I am trying to remember the name of a book I read when I was a teenager about 20 odd years ago. I think it was written in the 70's or 80's.

The premise of the book as I remember it is as follows.

There are two universes.

The first is Earth but set in the future relative to the date the book was written. A means of creating free energy has been discovered; I think it is being removed from an alternate universe, but a scientist has discovered that this has the potential to cause problems for the planet.

The second story line runs parallel and relates to a being in an alternate universe travelling through that species' version of puberty. At the start, this being (I believe it is referred to as male) is young and is romantically attached to a female of the species. They are described as being a type of energy that changes colour. She develops and changes into a different type of being and he resists changing. There is a third male that he is jealous of. At some point, however, I believe he then accepts that he must grow and he changes and then melds with the female and other male to form a combined consciousness.

I never got to the end of the book; at the time I found it a really hard read, but I found myself thinking about it the other day and wanted to try and find it so I can give it another go.

  • 12
    When I saw the title of your question, I was sure the answer was going to be 'Flatland'.
    – Steve Ives
    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:16
  • 3
    @ths We don't vote to close story identification questions as duplicates unless both have explicit confirmation by the poster. Aug 18, 2017 at 10:04
  • Is it bad that my first thought was Homestuck?
    – Stevoisiak
    Aug 18, 2017 at 18:43
  • thank you all it is the gods themselves, have marked the below answer as correct but happy for someone to close this as a duplicate :)
    – Richard C
    Aug 21, 2017 at 8:18

1 Answer 1


"The Gods Themselves" by Isaac Asimov.

Quoting Wikipedia's summary:

The main plot-line is a project by aliens who inhabit a parallel universe (the para-Universe) with different physical laws from this one. By exchanging matter with Earth, they seek to exploit these differences in physical laws. The exchange of matter provides an alternative source of energy in their dying Universe. However, the exchange of physical laws will have the ultimate result of turning the Earth's Sun into a supernova, and possibly even turning a large part of the Milky Way into a quasar. This is the alien's ultimate goal, as it would provide more energy for the para-Universe.

The first part takes place on Earth, almost a century after the "Great Crisis", where ecological and economic collapse reduced the world's population from six billion to two billion. Radiochemist Frederick Hallam discovers that a container's contents have been altered. He finds out that the sample, originally tungsten, has been transformed into plutonium 186—an isotope that cannot occur naturally in our universe. As this is investigated, Hallam gets the credit for suggesting that the matter has been exchanged by beings in a parallel universe; this leads to the development of a cheap, clean, and apparently endless source of energy: the "Pump", which transfers matter between our universe (where plutonium 186 decays into tungsten 186) and a parallel one governed by different physical laws (where tungsten 186 turns into plutonium 186), yielding a nuclear reaction in the process.

The second part is set in the parallel universe where, because the nuclear force is stronger, stars are smaller and burn out faster than in our universe. It takes place on a world orbiting a sun that is dying. Because atoms behave differently in this universe, substances can move through each other and appear to occupy the same space. This gives the intelligent beings unique abilities.

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    As I recall, the Earth sequence ends with them discovering another universe that's more-or-less the opposite of the universe of the 'soft ones', so that our universe, as a sort of "pipe", doesn't get damaged, but both our universe and the 'soft ones' universe get the energy that they need. Aug 18, 2017 at 11:56
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    Plus, IIRC, the realization that (paraphrasing) "3 is an absurd number"... that is, if there's only one universe, fine. Only two universes, you could stretch your mind to believe, yin/yang, night/day, etc. Only three universes? No, three's an absurd number. There must be MANY universes and we've just found 3. That idea always stuck with me. Aug 18, 2017 at 12:17
  • I recognized the description not from having read The Gods Themselves, but from having read Asimov's late short story "Gold". Aug 18, 2017 at 18:02
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    @starpilotsix The actual statement is two is an impossible number. That is the reason that the hero searches for a universe that will allow the effect of the energy transfer to be canceled. He also picks a universe that does not have any living beings in it and realizes that he is going to trigger the big bang in that third universe. Aug 18, 2017 at 21:53
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    that is the one, going to get it today and see if my adult brain can get into it more then I could as a young teen :)
    – Richard C
    Aug 21, 2017 at 8:18

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