The Gods Themselves: A Novel

The Gods Themselves: A Novel

by Isaac Asimov

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In the twenty-second century Earth obtains limitless, free energy from a source science little understands: an exchange between Earth and a parallel universe, using a process devised by the aliens. But even free energy has a price. The transference process itself will eventually lead to the destruction of the Earth's Sun—and of Earth itself.

Only a few know the terrifying truth—an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun. They know the truth—but who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy—but who will believe? These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to Earth's survival.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307792389
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/04/2011
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 85,331
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Isaac Asimov began his Foundation series at the age of twenty-one, not realizing that it would one day be considered a cornerstone of science fiction. During his legendary career, Asimov penned more than 470 books on subjects ranging from science to Shakespeare to history, though he was most loved for his award-winning science fiction sagas, which include the Robot, Empire, and Foundation series. Named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science Fiction Writers of America, Asimov entertained and educated readers of all ages for close to five decades. He died, at the age of seventy-two, in April 1992.

Date of Birth:

January 20, 1920

Date of Death:

April 6, 1992

Place of Birth:

Petrovichi, Russia

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Columbia University, B.S. in chemistry, 1939; M.A. in chemistry, 1941; Ph.D. in biochemistry, 1948

Read an Excerpt

"No good!" said Lamont, sharply. "I didn't get anywhere." He had a brooding look about him that went with his deep-set eyes and the slight asymmetry of his long chin. There was a brooding look about him at the best of limes, and this was not the best of limes. His second formal interview with Hallam had been a greater fiasco than the first.

"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."

"Plutonium-186? 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 was impossible.

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Gods Themselves 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the author's few books dealing with intelligence other than humans and human-made robots, and his only extended treatment of sexuality among extraterrestrials. The three parts of the novel take place on Earth, in a parallel universe with different values for basic constants of physics, and on the Moon, illustrating the three parts of the quote from Schiller cited in the foreword, "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain." Written in the 1980's (as a result of a challenge to write about "alien sex", according to the author's memoirs), the story is an amusing yet salient lesson about the danger of fooling with the natural environment (in a way which, thankfully, seems to be against our current understanding of natural law) to obtain seemingly free energy, and a logical resolution to the impasse between the antagonist's warnings and short-sided policies of humans and aliens. The reader should have a nodding acquaintance with quantum physics, but given the author's famous explanatory talents, no more than needed to follow the plot of a Star Trek episode. It is not for younger children since it does involve vague, sanitized descriptions of ALIEN sexuality within the context of the aliens' family structure, and of the danger of low-gravity sex between a new immigrant from Earth and a native of a human lunar colony. At least a middle school understanding of both the science and the sexual implications would be advisable. I shipped this copy to my grown son, who has never read it, so he may also review this book from his perspective.
John Aveni More than 1 year ago
In the 1970s, this was the book that made me rank Asimov above the other sci-fi greats, and it hasn't really dated itself since. With our continued dependence on fossil fuels, this cautionary tale about the perils of a scientific miracle energy source that seems too good to be true remains chillingly plausible. Sadly, the least believable part is the idea that our heroes may be able to avert the crisis before it's too late.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, first published in 1972, won both of the biggest awards in science fiction: the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. It has always been one of my favorite books of one of my favorite authors. Much of the plot can be summarized by the lyrics of ¿Modern English¿ in ¿I¿ll Melt With You¿:I'll stop the world and melt with youYou've seen the difference andIt's getting better all the timeThere's nothing you and I won't doI'll stop the world and melt with youThe book concerns our own universe and a parallel, or ¿para¿ universe. In the para-universe, there are three types of beings, a Rational, an Emotional, and a Parental. As adults they enter into triads, and to reproduce, they ¿melt¿ together with one another. The Emotional thins, and the other two immerse themselves in her shimmer and in each other. They melt for days at a time, and through this process merge into a oneness that provides ineffable joy.The focus in the paraverse is on Odeen, the Rational, Dua, the Emotional, and Tritt, the Parental. Another group, the ¿hard ones¿ do not melt together, but seem to exist as teachers to the rationals, bringing them to adulthood under their tutelage. And critically, in this universe, energy is food.Back in our universe, energy is just as vital, if not in such a direct sense, and so when energy-releasing material is exchanged from the para-universe to ours, scientists jump on the opportunity. Electron Pumps multiply to facilitate the exchange, and earth is soon freed from any energy dependence.But there are doubters in both universes: is it a good idea to disturb the laws of a universe? What might happen to the earth as the balance of nuclear charges becomes disrupted?This is a lovely book, for many reasons. For one, Asimov¿s earth has its problems, but he doesn¿t create the nightmarish dystopias that characterize contemporary science fiction. Secondly, he is not afraid to teach his audience science, and he remains, even after death, an enormously popular ¿popularizer¿ of esoteric concepts in physics. And finally, his romantic visions of love are unparalleled (and unlike Heinlein, for example, a respect for the intelligence and contributions of women are part of any world Asimov creates). For anyone who has ever thought of sex as a way to merge, to become one, and to experience fully the essence of one another, this book is for you. For anyone who has not read this, this book is for you. In my opinion, it is one of the best science fiction books ever.
michaeleconomy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this book is ok. Its pretty creative, and i like most of the characters, but there are parts that kinda drone on.
aarondesk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fine book with an interesting twist on multiple universes and how these universes could interact. Asimov introduces some keen ideas that make the book worth reading. The big theme of the book seems to be how arrogant humanity is.
Waianuhea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book kicks so much ass! Not sure what really draws me in but I've re-read it a few times now and definitely will again. I love parallel stories that intersect. I love the holycrap-we-gotta-save-the-earth storyline.
truncoxx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It has been a very long time since I read this book but I remember loving it. It is science fiction but based on a lot of true chemistry facts. Some of the chemistry parts are hard to follow but the overall story is quite well put together. The author presents three stories that are intertwined together into one amazing major story. Whether you like science fiction normally or not, I would definitely recommend this story about technology, advancement and love.
SeekingMuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It shows an alien culture that is truly alien. It is not an alien invasion story. Its about sharing technology and discovery and reminding ourselves that not everyone, human or not, has our best interest in heart.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having read a lot of science fiction over the years, and being a big fan of Isaac Asimov, I can't for the life of me imagine how I neglected to read this masterpiece. Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, in my opinion, this is Asimov's best work and one of the finest science fiction works I've encountered. The book is written in three distinct parts, seperated by location, though the time frame is more or less contemporaneous (circa 2070). The first section of the novel sets the stage and takes place on Earth. Through contact with a parallel universe, with radically different physical laws, a source of free and plentiful energy is discovered, a revolutionary development for human society. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the remainder of the novel deals with complications arising from the ensuing Electron Pump. The second part of the novel is simply mind blowing. In it, Asimov has created an alien culture (beings occupying the aforementioined parallel universe) that is so fascinating and complex as to be well deserving of the awards which this novel has garnered. Were this 50-75 page chapter released as a short story, it would be deserving of the title, "Best Science Fiction Short Story Ever Written". The last two pages of the chapter contain two different, shocking plot twists that will literally cause goose bumps. Finally, the third chapter of the story results in an elegant resolution of the crisis presented in the first two. Set on the Moon, Asimov creates a lunar colony, that while not entirely original, has aspects I've not seen before. The creativity, while not up to the standards of the second chapter (how could it be) is nevertheless top rate. The story involves complex physics, which Asimov explains well and simply enough to be understood by the average non-scientific layman. This science fiction work is among the best novels I've ever encountered in any genre. I've read that Asimov considered it his best work, and I agree completely. If you're not a science fiction fan, take two hours and read the second chapter alone, as a short story. It will be well worth your time.
aviatorz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely positively MEMORABLE! A classic right along with Dragons Egg by Robert L. Forward. I read it the first time in the late '60's or early '70's and again in 1999 or 2000, and plan to read it again. It stands out in my memory even more clearly than the Foundation Series. With the new developments in string theory, speculation about hidden dimensions, and parallel universes with different physical laws, its more timely than ever.
coffyman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Somewhat confusing, but interesting concepts.
Shmuel510 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Asimov's masterpiece, rebutting charges that he couldn't write about aliens, sex, or women. The first part and last sections, on Earth and the Moon, are good; the middle portion, with the aliens, is brilliant.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classic" books, then write reports on whether or not they deserve the labelBook #12: The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov (1972)The story in a nutshell:Originally published as three interrelated novellas in magazine form, Isaac Asimov's 1972 The Gods Themselves is a "hard science-fiction" tale in every sense of the term; so look out, because things are about to get a little complicated...Set in the year 2100, part 1 starts with a prickly and arrogant scientist named Frederick Hallam, who accidentally discovers one day that someone has swapped a dusty old test tube of congealed tungsten in his lab for what appears to be a beaker full of plutonium-186, apparently as a practical joke...except for the fact that plutonium-186 should theoretically not be able to actually exist in our universe. And indeed, after lots of testing and theorizing, the scientific community determines that the mysterious plutonium is actually the work of a parallel universe (or "para-universe" as they call it), one filled with people either smarter than us or more evolutionarily advanced, who have figured out how to "pump" such material into our own universe in the hope (presumably) that we will pump tungsten back to them, thus creating a form of free energy for both worlds based on the nuclear reactions these elements have in their unnatural environments. The remainder of part 1, then, concerns the growing conflict between the now Nobel-winning Hallam (who is desperately trying to hide the fact that he doesn't understand how any of this actually works) and another young physicist named Lamont, who has become convinced that this energy exchange spells the doom of our universe, even while leaving this theoretical para-universe in fine shape (in fact, maybe even better than before if our sun just happens to go supernova, which Lamont is convinced more and more will exactly happen the longer we let this "electron pump" run).In part 2, then, we suddenly shift to this para-universe only talked about in theory during part 1; and it is indeed a strange place, a planet that appears to actually have two different forms of intelligent life, so-called "Hard Ones" (their equivalent of humans) and also what they call "Soft Ones" (eight-foot-tall gelatinous amoebas, who through the different laws of physics in this para-universe actually exist in only a semi-solid form, so that they "eat" by directly absorbing nutrients from sunlight and "have sex" by basically melting into each other). The plot of part 2 is much too difficult to summarize here; but let's just say that it takes a detailed look at one of the three-member "family units" of this Soft society (a Rational, an Emotional, and a Parental), and their growing realization not only about what adult life has in store for them in the near future, not only what the relationship is between their species and the advanced Hard Ones, but also the fact that what Lamont in part 1 theorized is actually true, that this energy exchange actually does threaten to cause a supernova on the Earth side, and that the para-universe of their own side would actually benefit if such a thing were to happen.(WARNING: The next paragraph reveals important information about the end of this book.)In part 3, then, we switch back to our universe but again travel to a strange society, Asimov's version of what a permanent Moon population might be like a century after breaking off from Earth culture (which is exotic, sexy and highly titillating, by the way -- imagine an entire populace who because of selective breeding all look vaguely like the love-child of Angelina Jolie and Tiger Woods, who foster an environment of casual nudity and even mo
Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite Asimov book, though this is supposed to be a 'classic'. Like a lot of classics, this is deep, mysterious and confusing.
clong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a pretty good book. In many ways it is "clever": the plot, the aliens, the "science," the depiction of academia, the alien races, the ultimate resolution of the looming crisis. On the other hand, characterization is fairly weak. The only character in the book with whom I felt any empathy was Dua, the emotional third of the alien triad from the middle story. The motivations of and relationships between the human characters were largely unconvincing (especially in the third episode). And I would say that both in terms of the alien society described in the second episode, and the lunar society described in the third episode, others have come up with much more imaginative and convincing models. The obsession with nudity on the moon struck me as particularly out of place; was that supposed to increase sales to young male readers? As an aside, the first edition hard back that I checked out from the library had a very amusing photo of Asimov on the back cover. . . Wild hair and long sideburns, an action shot of the author at his hip and cosmopolitan best (despite the thick nerdy glasses), standing on a New York street corner hailing a cab.
name99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let's face it, Asimov is not an especially artistic writer. But he can be gripping, and is sometimes so in this book. The first and last sections are fairly standard, but the middle section where he describes the aliens of a world with somewhat different physics from our own, is quite riveting. I really wish he or someone else had taken the idea further; I can't think of a description of more alien aliens, the only thing that comes close is Vernor Vinge's doggie people in A Fire upon the Deep. But, of course, writing more about them than Asimov did might have destroyed the illusion --- too many explanations and too much plot might have reduced them to the standard "humans in different bodies" of most aliens.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed, classic Asimov.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It moved way to slow for me. I quickly got bored with it and stopped halfway threw.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book that got me started on science fiction. This is highly original and inspirational work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very imaginative and creative. There's even a chance it will tug at your heart strings.
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