OFF THE SHELF: “The Gods Themselves”

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

The Gods Themselves“Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.” Schiller said that a few centuries back and so echoed Isaac Asimov in a tale that encompasses more than a few things that science is now studying these very days. In The Gods Themselves, winner of the best science fiction novel of the year award in 1972, Asimov proves he is a master of hard science fiction, touching on such concepts as free energy, chaos theory and the laws of Conservation of Energy and Thermodynamics – and that’s just the surface.

In this amazingly interesting novel, mankind makes a para-Universe discovery that becomes known as the Electron Pump. A higher technology alien species in an alternate universe pinpoints the Earth, and begins to trade metals across a gate-like void. In the process of this trade, the aliens receive tungsten while mankind receives uranium – but it’s uranium-186, which if you know your physics, is a highly radioactive and unstable form of the metal. As a matter of fact, by our laws of the universe it shouldn’t even exist. But since it comes from outside our universe, it can and does exist. But the beautiful part is that as the laws of our universe permeate the metal, it does begin to degrade and in the process emits energy. Free, plentiful and non-waste emitting energy. The aliens, with their universal laws, find energy in tungsten in a similar yet opposite way we find energy in U-186.

But there is, as one can expect, a problem with this method of energy transference, and that problem is the very basic and fundamental Law of Thermodynamics. As the two parallel universes continue to contact each other, the laws of each begin to seep across the gate along with the elements being transferred. One of the end results would be that our sun would explode when the nuclear reaction reaches a critical level as the laws of our universe continue to be slowly but dramatically evened out to the laws of the para-Universe. But because of mankind’s dream – unlimited supply of energy with no work and no emissions – only one man, Peter Lamont, is willing to accept the truth. The story is therefore a quest to warn mankind about the possible outcome of this supposed free energy.

The twist in the novel comes when radio-chemist Dr. Ben Denison begins to find himself believing in Lamont’s unaccepted theories. But rather than find a way to put a stop to the Electron Pump, Denison finds a way to combat its effects through the careful application of chaos theory and infinitesimalism. It’s quite a stunning ending, really…uh, if you’re into that sort of science and geekism.

Highlights of the book besides the already mentioned primary plot, which in and of itself is fascinating, is the alien race from the para-Universe. Some time is spent there as well, where the Positron Pump brings them free energy. The lifecycle, relations and social structure that Asimov developed for this race was very ingenious. The triple-sexes and the birthing of new life was well thought out and executed with great thought to the process. Also, back in our universe the culture and society Isaac developed on the moon colony was also very well thought out, with much account given to the physical and psychological effects of living in such an environment. The Gods Themselves surely leaves nothing to the imagination and explains everything in excellent scientific terms and with very solid theories.

Overall, The Gods Themselves was a brilliant novel touching upon brilliant concepts with a brilliantly designed plot, cultural ideas and permeated with solid thinking and hard science. This is the second time I’ve read the book, previously being something like two decades ago, and it still stands as a gem from the genre and only got better with mankind’s current work as chaos theory and free energy become mainstream science and less shunned alchemy.

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“The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov
Published by Fawcett Crest Books
Copyright © 1972 by Isaac Asimov
ISBN: 0-449-23756-7

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