Talked about on today’s show:
a terrible funny book, contemporary American politics, Jim Briskin, a bunch of stoners going out to dinner, political sophisticates, the ending, PKD is sick of his own story, precedents, Cantata 140, Johann Sebastian Bach’s When Sleepers Awake, H.G. Wells, seeing it from the wrong end, time travel, putting people into suspended animation, poor political intrigue, House Of Cards, what America is really about, racism and class, the cols and the jerries and the bib, why are they called bibs?, most bibs are cols, cols = coloureds (non-whites), jerries = geriatrics, Robert A. Heinlein, other themes, Dr. Futurity, two books smooshed together, that was a funny two books, other books on this theme, Living Space by Isaac Asimov, you can own an entire empty Earth, aliens come to visit, the sleepers, Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, a sense of deep time, the beginning of this book, so racist, not as racist as it sounds, Herb Lackmore, get an abortion, a “wheel” is a car, more of a U.S. thing, the United States stands in for the entire Earth, an economics issue, other countries have had this problem in the past, England (the enclosures), they sent them to Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, we don’t have that frontier, Dick nailed the economic problems of the early 21st century, a clunky 1960s novel, fun-house mirror prescience, seeing through a Scanner Darkly, white vs. black election, Trump supporters, C.L.E.A.N., the Tea Party, the KKK, super racist organization, interesting payoffs, the pekes (Peking man), sloping foreheads, racism vs. speciesism, and the moral of this story is…, Bill Smith walks into the room, even more hilarious, this whole incident will fade out of reality, whatever political scandal is happening this week…, nothing comes of it, how you gonna terraform Uranus?, a gigantic problem, what happens?, frustrating, but we love it, that mutant peke, even the space brothel comes back online, everybody hit the reset button, like a Star Trek episode, the Prominent Author by Philip K. Dick is entirely explained within The Crack In Space, a jiffy scuttler, Terran Development, Mary (again), “I’m thinking of writing a sequel”, a very funny joke, God is the most prominent author, an almost Jim Briskin, he was a “newsclown”, Stand-by, What Will We Do With Ragland Park?, interesting SFF audios, precognitive songs, weird, The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, a flaming red wig, the Philip K. Dick fan page notes, Ace Books changed the title, the title is a double-entrendre, “The Golden Door”, very American, they hate sex and they love it, where’s our flying taxi to take us to our brothel in space, a giant boob in space, bootleg organs, nothing came of that, Doctor Who, Revelation of the Daleks, consumer resistance, are you sure want to do this?, Vanilla Sky, Abres Los Ojos, the two political parties, the Liberal Republicans and the Conservative Socialists, possibly the worst book by Dick, not the book to start with, full of lots of ideas and humour, George Walt (the wind god), he’s a libertarian, see what you get, one long rambling set-up, you can’t live in this novel, Dr. Futurity, a valuable and valueless skill, bonkers, more repairmen, fewer presidents, The Simulacra, they’re all blending together, The Man Who Japed, Vulcan’s Hammer, The Cosmic Puppets, Solar Lottery, Eye In The Sky, these are the golden books, somehow they all got published, Now Wait For Last Year, a floppy fruit salad, he was attempting a trick, it didn’t work, wub fur pajamas, advertising on the doors, like Minority Report‘s ads (the movie), Mr American Buisness, my “golden door”, the Statue of Liberty’s poem:
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
that’s why, the abortion therapist wife, we’re supposed to empathize with the cols, if he had had another pass at this…, flying to the coast of the new world, a new Normandy invasion, how many D-Days, Neanderthal strivings are modest, The Long Earth by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett (a sequel of sorts), Stephen Baxter doesn’t write comedy, if this is his worst it does not turn us off at all, clunky and malformed like the brow ridges on a peking man, a slight vacation from our own broken crazy world, the audiobook, the narrator made one character sound like Ronald Regan, Eric Dawe, a few jiggling boobs, almost no women, this novel doesn’t pass any tests.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #334 – The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne; read by Fred Heimbaugh. This is an unabridged reading of the story (50 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Fred.
Talked about on today’s show:
The Pioneer, March 1843, a Hawthorne Poe fest, contemporaries, The Scarlet Letter, a quote by Poe about Hawthorne, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, well known?, why this story Fred?, he’s obsessed with sin, sociopaths, trigger warnings, neurosis, shame, luck, shaped by sin, a mark upon the family, subconscious Freudian messages, Commentary Magazine, Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature by Gary Saul Morson, textual density, vocab, Lovecraft poems, Fungi From Yuggoth poems, harbours, kids are now shuttled between school the home and the mall, ranting against Hawthorne, The House Of The Seven Gables, revolutions in 20th century literature, Ernest Hemingway, the show don’t tell revolution, Hawthorne is the telling-est teller who ever telled, the right attitude toward sin, the two facedness of people, Hawthorne is attacking late stage decadent Puritanism, a homosexual vibe, what is the lesson?, science reaches too far?, Gothic horror, the evil wizard or the mad scientist, science as the channel to unlimited power, elixirs, potions, not even futuristic, Georgiana, Aminadab?, where is this story set?, Aylmer’s castle, Aylmer’s wealth, a compartmentalized life, from the third person POV, the host narration, obsession, the left side, the sinister side, she’s been marked, in the dream, chemical means, pre-Darwin, “I’ve got these old books”, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a natural philosopher, science vs. alchemy vs. magic, Isaac Newton, almost as if he was Ben Franklin, electricity, many suitors, Aylmer’s wooing, is Aylmer gaslighting Georgiana?, she’s reading, a Medieval heroine, a character of of Greek mythology, is a sex-change story?, is this a boob-job story?, envy, the tips of two small fingers, she’s compared to a marble statue, small pox scars, Marilyn Monroe‘s beauty mark, does positioning matter?, Supernatural Horror And Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, a meditation on obsession, many uninteresting analysis, so little action, beyond the sexual interpretation, Hawthorne doesn’t seem all that prudish, how far can you go in purist of perfection in a fallen world, a mark of original sin, wanting knowledge (of good and evil?), the sin of disobedience, Frankenstein and Aylmer are reading the same books, the process of creating a man in Frankenstein, the lightning bolt, Luigi Galvani, grave-robbing, Paracelsus, the gold thing is your way of getting funding, when writing a grant…, this might lead to a cure for cancer(!), alchemy as a religion, The Cask Of Amontillado, Eric S. Rabkin, “the niter, it grows”, Montresor or Fortunato, niter, growing human shaped things inside of bottles, poisons, psychology and the occult, the difference between alchemy and science is openness, the Royal Society, Harry Potter’s school, there have to be muggles, magically oblivious, J.K. Rowling, natural greed, the ethic of sharing knowledge, France’s version of the Royal Society, like the obsession with “open source” or the “public domain”, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, sooo lifelike, sooo beautifully painted, Gothic horror, the evil mad scientist is destroyed by the power he unleashes, The Portrait Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, the ending, what is Hawthorne saying?, was Aylmer’s attempt doomed from the beginning?, Jesse’s mom, one of the most important powers of a teacher, she has “THE VOICE”, Muad’dib (Paul Atredies), Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, a profound revelation, philosophy and critical thinking, vitamins are bullshit, fish oil woke Fred’s brain, North America has the world’s most expensive urine, religion wants you to take it on authority, bronze age holy texts, religion as book club where you only ever read one book (or just listen to a guy who did), cynicism or wisdom, loyalty to the organized religion of your family, inherited religions, fundamentalist belief systems, the narcissism of small differences, splintering, revolting revolutionaries, purity of doctrine, young earth creationists, Catholicism as an almost ethnicity (an identity), Hawthorne as a stopgap between H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley, the murky origins of Science Fiction, Dante, Lucifer frozen in the ice, a Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein’s obsession is with defeating death, too in love with science, Hawthorne’s message is like: “don’t drink too much”, Greek symposia, what really happened at a Greek symposium, “write drunk and edit sober”, The Odyssey, mixing water with wine, getting plastered is a sign on unmanning, the Greek obsession was with finding the moderation between too little and too much, what was Hephzibah’s sin?, her sin is being too worried about sin, “you will eat blood”, public shaming is a little much, be moderate with your casting of sin, John Wesley, a healthy functioning society, wealth corruption, falling into decadence, the protestant work ethic is kicking-in, Guggenheim, ransoming the grandchild, leaving it all to art, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Fred’s all time favourite Science Fiction novel: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, how do we raise the next generation?, a supercharged Kindle, matter compilers, Star Trek‘s replicator, eating green sludge, window panes made out of pure diamond, handmade hipsters, how you raise the next generation in a wealthy society, we are unimaginably wealthy, are Japan’s young people uninterested in sex?, Richard Dawkins on Twitter, The Last Question by Isaac Asimov, Gothic-y, Science-y, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, a great inventor, Neoterics, he’s stealing their ideas, the ultimate mad scientist story, following in the tradition, somatoypes, ectomorph (Aylmer), mesomorph (Aminidab), endomorph (Jesse), it’s a scam!, Hillary Clinton, the Ronald Reagans of the world, this is astrology, people think that once you’ve got a word for something you understand it, wearing the mask long enough…, IQ tests, quantification, any time we think we understand the most complex thing in the universe…, there really is a subconscious, tweeting dreams, psychology, the book club with only one book in it, The Great Courses (The Teaching Company), Eric S. Rabkin, survey courses, kooky specializations, the best way to learn, the perennial student, taught not to learn, philosophy of art, credentialism, Jesse can guess the exact words in a student’s vocabulary, guess your weight or age, how Jesse gets work, gaming credentialism, no high school diploma, a contempt for institutionalized learning, a play-by-the-rules personality, grade inflation, what did Mussolini do?, intimidation vs. cultivation, give the students the experience of reading, reading as a meeting of minds, defending a dissertation, essays, we’re obsessed with essays (for the wrong reason), ohhh spoilers!, the big problem with almost any media, “I don’t want to spoil it for you.”, testing is easier, a kind of objectivity, don’t blame the actors for shitty Hollywood movies, status is society, education as the cultivation of minds, there aren’t enough people who are willing to rebel!
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #324 – This Crowded Earth by Robert Bloch; read by Gregg Margarite. This is an unabridged reading of the novel (3 hours 30 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and John Feaster.
Talked about on today’s show:
the only public domain novel by Robert Bloch, a member of the Lovecraft circle, fans of Lovecraft vs. the public at large, The Shambler From The Stars, a sense of humour, Leffingwell = livingwell, a Nazi-esque character, Paul F. Thompkins, 1958, Make Room, Make Room, 1968, overpopulation, The Population Bomb, the baby boom, the Asiatics, a terrible book, a monster of a book, the yardsticks aren’t a metaphor for racism, “midgets”, The Lonely Crowd, the women in this story…, housewives and pretend nurses, not a pure SF novel, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, a sociological novel, Jesse isn’t a fan of Psycho, Yours Truly Jack The Ripper, mainstream hack solutions, Bloch is a fan of science fiction, he’s talking about Clifford [D.] Simak here, the solution to overpopulation is to make everybody smaller, you have to lean into that, a weird pacing, Game Of Thrones, an underground secret society, the meta stuff is pretty good, the opening chapter, 70s era Jack [L.] Chalker, caesarian section is the solution?!, an entertaining story, why the heck is little Harry Collins named Harry Collins?, “you’ve dropped your premise”, western wildernesses, why is the President of The United States so excited about 20 pounds of hamburger, really undercooked (hamburger), the 7 hour workday, the 5 hour workday, the 4 hour workday, a 15mph commute, population efficiency, just fix the trains in this world, Soylent Green, not enough room (physical space), telecommuting, personal transport laws, a mash-up of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Project Mayhem portion of Fight Club and The Wizard Of Oz, Collins is constantly searching for the wizard, mistaking Beatniks for a religious order, a high-Daddio, The Planet Of The Apes premise, a dog and cat disease, accepting the premise, playing with science fiction tropes, an impressionistic idea of the world and the path it is on, the naturals or naturalists, its almost hippies, a generational metaphor, drug use, everybody takes yellow jackets, barbiturate, mixing with alcohol, a one child policy is IMPOSSIBLE?, emigration is IMPOSSIBLE, faster maturity faster death, living on Mars would make you barrel chested, island isolated animals change their size (Island gigantism or Insular dwarfism), pilots need to be short, small people and women endure g-forces better, little people on generation starships, food consumption, he follows through with his own joke, a buffet of ridiculous premises, a strange buffet, an entertaining buffet, politics and the super-rich go hand-in-hand, “the little plan”, “small government”, “it’s a small world after all”, Little John, silly, packed with a lot of weirdness, like a season of Star Trek, written over a weekend?, such a little apartment, “he’s living in a closet”, this would have to be a cartoon if it were a film, the world is a Flintstones background, if there had only been a female character who…, Stephen King loves westerns but can’t write them, lean into it, so why is this world not our problem?, LosSisco, William Gibson’s the Sprawl, Chicago and Milwaukee, well crafted characters (for talking heads), Pol Pot, no actual shitbags, the story of a 15 year old, sociologically and emotionally, the Goodreads reviews, Isaac Asimov’s the Hari Seldon plan, Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth, breeding a crazy man, West End Games, Paranoia, the crappy text adventure games (that were fun to play), walking off to the unmapped areas, what about this bugbear?, in a future where cows are caviar, “bring your wife, we’ll have a party”, I’ll bang off something for Planet Stories, Psycho, 1959 and 1960, John defends Psycho, Bloch’s Star Trek script “Wolf In The Fold“, Bloch’s obsession with Jack The Ripper, Richard Matheson’s Night Gallery episode, Time After Time, a future thrill kill story [sounds somewhat like The Roller Coaster by Alfred Bester], before The Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal, charismatic serial killers is a trope now, Ed Gein, H.H. Holmes (not H.H. Munro), the Chicago murder castle, a writer re-writing and thinking about an idea over and over again, serial writers must do it again, to “recreate it”, seeing a writer writing outside of his main genre, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, it’s a little 15-year old, simply written to pay a bill, finally Scotty gets his own episode, I canna remember, Star Trek with a serial killer is weird, That Hellbound Train, The Gold Key The Twilight Zone comics, an EC Comics knockoff, I’m being published for crappy reasons, nobody’s going to read this in two weeks so read it now, this story is a bird-house made by a talented mechanic, a giant truck that is the internet, 60s and 70s era Robert Bloch are sealed up outside of the trunk that is the internet, accept it within its boundaries, a character from the 1950s in a crazy 1950s future, how does the story affect you?, a Rorschach test, it doesn’t care about you, this story is a friend of yours off in the corner playing with LEGOs and the only thing you can do is criticize what he’s building.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1990, what was it about this book…, nothing much happens, utopia, utopian novels generally don’t exist, Brave New World, conflict, the only death in the book, if it was a literary novel, Ramona’s thighs, almost a perfect novel, “constructed”, softball, batting a thousand, light symbolism, Tom in Switzerland, so much to think about during the lazy days, a magical transformation, fascinatingly insightful, what human beings are trying to do all the time, “that’s the novel I wanted to read”, a tryptic, The Wild Shore, The Gold Coast, three Californias growing out of the 1980s, cyberpunk, Orange County, TSA, the water situation, Chinatown, machinations, evil corporations, KSR is a really smart guy, a genuine world, comparing to Heinlein’s bad guys, conflict (or lack thereof), why theater is fun, wrestling!, softball, his Mars books, baseball as a metaphor, small ball, a small ball utopia, the October of his own utopia, what are utopia, an almost meta-SF novel, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, “must redefine utopia … the process of making a better world … struggle forever”, 2065, a bigger theater, fewer baseball diamonds, starting from scratch won’t work, there’s a lot of work to be done, an underpopulated world, how we got there, emigration to Space, the understated Mars landing, the drought in California, climate change (global warming), Antarctica, Worldcon 2006, Anaheim, Luke Burrage’s review of The Gold Coast, he’s sophisticated, Shaman, the four shamanic elements: air/earth/fire/water, sooo well constructed, the mask party, great magic bullshit, not The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Prisoners Of Gravity, Harlan Ellison and Neil Gaiman, tackling a really substantial subject, an almost bullet-proof approach, the economy doesn’t work and the geology doesn’t work (in The Lord Of The Rings), the housing situation, Viking style or Haida style, its all fashion, the defining look of how any utopia can work, the economic model, socialism, Stephen Harper, [Kim Stanley Robinson] has thought of everything, the black banks, some sort of federal system?, the New Oregon Trail?, a local government utopia, it’s a certain kind of communism, Alfredo, labour taxation, another junction box, there’s still money but nobody is talking about it, the scene at the fire, the community is the fire department, no police, what do you do with criminals?, exile, Amish communities exist at the sufferance of the surrounding state, they’ve got Skype/Facetime, we have to not hate our brothers around the world, sister cities, delegations, Paul takes exception, Minneapolis, magnifying certain aspects (and shrinking others), the Greens have had there day, what’s going to happen, where’s the public library?, an ebb and flow, drag racing, Oscar’s interests, neighbors invading is the only possible hole, an ecological society, an ecology of local systems, by not competing in the way that some can compete you’re going to get crushed, if the utopia is unstable…, Kevin as the catalyst, small solutions, a feel good message, the Athenian polis approach to community, who started that fire?, the evil mustachio thing, if we asked KSR, he’s earned that, A Short Sharp Shock, the kerosene … who did it?, a happy death, let’s spend some time here, When Tam asked: “Does it get less boring?”, going back to work, how to deal with reality, moderation in all things including moderation, smoking, Kim Stanley Robinson is incredibly wise, a very wise book, relationship stigmas have been done away with, casual but not disposable, no ideology, take out the thing that you like, whatever system they seem to have…, the inevitable swinging of a pendulum, Arthur C. Clarke’s The City And The Stars (aka Against The Fall Of Night), frozen in time with a focus on art, Nineteen-Eighty Four and Brave New World are forever dystopias, “interpenetration”, a metal ceramic material, Oscar’s hike, going for walks, reality entering a body, we are a part of our environment, a religious moment, the mask party, as a motif word, every part of the community interacts, they live inside each others’ homes, a great scene of Alfredo and Kevin working shoulder to shoulder, Rattlesnake Hill is a symbol for Kevin, that’s no human nature, Jenny’s visits to former utopian society, the Shaker village in Kentucky, New Harmony, Indiana, we’re living in a utopia, how many times have you guys run for city council, campaigning is not fun, trying to convince people door to door is a horrible job, maybe its time, it IS what he’s saying, a bitter pill, KSR’s bio, Jesse’s mom, tons of meetings, we tried to go to a movie theater, the inertia of a city council is less, “turning the ship”, Jenny’s really good example, Greencastle, Indiana, no discrimination if you do business with the city, Our Angry Earth by Frederik Pohl and Isaac Asimov, get organized, maybe that sense of mobility is the problem, love the place you’re at, utopia is not a destination it’s an activity, The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond, staying where you were born, it goes both ways, Ted Cruz, subversive groups, Anonymous, different strategies, Last Week Tonight, Jon Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, dick pics, high-minded people are all sold, does this program have your dick pick?, you need a comedian, LIBERTY!, go with the dick pic.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Contemporary Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Magics, An Unwelcome Quest (Magic 2.0 #3) by Scott Meyer, Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson, The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble, Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia, Sad puppy Hugo campaign, Unseen (Unborn #2) by Amber Lynn Natusch, just read the first sentence, Claimed (Servants of Fate #2) by Sarah Fine, Hellbender (Fangborn #3) by Dana Cameron, Kate Rudd and Paul Rudd?, The Syndrome: The Kingdom Keepers Collection by Ridley Pearson
Alternative History, 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies (Ring of Fire #15) by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon
Virtual Reality/Cyberpunk, Mountain Of Black Glass (Otherland, Book 3) and Sea Of Silver Light (Otherland, Book 4) by Tad Williams, these are chunky books
Military Sci-Fi, Gemini Cell (Shadow Ops #4) by Myke Cole, the Jump Universe and the Vicky Peterwald series by Mike Shepherd, not narrated by Matthew McConaughey, Tarnished Knight (The Lost Stars #1) by Jack Campbell, pronunciations, a new #1, Time Patrol (Nightstalkers #4) by Bob Mayer, Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars by Kevin Hearne, King of Thieves (Odyssey One: Star Rogue) by Evan Currie
Epic/Traditional Fantasy, Black God’s Kiss by C. L. Moore, she’s a woman, The Black Fire Concerto (The Stormlight Symphony #1) by Mike Allen, “ensorcelled” gains popularity, A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction by Terry Pratchett, Hypnogoria (Jim Moon) podcast covered Terry Pratchett, Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen #8) by Steven Erikson, the Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens and (later) the Immortals Quartet series by Tamora Pierce, Full Cast Audio is sort of audio drama, The Light Princess by George MacDonald, The Keeper (Watersmeet #3) by Ellen Jensen Abbott
Space Sci-Fi, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, vs I, Robot, short story highlights, The Fortress in Orion (Dead Enders #1) by Mike Resnick, Under Different Stars (The Kricket #1) and Sea of Stars (The Kricket Series #2) by Amy A. Bartol, Old Venus edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, we can pronounce “Dozois”, Venus as it should be, S.M. Stirling
Zombies, Apocalypse, Dystopia, Steampunk, Horror (Grab bag!), The Sky-Riders by Paul Dellinger and Mike Allen, Pinkerton (detective agency), Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising #3) by John Ringo, Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson, The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes, sexy title, The Mechanical: The Alchemy Wars #1 by Ian Tregillis, clockpunk?, The Fire Sermon (Fire Sermon #1) by Francesca Haig, twins, Cheech and Chong, The Intruder and The Hunger, and Other Stories by Charles Beaumont, Untouched by Human Hands by Robert Sheckley, readalong by Sffaudio (no Tama), Fury by Henry Kuttner, old Venus is back
Related Non-fiction, Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, part of the Guardian Essential Library, apples, The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell, read by the author, Scott will review, slingshot effect, back seat drivers, The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok translated from the Old Norse by Ben Waggoner, Vikings
Posted by Tamahome
The Gods Themselves
By Isaac Asimov; Narrated by Scott Brick
Publisher: Random House Audio
Release Date: January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hrs, 26 mins
Themes: / science fiction / aliens / annihilation / survival /
Only a few know the terrifying truth – an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun… They know the truth – but who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy – but who will believe? These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to the Earth’s survival.
Though a science fiction novel, The Gods Themselves is also primarily about magic.
Throughout the courses I took for my my undergraduate degree in Economics, we talked a lot about the driving forces behind the choices people make. One of the greatest is magic. We all want to find that magical thing that makes us not have to work as hard; magic makes life easier.
This quest for magic has helped us innovate on a grand scale and use the resources around us for our own benefit. Whether it’s been good in the long run, I’ll not get into just this second.
In The Gods Themselves, a magic is found which makes life easier and it’s the Electron Pump. Somehow, some beings have reached across the universe, time, or something, to impress themselves upon our world and made possible an endless energy source, which benefits all of humanity.
The only problem is whether it is really for our benefit and what happens when the worst is found out? Would humanity easily give up such a gift?
It’s interesting to read this book, published in 1972, in light of today’s problems with humanity’s stewardship of the world. I’m sure, actually, that Mr. Asimov thought his day was bad.
This book is told in three separate parts, each of which was published independently in Galaxy Magazine and Worlds of If. They focus on three quite different groups of people and their interaction with the Electron Pump.
The first focuses on the physicists who discover and deal with the Electron Pump. The second focuses on those others and it’s absolutely otherworldly, so much so, that it was quite difficult to read at first until you understood what was going on a bit more. It reminded me a little of Orson Scott Card’s Mithermages series.
The final part focuses on a human colony on the moon. One of the parts I can talk about without spoiling things is the description of gravity on the moon. Those who’ve lived there all their lives are essentially trapped there because their bones couldn’t survive Earth’s gravity and those who travel there have to take frequent, excruciating, trips home to Earth to keep their bodies in shape. After listening to a Star Wars book, it’s interesting to note how little they care about the different gravities of worlds. Must be some hyper-technology that accounts for it right?
Because Asimov is himself a scientist, the physics are competently explained, at least to a lay person like myself, and the dire consequences of humanity’s actions are understood … through science. Amazing!
And a note on the audiobook reader, Scott Brick. Brick has been around the block, I don’t know how many times I’ve come across his recordings. You can always trust him to bring the gravitas to any recording and you’ll find nothing less here.
This cleverly named book won both the Nebula Award in 1972 and the Hugo in 1973. And as the origin of the name of the book says, quoted from Friedriech Schiller, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.” (for the German speakers: “Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.”)
As apt today as it was … when it was written.
4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
Posted by Bryce L.