- Audio Cassette
- Publisher: Random House Audio (April 27, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394299876
- ISBN-13: 978-0394299877
- Shipping Weight: 3 ounces
- Customer Reviews: 496 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,778,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Gods Themselves Audio, Cassette – Audiobook, April 27, 1987
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From the Inside Flap
From the Paperback edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"Don't be dramatic," said Myron Bronowski, placidly. "You didn't expect to. You told me that." He was tossing peanuts into the air and catching them in his plump-lipped mouth as they came down. He never missed. He was not very tall, not very thin.
"That doesn't make it pleasant. But you're right, it doesn't matter. There are other things J can do and intend to do and, besides that, I depend on you. If you could only find out-"
"Don't finish, Pete. I've heard it all before. All I have to do is decipher the thinking of a non-human intelligence."
"A better-than-human intelligence. Those creatures from the para-Universe are trying to make themselves understood."
"That may be," sighed Bronowski, "but they're trying to do it through my intelligence, which is better than human I sometimes think, but not much. Sometimes, in the dark of the night, I lie awake and wonder if different intelligences can communicate at all; or, if I've had a particularly bad day, whether the phrase 'different intelligences' has meaning at all."
"It does," said Lamont savagely, his hands clearly bailing into fists within his lab coat pockets. "It means Hallam and me. It means that fool-hero, Dr. Frederick Hallam and me. We're different intelligences because when I talk to him he doesn't understand. His idiot face gets redder and his eyes bulge and his ears block. I'd say his mind stops functioning, but flack the proof of any other state from which it might stop."
Bronowski murmured, "What a way to speak of the Father of the Electron Pump."
"That's it. Reputed Father of the Electron Pump. A bastard birth, if ever there was one. His contribution was least in substance. I know."
"I know, too. You've told me often," and Bronowski tossed another peanut into the air. He didn't miss.
It had happened thirty years before. Frederick Hallam was a radiochemist, with the print on his doctoral dissertation still wet and with no sign whatever of being a world-shaker.
What began the shaking of the world was the fact
that a dusty reagent bottle marked "Tungsten Metal" stood on his desk. It wasn't his; he had never used it. It was a legacy from some dim day when some past n habitant of the office had
wanted tungsten for some long-forgotten reason. It wasn't even really tungsten any more. It consisted of small pellets of what was now heavily layered with oxide-gray and dusty. No use to anyone.
And one day Hallam entered the laboratory (well, it was October 3, 2070, to be exact), got to work, stopped shortly before 10 A.M., stared transfixed at the bottle, and lifted it. It was as dusty as ever, the label as faded, but he called out, 'God damn it; who the hell has been tampering with this?"
That, at least, was the account of Denison, who overheard the remark and who told it to Lamont a generation later. The official tale of the discovery, as reported n the books, leaves out the phraseology. One gets the impression of a keen-eyed chemist, aware of change and instantly drawing deep-seated deductions.
Not so. Hallam had no use for the tungsten; it was of no earthly value to him and any tampering with it could be of no possible importance to him. However, he hated any interference with his desk (as so many do) and he suspected others of possessing keen desires to engage in such interference out of sheer malice.
No one at the time admitted to knowing anything about the matter. Benjamin Allan Denison, who overheard the initial remark, had an office immediately across the corridor and both doors were open. He looked up and met Hallam's accusatory eye.
He didn't particularly like Hallam (no one particularly did) and he had slept badly the night before. He was, as it happened and as he later recalled, rather pleased to have someone on whom to vent his spleen, and Hallam made the perfect candidate.
When Hallam held the bottle up to his face, Denison pulled back with clear distaste. "Why the devil should I be interested in your tungsten?" he demanded. "Why should anyone? If you'll look at the bottle, you'll see that the thing hasn't been opened for twenty years; and if you hadn't put your own grubby paws on it, you would have seen no one had touched it."
Hallam flushed a slow, angry red. He said, tightly, "Listen, Denison, someone has changed the contents. That's not the tungsten."
Denison allowed himself a small, but distinct sniff. "How would you know?"
Of such things, petty annoyance and aimless thrusts, is history made.
It would have been an unfortunate remark in any case. Denison's scholastic record, as fresh as Hallam's, was far more impressive and he was the bright-young man of the department. Hallam knew this and, what was worse, Denison knew it too, and made no secret of it. Denison's "How would you know?" with the clear and unmistakable emphasis on the "you," was ample motivation for all that followed. Without it, Hallam would never have become the greatest and most revered scientist in history, to use the exact phrase Denison later used in his interview with Lamont.
Officially, Hallam had come in on that fateful morning, noticed the dusty gray pellets gone-not even the dust on the inside surface remaining-and clear iron-gray metal in their place. Naturally, he investigated.
But place the official version to one side. It was Denison. Had he confined himself to a simple negative, or a shrug, the chances are that Hallam would have asked others, then eventually wearied of the unexplained event, put the bottle to one side, and let subsequent tragedy, whether subtle or drastic (depending on how long the ultimate discovery was delayed), guide the future. In any event, it would not have been Hallam who rode the whirlwind to the heights.
With the "How would you know?" cutting him down, however, Hallam could only retort wildly, "I'll show you that I know."
And after that, nothing could prevent him from going to extremes. The analysis of the metal in the old container became his number-one priority, and his prime goal was to wipe the haughtine from Denison's thin-nosed face and the perpetual trace of a sneer from his pale lips.
Denison never forgot that moment for it was his own remark that drove Hallam to the Nobel Prize and himself to oblivion.
He had no way of knowing (or if he knew he would not then have cared) that there was an overwhelming stubbornness in Hallam, the mediocrity's frightened need to safeguard his pride, that would carry the day at that time more than all Denison's native brilliance would have.
Hallam moved at once and directly. He carried his metal to the mass spectrography department. As a radiation chemist it was a natural move. He knew the technicians there, he had worked with them, and he was forceful. He was forceful to such an effect, indeed, that the job was placed ahead of projects of much greater pith and moment.
The mass spectrographer said eventually, "Well, it isn't tungsten."
Hallam's broad and humorless face wrinkled into a harsh smile. "All right. We'll tell that to Bright-boy Denison. I want a report and--
"But wait awhile, Dr. Hallam. I'm telling you it's not tungsten, but that doesn't mean I know what it is."
"What do you mean you don't know what it is."
"I mean the results are ridiculous." The technician thought a while. "Impossible, actually. The chargemass ratio is all wrong."
"All wrong in what way?"
"Too high. It just can't be."
"Well, then," said Hallam and, regardless of the motive that was driving him, his next remark set him on the road to the Nobel Prize and, it might even be argued, a deserved one, "get the frequency of its characteristic x-radiation and figure out the charge. Don't just sit around and talk about something being impossible."
It was a troubled technician who came into Hallam's office a few days later.
Hallam ignored the trouble on the other's face-he was never sensitive-and said, "Did you find-"He then cast a troubled look of his own at Denison, sitting at the desk in his own lab and shut the door. "Did you find the nuclear charge?"
"Yes, but it's wrong."
"All right, Tracy. Do it over."
"I did it over a dozen times. It's wrong."
"If you made a measurement, that's it. Don't argue with the facts."
Tracy rubbed his ear and said, "I've got to, Doe. If I take the measurements seriously, then what you've given me is plutonium-186."
"The charge is +94. The mass is 186."
"But that's impossible. There's no such isotope. There can't be."
"That's what I'm saying to you. But those are the measurements."
"But a situation like that leaves the nucleus over fifty neutrons short. You can't have plutonium-186. I You couldn't squeeze ninety-four protons into one nucleus with only ninety-two neutrons
and expect it to hang together for even a trillion-trillionth of a second."
"That's what I'm telling you, Doc," said Tracy, patiently.
And then Hallam stopped to think. It was tungsten he was missing and one of its isotopes, tungsten-186, was stable. Tungsten-186 had 74 protons and 112 neutrons in its nucleus. Could something have turned twenty neutrons into twenty protons? Surely that wa...
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Asimov was a polymath, of the widest ranging fields of study. His library of original writings, much more than science-fiction, remains astounding. I recommend the reader dip into his work, and to start with "The Gods Themselves." Avoid reading it too rapidly.
Please read this entirely subjective review accordingly.
So what is "The Gods Themselves"? A story based on the idea of exchanging energy between universes where the strong nuclear force is slightly different, written in three parts. Parts one and three are in our universe, and part two in the "para universe". The strong nuclear force is explained enough for the story to engage the reader who has no background in physics. In short, it is the force that governs how nuclear fusion works. A difference in values means there is a chance for energy exchange in *both* directions. At least that is the conceit, and as far as it goes it is backed by scientific fact (at least in models of the two universes involved).
The idea is explained well enough for non nuclear physicists to grasp, but this isn't Star Wars SF: no blasters, spacecraft or heated battles. Just a terrible existential threat to our solar system, and the inertia of a population wanting something for nothing and led by short-sighted and/or self-aggrandizing fame-hounds who have everything to lose either way, but don't care.
I rode along, gradually immersing more in the story, and being overcome with a sense of helpless fury at the inevitability of it all. The alien section started in what seemed to be a frivolous way that I feared would be a waste of reading time, but became perhaps the most emotionally engaging and angering part of the story.
I can't five star this, but I can't say why. It won both a Hugo and a Nebula when it was first published, about the best any SF novel can do, but it doesn't push my five-star button somehow. Without that oh-so cleverly done part two this would be a three star story for me despite the really clever idea at it's heart. Maybe it's because I'm too old and academic and political inertia are old tropes I've read about too many times. That might very well be it, in which case this book could well be a five star experience for you. I hope so.
I hope too that there is still an audience for this sort of Science Fiction, that not everyone sees SF as bound by the barely literate stuff coming out of the Kindle mill these days.
Furthermore, Asimov crafts a truly alien universe where there are three sexes, the Rational, the Parental, and the Emotional and portrays a unique social configuration which results in a similar to dilemma as Earth. Finally, Asimov adds a third component which is lunar colonization, along with another distinct social configuration with a desire for separation from their Earthen brethren. The solution to this impending train wreck in both universes lies in the identification of a third universe, where conditions make life impossible, for material transfer and so the exchange can favor the living universes from an energy standpoint.
As is typical for Asimov, his character development is weak, but conceptually, the idea of parallel universes where fundamental laws of physics have different constants, as well as truly alien intelligent lifeforms carries the tale.
The book is in 3 parts.  The discovery of the Election Pump,  the alien beings who have the para-universe’s complementary Proton Pump and  the discovery (by lunar-based scientists) that makes the Election Pump sustainable long-term. But the links between these 3 parts is quite tenuous – they easily could have been three completely separate short stories. The alien para-universe aliens were most interesting as Asimov describes them as being triad family units – as opposed to our human dual family units (i.e., mother-father).
Still, there was little tension, little excitement and little mystery to go with the Sci-Fi concepts.
Top international reviews
In his own words, The God Themselves, is his favorite work among his abundant writings. It is very imaginative of him to conceive a pump that exchanges energy between the two worlds where diverse beings inhabit.
In actual fact, this novel has intriguing subplots to keep readers hooked, which proves that he has learnt from his earlier novels. The presence of 2 female characters are almost dominant in the first 2 sections.
A thoughtful and reflective work from the famous Asimov.
Asimov -but I am really looking forward to this!!
Strange aliens and the joys of low gravity. This is the best sci-fi I have read in years