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Reviews of Gods Themselves, the (1972)

Review by kadambi (2008-06-27)
This book starts of great. The first part "Against Stupidity" moves at a good pace to keep the reader engrossed. The best part of the book.

The problem starts with the second part "The God's Themselves". Asimov's description of Alien life-forms and Alien sex in painstaking detail is tedious. It never really takes off.

The third part "Contend in Vain" is probably one of the most anti-climactic endings that Asimov has ever written. The plot really drifts off aimlessly at this point. The characters are pretty insipid.

Not the best of Asimov, I'm afraid.

(This review refers to the 1972 version titled “The Gods Themselves”)

Review by clong (2005-09-30)
This was a pretty good book. In many ways it is "clever": the plot, the aliens, the "science," the depiction of academia, the alien races, the ultimate resolution of the looming crisis.

On the other hand, characterization is fairly weak. The only character in the book with whom I felt any empathy was Dua, the emotional third of the alien triad from the middle story. The motivations of and relationships between the human characters were largely unconvincing (especially in the third episode). And I would say that both in terms of the alien society described in the second episode, and the lunar society described in the third episode, others have come up with much more imaginative and convincing models. The obsession with nudity on the moon struck me as particularly out of place; was that supposed to increase sales to young male readers?

As an aside, the first edition hard back that I checked out from the library had a very amusing photo of Asimov on the back cover. . . Wild hair and long sideburns, an action shot of the author at his hip and cosmopolitan best (despite the thick nerdy glasses), standing on a New York street corner hailing a cab.

Review by ropie (2005-06-06)
This book is fairly typical of Asimov's mid-period work, I think: it takes a big idea from the edge of scientific theory, multiplies it to include the side-effects of said idea being implemented, presents the idea from a human and alien point of view, then populates the narrative with annoyed scientists and politicians.

So we know it's Asimov, and the style is largely readable as always with even the bizarre alien world of the parallel universe described in careful and understandable detail. However, the problem I had as I read was the amount of extraneous detail that contributed nothing to the plot or my comprehension of the events. Certainly, parts of the book were fascinating but after chapters of reading about ecto-plasmic family life and new low-gravity luna sports I felt I was being over informed about issues that were not leading anywhere and not particularly interesting.

'The God's Themselves' contains some incredible ideas and even credible characters that we can empathise with; unfotunately it also contains too many words and really rambles in places. Splitting the novel into three sections was largely a success I think, dealing with the same issue from three very different viewpoints, but whereas the first and second chapters contain all the interest and insight, the final chapter set on the moon seems very dated in comparison. It adds very little to the story except by tying up a few loose ends, and there is no real revelation though Asimov does his best to keep us in suspense as though something will happen.

Perhaps this is not really a failing of the book but more to do with my expectations of what a final chapter should be. After all, the best stories do not always end with a bang. What is given to us in chapters one and two is thoughtful and inventive science-fiction; maybe I just found the final chapter too pedestrian. Still, however, a book worth reading but in my opinion it should probably have finished at the end of chapter two.

Review by spiphany (2003-12-14)
This is probably one of Asimov’s best works. Some readers might have problems with the way the book is written (as three separate novellas, two of which are told in a rather nonlinear fashion), but I find the symmetry and careful organization of the book provides a sort of framing effect for the story which is quite nice. The characters and background are quite complex and well thought out, especially the beings of the para-universe in the second part of the book. He also portrays them in such a way that they seem comprehensible, not overly strange and exotic, although feminists might take issue with his use of pronouns for the three genders (‘emotionals’ are ‘she’, ‘rationals’ and ‘parentals’ are ‘he’)

Review by WWagner (2003-08-05)
An unusual and very original book.

It plays with the laws of physics (in different universes) and extents the effects to energy sources, environmental problems, politics, and even a toally alien sexuality. Like Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov is thus leaving his asexual beinnings behind in his later works.

The book title is an excerpt of a well known aphorism by Schiller about stupidity (and the fight against it), which is a key aspect in this novel.

BTW: I will never understand, why the title was completely changed (and destroyed) in the german translation, ("Lunatico, oder die andere Welt") although it is cited from an aphorism that is oroginally german.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2012
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