The first volume in Issac Asimov’s world-famous saga, winner of the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Novel Series.
‘One of the most staggering achievements in modern SF’
If you're unfamiliar with the Foundation work, they are basically a series of short stories taking place over a number of centuries that chart the rise of an intergalactic civilisation from humble origins to a vast galactic power, and the trials and tribulations that shaped it, narrated from the perspective of its major historical figures, such as prominent civic leaders, military heroes, merchant traders, brilliant scientists etc. Underpinning all this is the strange figure of genius Hari Seldon, who predicted the whole course of future events through his discipline of psychohistory, a science that predicts the actions of whole civilisations and societies over a grand time-scale.
Each chapter starts with an excerpt from the fictional Encyclopedia Galactica on the events portrayed in the following scene as if the whole series is a look back at history from some undisclosed future. It lends a wonderful sense of grandness to the stories as well as being an original and novel way of introducing the new setting. As I mentioned earlier, each chapter takes place several decades after the previous one so characters who were 'upstart young rebels' in one story become 'noble visionaires' in the next scene, and 'legendery heroes' in the one after that. The chapters all focus on a Seldon Crisis, which are a series of predicted crises that would mark a new stepping stone to greatness, and are accompanied at the conclusion of the section by the appearance of the long dead hologram of Hari Seldon popping up every few centuries describing the events that have just occured.
The character of Seldon and the way he evolves from crackpot theorist, to brilliant but misunderstood genius, to an almost prophetic role is wonderfully moving, as are the other important characters throughout the novel, and the development of the Foundation and its gradual dominance through various means (including religion, trade and war) is spell binding. Asimov touches on many themes here: the role of religion as a tool of conquest, the magicianry associated with any highly advanced technological society, the inevitable bureaucracy that any establishment eventually succumbs to, the predictability of mob-mentality. Unfortunately, many of these wonderful themes are only lightly touched upon, which is a shame although Asimov's clear simple writing style and light humour make his work accessible to anyone.
If you can ignore the surface details and the slightly comic-bookish settings then you will enjoy one of the most pivotal and ambitious science fiction series written. I also highly recommend the two sequels.
Foundation is just that. The foundation for all other sci-fi adventures. So many books and films have followed in the steps of Foundation, and Asimov really has lead the way for people to let their imagination run riot and imagine what on the one hand, is so far fetched, but on the other leaves us wondering "well maybe..."
Everything in Foundation has a sort of logic, the theory that the future can be mapped out by mathematical equations. However even in the future, ideas can be thought of as heretic, and people with ideas that do not fit in with the norm, are cast away, to the edge of space where they can cause no trouble.
Foundation, and the following classics will stretch your imagination and throw you into a World of 'fantasy' that seems to have a lifeline to reality. Considering the Foundation series of Asimovs books were written so long ago, they are still fresh enough, and still have an edge to hold onto the reader until the very last page.
I was looking forward to a continuing series of Seldon Crises as the Foundation played out the rise of human civilization, thinking that what we had hear with what Arnold Toynbee had done with his study of ancient civilizations extended into a future that covered an entire galaxy. But Asimov was setting us up for something unexpected in "Foundation and Empire"; the idea was that at this stage the Foundation would be threatened by the final power play of the dying Empire. But the universe is apparently tired of Hari Seldon playing with his mathematically loaded dice and has thrown the entire plan into doubt by creating a mutant, nicknamed "The Mule." Now the Foundation, the Seldon Plan and the entire galaxy is facing a new and powerful threat.
When I first read "Foundation and Empire" I was rather dismayed at the big change in direction. But, of course, Asimov knew what he was doing. He had already proven the validity of psychohistory, at least within the context of his futuristic novel, and there really is no reason to put out another four books (at two hundred years apiece) to complete the plan. Historians might find this interesting, but Science Fiction fans were going to want more than that from Asimov. Indeed, the Mule proves to be, both in terms of the story and the trilogy, the link between the Foundation and the Second Foundation. The Foundation trilogy is classic science fiction from the genre's self-proclaimed Golden Age, and even if the writing style seems dated or quaint, it remains a seminal series.
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