Sort of a yawner….usually I like Asimov…really like the Foundation series. In this book, aliens in a parallel universe develop an “Electron Pump.” By way of exchanging matter between their universe and ours, both sides are able to gain energy as the matter reacts to the new fundamental physical laws of the universe it has just entered. Humanity rejoices at free, clean energy. However, some scientists soon raise a voice of warning… they discover that the fundamental laws of our universe and the parallel universe are approaching equilibrium – kind of like when a hot object comes into contact with a cold one: the hot one gets colder, the cold one gets hotter. Anyway, the consequence is that the strong electromagnetic force in our universe will change such that the Sun will explode. Oh noes! Humanity at large ignores and shuns the scientists who bring this up – they like their free energy, and the scientific community as a whole doesn’t want to disappoint them. The smart scientists who understand what is going on are disbelieved and shunned. Eventually, however, they save the day by figuring out how to open a channel from yet a third universe, which has the opposite set of laws from the first parallel universe. By setting up a pump into this universe as well, the net effect on our universe is constancy and no exploding Sun. Yay!
The bizarre middle part of the book is probably why it won a few sci-fi awards back in 1972 when it was published. It’s a pretty involved description of the first parallel universe which starts the whole electron pump thing. In this universe, the rational, emotional, and parental components of a single individual person are split into three separate entities. Wouldn’t that make for a fun sitcom!
I read that Asimov got the idea from this book when another Sci-fi author mentioned “Plutonium-186” in a conversation. Asimov, the trained physicist, thought, “That isotope can’t exist!” and then proceeded to imagine what physical laws would have to change for it to be able to exist. Yeah, Asimov was a smart guy.