The Gods Themselves Review

20:02 Sun 22 Mar 2009. Updated: 10:13 27 Mar 2009
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Isaac Asimov wrote The Gods Themselves in 1972, and it was the only one of his novels to win the Nebula award, as well as being the only one to win the Nebula/Locus/Hugo triple. I read it as a teenager, and read it again recently because of its “triple crown” winner status.

The Gods Themselves is a near-future, “small universe”, “hard science” science fiction novel. It is divided into three parts, all concerned with a source of free energy generated by an inter-universe exchange.

It definitely made an impression on me the first time I read it, but I didn’t think it would be of much interest the second time around. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. The first segment, introducting the nature of the free energy source and some of the problems that form the core issues of the novel, was quite compelling. It’s mainly focused on politics in the scientific establishment that’s grown up around the energy source, and I felt it was done relatively well.

The second part is from the point of view of the inhabitants of the other universe, and I think that this is the real strength of the book. The social structure of the aliens is fairly simple but still interesting, and Asimov does a good job giving the various aliens compelling personalities even though those personalities aren’t complex. The overall construction of the alien race is itself an impressive achievement on Asimov’s part.

Unfortunately, the third section of the book is significantly weaker than the earlier two. In this section Asimov moves the action from Earth to the Moon, which has been colonized relatively recently in the novel’s timeline. His depiction of what the Moon’s culture would be like, and how they would differentiate themselves from Earth-born humans, all come across as unconvincing. His characterizations in this section of the novel are also the weakest, and further this section involves a romance between two humans that simply doesn’t seem interesting in the least.

This is less of a “classic” work than Ringworld, or for that matter Asimov’s Foundation, but it might well be a better novel than either of those. It’s significantly more self-contained than those others, and the aliens in the middle section probably have better character development than any of the other characters in either Ringworld or The Gods Themselves.

Lastly, I think it’s interesting that critical female characters in both The Gods Themselves and Ringworld are the results of breeding programs (not necessarily overtly recognized as such) and who as a result have certain capacities which are far beyond the human norm.

2 Responses to “The Gods Themselves Review”

  1. TeKaO Says:

    Could you lend it to me when I am in SF? :)

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Of course!

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