I Wanna Be Literated #249

I Wanna Be Literated #249

Monday, 14 February 2022

The Gods Themselves
by Isaac Asimov

Try as I may, as much as I want to branch out when reading sci-fi, I always come back to my man Isaac Asimov. I don’t know what about his books appeal to me so much. Is it the mystery or intrigue surrounding his stories? Is it the relatable heroes? Maybe it’s the way he imagines the future, in such a fantastical way but also somehow inevitable. Maybe it’s all of those things. One thing I know for sure, when it comes to good, compelling, hard sci-fi books, I’m almost never let down by Asimov. I don’t think I’ll ever read all of his books, but every year I crack a new one open hoping to reach the end of my deep dive with Asimov, and every time I just fall in deeper.

The Gods Themselves is the best Asimov books I’ve read that’s unrelated to robots or the Foundation Saga. It takes place over three parts. In the first, we’re introduced to the circumstances that have led to the advances in human civilization, the proton pump (a limitless energy source), how it works (sort of), and who is responsible for it (or are they?). The second part takes place in an alternate universe with beings unlike ourselves, gas-like or soft in shape, with different social structures, who use photosynthesis to survive. Their world is dying and they create this proton pump to save themselves. The third part takes place on the moon, where some scientists are trying to reveal the dangers of the proton pump and come up with an alternative. In each part we are introduced to new characters and a new society with its own complex politics. After getting excited about the stakes in part one, it’s kind of a bummer switching gears so much and learning about the parallel universe beings, and the whole pacing comes to a grinding halt. I have to admit, I used Wikipedia to understand the biology so that I could focus more on the events happening here. Even so, you have to hand it to Isamov —  he’s creating a whole new universe with its own drama in just a hundred pages!

As always, Asimov presents the stakes with some heavy science, going deep into physics and astronomy, sometimes hard to follow but spoken about with such authority that it also seems obvious. There’s also enough love and jealousy thrown into this story to keep things juicy. I only wish we got to see the climax of what everyone in this book is working towards. Then again, the journey is also pretty spectacular.

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