Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1951)


I suppose, technically this review should be entitled the Foundation trilogy—three books, not just one. Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire (1952), and Second Foundation (1953). In my mind, they belong together. It’s supposedly the best science fiction series of all time. It’s a grand favorite.

Perhaps that was the problem. I was expecting it to be more mind-blowing. Or it could be because I have found, after reading lots of Asimov, that he can’t surprise me, not much anyway. I’m pretty good at spotting his hints. That might’ve lessened the impact a little, too. Oh, and I am super unimpressed by his portrayal of female characters… the only one that seemed remotely believable was a dumb, naive teenager. Sigh.

Okay, okay, so the plot itself. I was grateful these weren’t action books. I don’t focus well during action scenes. No, the excitement is more along the lines of galactic peril. Once upon a time, there was a brilliant scientist. In those days, there were so many people spread across the entire galaxy: roughly 25 million inhabited worlds. If we’re conservative and guesstimate a billion people on each planet, that’s… a lot of people. Some quadrillions. In Asimov’s universe, that means there are so many people that it’s been possible to create the science of psychohistory: the prediction of the actions of giant masses of people. No, he can’t predict what any single person will do. But quadrillions of people? 1,000,000,000,000,000 people? An accomplished psychohistorian could make some pretty darn good predictions. Okay, okay, I can see that being plausible.

And here’s the thing. The Galactic Empire was going the way of the Roman Empire: that is, falling. Decay. Ruin. Some psychohistorian sees it happening. No, he can’t prevent it. It’s too late. And the kicker: he predicts 30,000 years of Dark Ages due to this great fall. Loss of basic technology, all that jazz… but hey! He’s a smart cookie and enacts a great plan that will shorten the Dark Ages to only 1,000 years instead of 30,000. Cool. That’s what this is about.

The first book: Wow, he’s so brilliant, he predicted the actions of the Galaxy for hundreds of years!

The second book: Oh, crap. There’s a mutant individual and he’s ruined everything. Nooooooooo

The third book: Oh, but wait! All is not lost! There’s more to the plan! Wait, what do we care about the future? What about us? Booo, down with the plan!

I can see with science fiction nerds like it. It ties up neat and tidy because of sheer brilliance and cleverness. My verdict: I’m sure I would’ve liked it better if I didn’t figure out all the surprises right off the bat, because this is obviously a groundbreaking work in science fiction. I’m glad I read it, even if I’m still a little annoyed this was crowned as the best sci-fi/fantasy series ever over The Lord of the Rings. (We all know that’s blasphemy, right? Right? Good.)



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