The scope of this is hugely imaginative; it is one of the most ambitious books I have ever read. The idea behind it is the creation of a new and perfect systematic galactic empire. The old one is crumbling and is about to die. It has but a few centuries left before complete collapse. However, new empires do not just pop up overnight; it takes years for the right circumstances to arise: it takes years for all the pieces to slot exactly into place.
And here the brilliance of Isaac Asimov reveals itself. The brightest mind of the age (Hari Seldon) has used his exact science known as psychohistory to predict the precise date the empire will fall. He has used his field of academia to predict the future and because of this he can alter events, long after his death, and guide his fledgling civilisation into power from the grave. The old empire will fall in exactly three-hundred years. Hari Seldon manipulates the ruling council to send him, and his following, to a remote planet that will eventually develop into something grand given time and guidance.
The settlers are all scientists and they are all set on one manipulated goal. Their true purpose is unknown to them until the right time arises. Hari Seldon continues to shape the future; he knew what would happen, and he knew exactly when the people of the future should act. He predicted that it would take one-thousand years for the new empire to be born. So he appears to them in real moments of crisis in pre-recorded holograms to guide them in the right direction. He did not trust humanity to save itself, so he did it for them.
“To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well.”
It is a remarkable book, so broad and innovative. I am shocked reading this today. Imagine what it would have been like reading it in the fifties; it clearly defines so much of the genre. Screenplays such as Star Wars and Star Trek clearly drew upon Asimov’s Foundation to help establish their universes. Would they have existed without it? The parallels are here. It is a book full of vision. All the characters are scientists and politicians; they are powerful and driven: they are singular in their forceful purposes. None of them really have the chance to develop as characters. That’s not the purpose of this story. There was no real human element or emotions involved as a result.
Some readers may lose interest because of this, but for me it can be overlooked because of what the story establishes. The idea is to show how a nation, an empire, can develop across the centuries if the right pressures are applied at the right times. Structurally speaking, Foundation is essentially five short stories put together. They are decades apart and so were the characters. Distance is what defines the storytelling, and distance was needed to establish such a clever and predetermined outcome.
These books, and the trilogy as a whole, are largely important works in the genre of science-fiction. Certainly, required reading and in my estimation second only to Herbert’s Dune in the realms of the space opera sub-genre.
Review by Sean Barrs
1 positive reader review(s) for Foundation
Graham from United Kingdom
First SF book to capture my imagination, you should read the robots series first as they set the scene. Yet to find the series in Kindle!
9.1/10 from 2 reviews
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