The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Frederick Hallam, a scientist, discovers a substance, plutonium-186, that should not exist under the physical laws in the universe. It becomes more radioactive over time, shooting out positrons. This substance is transmitted to Earth from a para-universe in which physical laws are much different. This substance provides cheap, seemingly endless, and nonpolluting energy. Increasing amounts of it can be attracted by use of a device called the Inter-Universe Electron Pump. In exchange for plutonium-186, Earth provides tungsten; in the para-universe, tungsten emits electrons and thus provides energy.

The first section, “Against Stupidity,” details the Pump’s discovery from the point of view of Peter Lamont, who is writing a history of this scientific development. He decides that the Pump may transfer some of the physical laws of the para-universe to Earth’s universe (and vice versa), with the result that nuclear reactions in the Sun will grow stronger and the Sun will turn into a nova, wiping out all life on Earth. At the same time, suns in the para-universe will cool down.

Lamont warns about the possible dangers, but his warnings are paid little heed. He attempts to communicate with the para-universe aliens, aided by linguistic expert Myron Bronowski. Ultimately, they succeed, receiving a message that appears to warn that the Pump is dangerous but also appearing to suggest that authorities in the para-universe will not stop the process....

(The entire section is 563 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Goble, Neil. Asimov Analyzed. Baltimore: Mirage, 1972.

Gunn, James. Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Hassler, Donald M. Reader’s Guide to Isaac Asimov. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont, 1991.

Moskowitz, Sam. “Isaac Asimov.” In Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction. Cleveland: World, 1966.

Olander, Joseph D., and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Isaac Asimov. New York: Taplinger, 1977.

Patrouch, Joseph F. The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974.