The Gods Themselves Hardcover – January 1, 1986
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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 reviews from other countries
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.