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View Full Version : The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov (Here be Spoilers*)


Anaamika
03-07-2005, 08:32 PM
I just finished this book on Sunday, as part of my "catch up on classic sci-fi" splurge. I read it merely because it was supposed to be such a great, but didn't expect much.

Well, I started reading it, and at first it was just another Asimov. I think he's an excellent author, mind you, but sometimes his books do blend together.

HOWEVER - I got to the chapter on The Soft Ones, and wow! I was enthralled. The whole rest of the book is average but the description of the Soft Ones' Life was really something amazing. I empathized greatly with Dua, and even Odeen. And I was completely shocked when I learned that the Soft Ones turned into the Hard Ones.

Only a few pages through it, I began to think I'd heard of the Soft Ones somewhere before. I had it - I whipped out my copy of Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials (http://www.workman.com/catalog/showcover.cgi?0894803247) (recommended for every fantasy lover) and flipped through the pages. Yup, the Soft Ones were in there, lovingly described and drawn. I love my Barlowe.

What did other people think? This book has been recommended to me by other sci-fi lovers on the Dope. I thought it was on the level of The Left Hand of Darkness, which although builds slowly, when it gets you there, it's breath-taking.

*I will not use spoiler boxes. I will not use spoiler boxes. I will not use spoiler boxes.

Thudlow Boink
03-07-2005, 08:39 PM
I think I remember reading Asimov himself say that he thought he was writing way above his usual level on that.

QuarkChild
03-07-2005, 09:42 PM
That's how I feel about the story, too. The human part was OK, but the description of the aliens was amazing. Most descriptions of aliens in classic sci-fi seem too human to be plausible. The aliens in "The Gods Themselves" struck me as very plausible, except for one small detail. The part about the shells used in an aesthetic arrangement to encourage mating seemed too human.

toadspittle
03-08-2005, 11:28 AM
The aliens in "The Gods Themselves" struck me as very plausible, except for one small detail. The part about the shells used in an aesthetic arrangement to encourage mating seemed too human.

[spoiler]We're not the only creatures on Earth to arrange objects for mating--do a search on bower birds.[/quote]

toadspittle
03-08-2005, 11:33 AM
rats. Mods, little help please?

EmeraldGrue
03-08-2005, 03:36 PM
It's the only Asimov book I've read so far (*shame*), can't remember being "blown away" at the time. I'll have to read it again.

QuarkChild
03-08-2005, 05:17 PM
We're not the only creatures on Earth to arrange objects for mating--do a search on bower birds.
Good point--it may not be uniquely human, so I shouldn't have used that word. But it still struck an odd note for me. The rest of the descriptions of the aliens seemed truly alien, whereas that particular passage seemed too earthly (if you prefer) to be plausible.

Thudlow Boink
03-08-2005, 06:42 PM
It's the only Asimov book I've read so far (*shame*), can't remember being "blown away" at the time. I'll have to read it again.Yeah, well, part of the reason some people have been blown away by it is that it's not typical Asimov (at least not the part with the aliens—Asimov's noted strengths as an SF writer do not include depiction of alien life forms).

Chronos
03-08-2005, 06:42 PM
I have mixed feelings on this one. Asimov certainly did suceed in creating completely inhuman characters, but as far as I can tell, that's really all he did in this book. The story is notably lacking, and many of the plot devices are weak (the Emotional's instinctive ability to re-arrange English letters to convey messages to the humans, for instance). The "scientific" gimcracks on which the story depended were really nothing more than MacGuffins. What it boils down to, is he had some interesting ideas about this nonhuman species, but he had to include a weak human story, to give it relevance, and then invent the Electron Pump to tie the two stories together and give the inhuman characters something to do.

Keapon Laffin
03-08-2005, 06:55 PM
I loved this book. And at least there was a female character who actually says something in this one. ;)

I thought it was clever how he solved the Electron Pump problem. And, of course, the best bit is when you find out that Duo, Odeen and Tritt form Estwald.

Reminds me of Lucky Starr, the last book in the series (can't remember the name), and how he solved the planetary dispute. I remember being totally blown away by the ending.

Anaamika
03-08-2005, 06:56 PM
I have mixed feelings on this one. Asimov certainly did suceed in creating completely inhuman characters, but as far as I can tell, that's really all he did in this book. The story is notably lacking, and many of the plot devices are weak (the Emotional's instinctive ability to re-arrange English letters to convey messages to the humans, for instance). The "scientific" gimcracks on which the story depended were really nothing more than MacGuffins. What it boils down to, is he had some interesting ideas about this nonhuman species, but he had to include a weak human story, to give it relevance, and then invent the Electron Pump to tie the two stories together and give the inhuman characters something to do.

I dunno if you read the intro, but in the intro, it says he wrote the book solely on the basis of a seminar:

He went to a seminar in which the speaker, casting around for an element to use, made up one on the spot called "plutonium-186". Afterwards, Asimov approached the speaker and pointed out there was no such thing. The speaker, a friend of Asimov's agreed. Asimov claimed he could build a story around Plutonium-186. Yes, the story has the flaws you say, but upon reading the background I am inclined to give it more leeway.

Neurotik
03-24-2005, 12:02 PM
And I was completely shocked when I learned that the Soft Ones turned into the Hard Ones.
See, I thought that was completely obvious. I had figured that out pretty early on in the chapter. I didn't even realize that we were supposed to think that they were two different species until Dua starts asking where the Hard Ones come from. Of course, I was mildly surprised when Dua, Odeen and Tritt are revealed to be Estwald.

The books a pretty decent page turner, but I definitely don't think it's that great overall.

Anaamika
03-24-2005, 01:41 PM
See, I thought that was completely obvious.

I have been known to be *gasp* gullible on occasion, but I still think that was a pretty hard inferential leap. I could be wrong of course!

Antigen
03-24-2005, 01:55 PM
See, I thought that was completely obvious.

Well, it sort of took me by surprise. Sort of like, "where is he going with this..... oh. Cool."

I thought it was a good book. It's nice to have some aliens who are really different.

RealityChuck
03-24-2005, 02:46 PM
That middle section is some of Asimov's best writing. He usually avoided aliens, but the Soft Ones are some of the best aliens in the field.

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