected novellas. The first part sets the stage for the story: mankind has discovered a source of unlimited free energy. The Electron Pump exchanges atoms with a parallel universe, releasing vast quantities of energy. A few researchers suspect the exchange of atoms from the parallel universe is changing to the laws of physics, which will result in the Sun exploding. Naturally they want the Electron Pump shut down. But Earth depends on the Pump, and the scientists in charge are more interested in protecting their jobs and their reputations than in discovering the truth.

The second part, which is easily deserving of a Hugo or a Nebula in its own right as a novella, takes place in the parallel universe. Here Asimov introduces an intriguing tri-sexual alien race. The story focuses exclusively on one married triad: Odeen, Dua, and Tritt. The laws of physics in the parallel universe allow a bizarre form of sex in which the three thin and melt their bodies into each other, thus occupying the same physical space. My only complaint is that Asimov doesn't introduce any other aliens. We get a glimpse of how alien sex works, but Asimov doesn't give us any idea of their culture or customs.

The conclusion returns to our universe, this time on the Moon. I recall reading this story years ago, but my vague memory assumed it was a Heinlein story. Mainly this is because the main female character is intended to be the perfect Heinleinian woman (readers of Heinlein will surely know what I mean.) I say intended to be the perfect Heinleinian woman, because Asimov never fully develops Selene Lindstrom's character. In the end we know only three things about her:

  1. She's a woman
  2. She has breasts
  3. The third item is a spoiler, so I won't reveal it here

Asimov never misses an opportunity to explain that in the low gravity of the Moon, people age more slowly. They wrinkle less, and their breasts never sag. Did I mention that Selene's breasts don't sag because she lives on the Moon? One might say she is a well-rounded character. *sigh*

Breasts aside, the conclusion of the novel is rather interesting. (Breasts are interesting too, but let's not go there.) Dr. Denison has come to the Moon to carry out research that he hopes will prove the Electron Pump is dangerous. The Earth government is unwilling to help him, but curiously, the Lunar authorities are quite willing to cooperate. They give him tools and equipment, and assign Selene's breasts to work with him. Unknown to Denison, though, the Lunies have their own agenda--and Selene fully intends to protect Lunar interests.

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