Effectively, the full title of this is “Against Stupidity, the Gods Themselves Contend in Vain”, a quote that is spread out across the three sections of the novel. I was a bit worried at first, as the book starts with (a fragment of) chapter 6), and given the occasional screwups of ebook translations, I was initially worried that something truly horrible had happened, but after the first page Asimov inserts a note that he has his own reasons for the numbering, which is part of a narrative device that works out fairly well (including the chapter numbers helping by informing you what is flashback and what isn’t).

Each of the three sections is pretty much its own novella, and were apparently initially published as such, all tied into one overall problem. The first section ultimately deals with academia and the politics that can surround it. The second is unusual for Asimov as it’s purely from the viewpoint of aliens in a different universe (Asimov generally avoided writing about aliens as he was poor at it). And the third is back in our universe, an uncertain but short time after the first section, with a completely new cast on the Moon.

All three are tied together by the interaction between two universes, our own, and one where the strong nuclear force is about one hundred times as strong as it is here. This is explained quite well in the opening parts of the book, and transferring matter between the two allows what seems to be free unlimited energy; the process of adjusting to the laws of the other universe liberates a lot of energy, with no apparent downsides. Much of the premise and action of the book revolves around what it would take to give up nearly free energy if there is an unapparent (and fatal) downside.

As ever, Asimov is a bit of a ‘flat’ writer, but he actually does fairly well on his characters here, though there’s still some ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’ to establish the scene, and overall I zipped through the book enjoying it the entire way, though both the physics and ‘liberated’ attitudes are a bit out of date now. Certainly, his character drama of the middle section is worth the price of admission.