>This particular novel written by Asimov started as challenge issued to Asimov by a fellow SF writer Rober Silverberg. He dared him to write a story about Plutonium 186 (which does not exist in our Universe). Asimov started writing and instead of a story wrote an entire novel.
The book has three distinct parts, and the three items motif repeats though the whole book.
The first part speaks of discovery of the Electron Pump. An Elecron Pump is a device build around plutonium 186. Plutonium 186 is unstable in our Universe and transforms into another element, giving off energy at the same time. It turns out that this element is “pushed” into our Universe from a parallel Universe with slighthly different laws of physics – there Plutonium 186 is possible.
The man who accidently discovers the bit of Plutonium 93 uses it to create essentialy free source of energy the world. Naturally, he becomes quite famous and admired as the Father of the Electron Pump. Everyone accepts the Pump, except few malcontents who look for a problem with the Electron Pump, in order to discredit the discoverer.
They conclude that the exchange of matter between the two Universes will result in a change of the physical laws of both Universes – this comes from the general principle of conservation of energy. Plus their calculations imply that the Sun will explode as a result of this change and relatively soon. As you can imagine no one believes them, after all this would shut down free supply of energy for the entire Earth.
At this point part one ends. Part two takes place in the parallel universe. There we meet a trio of beings (“the soft ones”) who form a family. They are a Rational named Odeen, Emotional named Dua and a Parental named Triit. In Asimov words Dua is the onle “she”. It appears that the three are in process of rearing children – they have two already and must create a third one to complete the cycle.
To make children the three must meld together into one entity and stay that way for a while. However, Dua seems to be having some emotional issues, and does not want to meld. In fact, unlike most other Emotionals, she is very interested in what Odin and the “hard ones” are working. The “hard ones” seem to be scientists working on the Positron Pump – but this is not entirely clear.
This part of the book is a bit weird, as Asimov describes how the “soft ones” interact – they can go through rock for example. In the end Dua discovers more about what the hard ones are doing. Plus they all find out what happens after they produce the final child and “move on”. But I don’t want to give away the details.
Finally, the third section is back in our Universe. Once of the characters from the first part migrates to the Lunar colony and there he finds a way and a device that will allow humans to keep the Electron Pump and not blow up the Sun. This is a good thing.
This book of Asimov was somewhat different than others that I read – the Robot stories or Foundation. It was OK to read, but I don’t believe I will read it again.
Oh, the names of the three sections are: “Against stupidity…”, “..the Gods Themselves…”, “..content in vain”.