Review of “The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov

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 by 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 you
You’ve seen the difference and
It’s getting better all the time
There’s nothing you and I won’t do
I’ll stop the world and melt with you…”

The 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 out, 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 the characters of Odeen – the Rational; Dua – the Emotional; and Tritt – the Parental. There is one additional group – the “hard ones,” who 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 the home universe of the story (our own), 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, he gives to any world he creates a respect for the intelligence and contributions of women).

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

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. And in fact, in my opinion, for anyone who has not read this, this book is for you. I think it is one of the best science fiction books ever written.

Finally, it is only appropriate to feature this “song-book match” – the video for Modern English playing “I’ll Melt With You”:


About rhapsodyinbooks

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15 Responses to Review of “The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov

  1. bermudaonion says:

    I’m not crazy about science fiction, so I’ve never read any of Asimov’s work – you’ve made this one sound interesting, though.

  2. Margot says:

    Thank you. I like it when I can step outside my normal (midwestern) self and really appreciate those things I normally don’t like. Your post had two: science fiction and whatever kind of music that is called. (Sorry, I know I’m showing my age here.) If you hadn’t printed the poem at the beginning, however, I wouldn’t have “gotten’ the book’s message nor would I have understood the words being sung. So again, thank you.

    I like this “Favorite Reads” meme. I’ve been following it and I’m thinking of joining in too. I’m working on my list.

  3. Alyce says:

    I love the inclusion of the modern song to help describe the book. I haven’t read this particular Asimov book, so I will keep it in mind when I’m in the mood for a sci-fi classic.

  4. Belle says:

    I like this Favorite Reads meme, too. It makes me want to go back and re-read some of my favorites. Asimov was one of my top reads when I was a teenager – I loved everything he wrote, and I was so in awe of his writing abilities. Did you know, he never wrote a second draft??! I haven’t read The God Themselves, though. I think I should remedy that. And I think I’m going to pull I, Asimov, off the shelf too; I remember just loving his memoir so much. Thank you for bringing back all these lovely memories for me!

  5. Zetta says:

    Ahh…brings back memories of high school! Good memories from that song, not so good memories of being forced to read Asimov and not liking the book that we read (which I’ve since forgotten entirely). But this title does sound sophisticated and intriguing…thanks for the memories!

  6. Rita says:

    Great post! Made me want to go back and re-read the book! I read it back in my science fiction days – don’t read much Scifi anymore – but this reminded me of why I liked it!

  7. Staci says:

    Love that song and I haven’t read Asimov because I honestly don’t care for sci-fi. But your eloquent thoughts here have me very curious to re-think my decision.

  8. Lisa says:

    I’m not a big sci-fi reader but I can’t really say why because so much of it sounds interesting. That guy from Modern English? One of the reasons MTV should not have been invented–there are so many songs I like so much better if I can’t picture the band!

  9. Wisteria says:

    Rhapsody…This was a terrific post. I enjoyed it so much, I read it twice.
    I will definitely take you up on your recommendation. I have already written the title down in my little black book. I used to read a lot of sci-fi in the late….well a while ago. LOL.. I haven’t read a lot lately, but when I read sci-fi it was during a time when the genre was in my opinion, offering very high quality. Asimov was in that period. Thanks again…really great info.

  10. Pingback: Rereading: I, Asimov: A Memoir, by Isaac Asimov - Ms. Bookish

  11. Marie says:

    wow, that’s quite a strong endorsement! we might have this at home as my husband is a pretty dedicated scifi reader. i’ll check around for it!

  12. Jenners says:

    I love how you worked in the song to what sounds like a very cerebral book! I wonder if Modern English had this in mind when they wrote the song? :0

  13. Pingback: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov « The Golden Age Of SyFy

  14. Pingback: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov (1972) « The Golden Age Of Sci-Fi

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