It seems incredible that with around a hundred titles published in the SF Masterworks series, this is the first novel by Isaac Asimov. But I guess it's better late than never. The Gods Themselves was first published in the early 1970s and won both Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel, a rare double which was richly deserved. The novel is written in three sections, the first concentrating on the concept and invention of the Electron Pump, a potential solution to the World's energy problems, by exchanging material with a parallel universe where the laws of physics are subtely different. However the resultant changes in the strong nuclear force may be more immediate than predicted. The alien counterpart in the parallel universe seem aware and may be trying to warn of future catastrophe. The second section concentrates on the problem from the perspective of the alien intelligence, and the final section presents a solution to humanity. In my opinion the mid-sction contains the most unique and intriguing portrait of an alien species and alternative universe found in any work of SF. The concepts of the Electon Pump and the Pionizer are also amazing in their concepts and prescience, bearing in mind the speculation in theoretical physics about the existence of alternative universes with different values for the fundamental forces. As ever, great SF is ahead of it's time.
You are going to love The Gods Themselves completely, or not at all. But you cannot deny its cleverness and ambition.
It is an essential addition to the SF canon because it is stylistically different from almost any other novel: a triptych of mysteries, tied together by an entirely whimsical scientific premise. The unfolding of this bizarre thought experiment is sublimely elegant and the whole story is about scientists and the nature of science.
There are three parts to this story, each in a different style. Part One is written as the journal of an academic whose discoveries are suppressed by his seniors when he inconveniently points out the risks of a seemingly limitless source of cheap, clean energy. Part Two made this book famous; we step over into a parallel universe, the source of the energy exchange that allows the scientific revolutions described in Part One. There are two mysteries in this second section: The key mystery is investigated by Dua, the protagonist, a jellyfish-like alien who becomes a self-taught scientist and discovers the sinister motive behind the exchange of energy with the human universe. The second mystery is for us; what is the true nature of the alien race we are confronted with? We see through this one pretty quickly, and it's a shame that Asimov didn't add a bit more biodiversity to his oceanic otherworld to make it less obvious, but nevertheless, it's all very neat and satisfying when the mystery is revealed.
Both of the first two sub-stories work well in Asimov's characteristic style; logical, professorial exposition, simple characters, and little need for description. ...The gears grind a little in the third act; Part three is a more traditional sci-fi story about a human researcher, visiting a space colony on the moon. This section is essential for tying up the plot, and it is rounded off so neatly that you forgive Asimov his missteps, but nevertheless this is the least successful of the three acts, with some awkwardly-played romance elements.
In spite of its failings, this is Asimov's greatest achievement as a writer and one of the most individual and worthy pieces of hard science fiction that will ever be conceived.
It was ok. It seemed to be three books combined into one and the section about the parapeople I skipped because it was boring. The characters were twee and the writing about the sexual situation on the moon was silly considering the book was written in 1972. Also there was too much info-dump.