Gods Themselves, The by Isaac Asimov

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Book Information  
AuthorIsaac Asimov
TitleGods Themselves, The
GenreScience Fiction
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by 
(Jul 02, 2008)

Okay, after reading the book, interpreting the feedback, and comparing summaries with other writers I have come to formulate my speculation and reception of this controversial book. First I must point out that I analyzed this book from a literary point of view rather than science fiction which is why most people don't see what I saw in this book. I also disregard his other works and base all my OPINIONS on this book alone. This therefore is not fact but my synopsis.

First I realized it was written in three sections with the titles forming a quote, which I find is the hidden theme; "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain?" I had reviewed what I read throughout the book and pieced the meaning of the rhetorical question. Well see how this ties is later though. First part: Against stupidity, I closely saw the relationship between politics \and science. It was clear that Dr. Hallam stumbled across the plutonium, which was the base for the electron pump. Lamont however doesn't believe that Hallam is the creator of this "pump". After his investigation he realizes that another universe is it's creator. He then challenges Hallam who mocks him. Lamont is jealous but Hallam is adores for this pump with false credit. I think the author was trying to portray how one scientist gets all the recognition while the others are often unheard of even if they were involved in the project as well. I then realized the meaning of "Against Stupidity". Lamont discovers from the real creators that the pump is dangerous, very dangerous and should be stopped. I try to compare this to nature itself. Because Lamont didn't really know who or where this universe is it can symbolize the life that nature is telling him it is a bad idea. I then realize the ending when Lamont has English plain proof that the pump is dangerous the Politicians and Scientists turn their nose to it because they are getting rich and it solves a lot of modern problems. It also shows how Lamont the only guy who believes it is a real danger is afraid to stand up to these big powerhouses. Which I think symbolizes humans natural fright of doing the right thing even when outnumbered and outspoken. Overall summary of part one, is that When faced with big disastrous problems that scientist don't know much about or poorly researched (Pollutions that cause Global warming, carelessly allowing the creation of a destructive bomb symbolically [Atomic Bomb])and Humanities natural fear of people who hold intangible power over them (Politicians, Gods).

Then we get to the second part the main part that ties a lot of things together (after reading the book however). "The Gods Themselves" references here based on the part one refers to these people the creators of the pump, and the end to all of societies problems. We learn about 3 different types of alien species. One in particular Dua. This is my favorite chapter because it shows tons of juicy elements and references to culture. I, after reading the chapter, went back and read again and reflected on the content and pieced together the significance of this "new world". I realized that the aliens had a symbolic meaning to the human race which described in the book after coming together form a human like creature! Rationals: are described as the scientific part of the aliens, they are in constant search to formulate questions and seek answers to justify unexplainable or odd events. They are given notably male pronouns which will come into play later. Parentals: are the nurturing aliens who show that they have one mission to complete and that is to reproduce and make more of themselves for their own existence. They are also given masculine pronouns. Emotionals: These are the emotional part of aliens, they show unstable behavior and are only needed for melting (sex) between the parentals and rationals, they also can go inside of things which is symbolic to. They are given feminine pronouns which is very important. After realizing the analysis of each character I realized the importance of each character and alien. These three aliens were the basic make up of the human sociology. The three character Odeen, Tritt, and Dua make up; which I believe Asimov separated them apart for a reason, to show i'm basic simple form human society. Odeen and Tritt are two aliens who are were bound to be in love. They are both described as males and each have jobs. Dua however is described as a female she has no job except to collect energy and melt when the rational and parental want to. Dua shows great independence when she explains at one point does not want to melt. Dua I believe symbolizes how women are often looked to by men for social interaction and share their ideas (Rational) and also to produce offspring because it is their job (Parental). The part in the book that describes Dua as melting into a rock where she feels hidden symbolically states how women are sometimes hidden in the eyes of everyone else. She also comments how other emotionals (women) have no problem with the system that lay before them. Dua and Odeen become very close when Odeen shares his ideas with Dua who seems to understand and become relaxed (which opens her up to sex) and she apparently remembers and learns. Tritt is left out and feels left out so he tries to nag Odeen who says that he wouldn't understand. This explores the internal conflict of human anatomy. How one side seems to conflict with other. Dua one day gets so intrigued by all the science that Odeen shared with her and finds out the nature of the pump and how it will destroy people who they don't even know about for their own personal gain. She eventually sends the message to the other universe (The one Lamont receives) telling them stop before they are in danger however she cannot form it so they understand. Later Odeen and Tritt find her and force her to melt in which they form Estwald. This is symbolic because Outside information I compared him to Willhelm Estwald, the creator of fertilizers and explosives. No coincidence. They decide to continue the process even knowing a civilization will be destroyed. As I said this is very symbolic and juicy with references to a lot of modern culture.

And then I come to part three: Contend in Vain?. This part is very ironic and shows two parts of a separated humanity. Denison who was with Lamont and figured the destructive power of the pump fled because he didn't believe that there was nothing wrong with the pump. This moon world is very literal and I found it confusing at first but understood soon it's importance. Denison meets an Intuitionist, a human with super natural Intuition who says that moon born humans and regular humans are different because of their taboo. They made use of the pump to create a moon world but she insults the regular humans who are greedy and constantly fixed on little things that they try to make themselves fell content. After she shows Denison her idea of a better world (Utopia) where human interaction is different. Denison is pleased and is becoming seduced into this nice world which he increasingly likes. They then talk about using the pump to move the moon away from earth because they are different and they are in plain form a self sustaining society in which they no longer need earth. This would therefore escape the imminent destruction of the ignorant (described by the intuitionist) humans who are have already taken in part in their own destruction.

I have read the book three times and discussed it with several of my teachers and once of my professors and we all have different interpretations but they have complemented me on my analysis and they agree with several facts I have pointed out. I said the quot shows great significance which it does. After all the opinionated facts I had presented I then connected it all back to the quote: "Against stupidity, the Gods themselves contend in vain." I believe Asimov meant this as even though something may be terrible or stupid, people who hold power (Gods)[Politicians, Halam, The Aliens] will still continue with their discoveries with pride and happiness because it made things easier. When put to today or back then when this book was written during the days of the Cold War, scientists and politicians were creating things without concern for the dangerous effects they would have.Such as the A bomb, satellites, Modern Combat,Nuclear Power each of these have started problems with today. Therefore Asimov is telling us something we all know but care nothing about. That is why I love this book and it's subtle message which deters from science fiction and turns more into an Allegory almost because of it's references to modern society. As I said this is all formulated off Opinion base don facts found in the book. You may disagree or agree, I would however like your feedback

Submitted by Archren 
(Jul 26, 2006)

The theme of this book could hardly be more obvious. If you string together the titles of the three sections that make up the novel, you get the quote: “Against stupidity, the Gods themselves contend in vain.” No one ever accused Isaac Asimov of being subtle. Indeed, the overall story is one of science triumphing over the problems caused by science. At its core is a statement of faith in the future of science and mankind.

In the first section we learn about the invention of the Electron Pump. It transfers elements between two universes, and due to differences in the natural laws of the two universes, each side gets energy generation from the transfer. It’s pollutant free and seemingly inexhaustible, and quickly becomes the answer to Earth’s energy problems. However, we all know that you have to look gift horses such as these in the mouth. As we might expect, not all is well with this future of free energy. There are possible consequences that may be dire. However, scientists have reputations at stake, and politicians are loath to inform their constituents that they may need to shut down the goose that is laying golden eggs. In the first section of the book, all the various forms of human folly are on show: ego, arrogance, poll-driven politics, revenge, and sheer bloody-mindedness. Politically it’s hard to read it in this day and age without thinking of the striking parallels with the Global Warming issue.

In the second story, Asimov moves into an arena he had never before covered in novel form: aliens. This section is very different from what came before. It is soft science fiction, sociological in focus. The aliens in the universe at the other side of the Electron Pump are beings of mostly energy. They have a triune social structure, where three different “genders” are needed to raise offspring (Asimov assigns male pronouns to two of the roles and female pronouns to the remaining one). He gives them taboos and personalities and delves deeply into their relationships. The science plot fades into the background. As he’s doing this, he makes some strong commentary about women’s roles in society and how they are often trivialized or ignored when they start to take on male gender roles. It is an amazing statement from an author who was hardly known for stridently political science fiction.

In the third section, we return to our universe, but the action moves to the Moon. The theme of women and their advancement is continued, however, with a quasi-romantic triangle plot reflecting the alien relationships from before. I felt that he undermined some of the strength of his argument about women by making Selene, his female protagonist in the Moon section, an “Intuitionist.” Essentially he is saying that science must be strengthened by acknowledging the role that intuition plays, and also needs to be combined with compassion in order to truly be the vehicle towards the future that mankind needs. However, it could almost be misinterpreted to indicate that he feels that women can’t do math but could be useful to “real” scientists anyway. As a long time Asimov fan, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In this novel, Asimov seems to respond to all the typical criticisms of his writing: no characterization, apolitical, too focused on engineering problem-solving, prudish. Instead we get explicit alien sex and naked inhabitants of the Moon, lots of sociological speculation and comments on the folly of politics. He may have been responding to the direction that Heinlein took science fiction in the Sixties with “Stranger in a Strange Land.” It’s no surprise that he won a Hugo for this work, as different as it is from everything else he did.

Submitted by Shehzad Rehman 
(Nov 23, 2001)

Asimov considered this one of his finest works, and its easy to see why. Not only does it contain an insightful, thought-provoking plot, an unusual writing pattern, and some of the best portrayal of aliens that I have ever had the pleasure of reading, it has one of the most unusual heroines in SF- Dua. Asimov was greatly praised in this book for taking on sexual themes as well as aliens, topics which were considered his major weaknesses. Not only does he pull it off, but he pulls it off brilliantly. Read it, to know all about one of the great SF books of all time. Asimov rarely wrote about aliens and was rather prudish when dealing with sexual matters. In this book he tackles both and does a great job. The alternate-universe section seems at once exotic, yet grounded in enough familiarity for the reader to empathize with the central character. The first section, written in an unorthodox manner, is engaging and skilfully builds the story. The concluding section, probably weaker than the other two, nonetheless remains a very fine piece of work and brings the book to a satisfying conclusion. A true masterpiece of creative skill, and a book which is not afraid to make a bold statement, no true SF fan should pass this one by. "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain." --Schiller

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