Top positive review
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Foundational in more than just name
on 15 January 2015
The Foundation is undoubtedly one of the seminal works of science fiction, and it holds up reasonably well as a modern read. Some of the references seem a little dated - the holding up of 'atomics' as the be-all and end-all of scientific progress for example comes across as a little quaint, but if you can put that aside you'll find a very enjoyable book awaits you.
Structurally, it's somewhat unusual - really, the book is a series of connected short stories, each involving a different set of characters and a different societal context, all linked into one overarching epic tale of imperial degradation and rebirth. On the one hand, it makes it difficult to really get into the heads of the characters, each of which is a scheming Machiavellian genius. On the other, it creates a sense of epic scope and scale that simpler narrative forms wouldn't have allowed. It feels in some respects like dipping into a vast, ongoing drama from which we cannot drink too deeply lest it overwhelm. As a series of science fiction epic vignettes, it's done remarkably well.
Seeing the book in its modern context too reveals just how influential it has been in classic and modern science fiction. Warhammer 40k seems to have been one of the primary beneficiaries in that respect, with both the Imperium of Man and the Adeptus Mechanicus drawing liberally from the canon of Foundation, but there are precursor or progenitor fragments of half a dozen science fiction universes to be found within.
It's not a perfect book - the vignette style is important to the telling, but has the unavoidable consequence of fragmenting the reading experience, and there is an awful lot of exposition threaded through its scant few pages. However, it is a very good book and I enjoyed reading it.