No “Ultimate Top 10 Science Fiction” list would be complete without a little Asimov, but this is one of his lesser known works. Nearly everyone is familiar with I Robot after Hollywood got through with it, and the Foundation series isn’t far behind. However, I chose what I believe is Asimov’s most powerful, gripping and unique story — The Gods Themselves. Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula award, this story doesn’t disappoint.
Summary: Asimov’s The Gods Themselves is unarguably a master work of science fiction. Spanning multiple parallel universes, each with distinct laws of physics, Asimov weaves a suspenseful and thought-provoking moral tale that is a classic must-read for anyone who enjoys science fiction.
Scientists in the story discover a way to pass matter and energy between parallel universes and exploit the different laws of physics on each side. This results in cheap, clean, limitless energy with no immediate visible side-effects. The story explores the effects this process has on each of the universes and the true consequences of such hubris. Saying more would spoil the suspense and the story.
So why is this on my Top 10? Obviously I needed something from Asimov, but there are a number of reasons why I chose this Asimov story above all the others…
First, Asimov actually describes a race of aliens, rather than never-ending variations on humans and robots. More than that, the aliens from the parallel universe are probably the most unique and well-conceived aliens I’ve encountered in any science fiction novel I’ve ever read.
Secondly, the “science” contained within this story is remarkably internally-consistent. It may not be correct in relation to the true physics of our universe, but the interrelation between the two universes is so complete that it might rival Tolkien’s middle earth for complexity and depth of planning.
Third, it’s simply an excellent story with well developed characters that naturally fit into the world he has created. Too often, other authors simply have characters that are used to tell a story in some fantastic location, rather than mold the characters to match the location and then tell the story about them and their lives.
Lastly, this story is severely under-appreciated. It took me years to find a copy of this story to read since neither the local book stores or my local library had it. All of the used book stores had it on back-order from people like me. Fortunately for you, since then Amazon has arrived and it can now be had, new, for a painless $8. I’m sure I spent 10x that in gas driving to every used book store within 3 hours of my house before I found a copy. Sigh.
So, if the above reasons, combined with the fact that The Gods Themselves won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards isn’t enough to convince you to find and read this book, then maybe the fact that Asimov himself identified this was his best novel ever will be enough to make you jump. If not, may I suggest that this might be your kind of fun?
NOTE: This story was originally published in serialized magazine form. When it was re-worked as a single cohesive novel the chapter numbers from the original material were retained. As a result, the story begins with part of chapter 6. This is not a conspiracy and doesn’t factor into the plot of the book. Just ignore it and enjoy the story. Don’t get distracted by it like I did.