Foundation

After reading I, Robot by Isaac Asimov recently, I decided that I needed to repent of having read nothing else that he has written.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about Foundation, and it sounded like a really interesting book.  So when I was wandering around Barnes & Noble recently and found their hardbound edition containing the Foundation Trilogy, how could I pass it up?  I mean, look at the book, it’s really cool.

I’ve purchased a couple of other collections from Barnes and Noble like this, and the books are all interesting.  (The other two that I have are The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – all 5 books – and the complete and unabridged works of Edgar Allen Poe.)  So over the past few days I’ve been reading Foundation, and I’ve really enjoyed the book as well as Asimov’s writing style.

Book Stats

243 pages

Science Fiction

First book in the series

Setting

Various points around the galaxy, mostly focused around the planet of Terminus, where the Foundation is sent to.

Characters/Plot

Much like in I, Robot, this book is more like a collection of short stories than a traditional novel.  There are 5 different episodes throughout the course of the book, each of which centers on a different main character.  The only character that I’m going to talk about here is Hari Seldon.  Seldon is a psychohistorian working on the planet Trantor, which is the center of the Galactic Empire.  He is a brilliant mathematician who realizes that the Galactic Empire is going to fall apart within the next 300 years.  He also sees that it will be 30,000 years before the galaxy returns to the state of stability that the Galactic Empire had reached.  Knowing this, he sets up a group of 100,000 people, scientists and their families, to retain all of the knowledge the Galactic Empire has accumulated over the course of the years. By setting up the Foundation, he hopes to reduce the time for the next Galactic Empire to arise from 30,000 years to 1,000 years.

Enjoyment

There are a lot of books that are labeled ‘epic’ in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  It seems that we have taken to using the term epic to simply describe a story that is very large, even if the overall tone of the story isn’t epic.  A good example of this is the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (before anyone attacks me, I like the books and this is not a knock against them).  They’re considered by many to be epic fantasy, but they really aren’t.  They’re really just focusing on the life of one man and they cover many of the episodes that have shaped his life to the point where he is at in the story.

At least in the SciFi that I’ve read, this book is the definition of the word epic.  From the very first section of the book, you quickly realize that the scope of this novel is far larger than any of the individual people that the book deals with (Hari Seldon included).  Asimov was a wonderful writer, and his books are very easy to get into.  He never wastes time with unnecessary infodumping in any form.  His characters, even the ones that you only see for a short time, are all very real people.  All of the motivations for the characters make perfect sense, whether they’re making good decisions or bad, they’re believable.  I had two very small issues with the book.  The book is split into 5 sections, but the fourth didn’t really work out in the overall story very well for me.  Also, the book doesn’t tell a complete story.  Fortunately, the entire series is already out, which renders that as a non-issue.  I mean, you can buy the trilogy in one volume like I did and then you don’t even have to pick up a different book.

Enjoyment

A wonderful and thought-provoking book.  I’m eagerly looking forward to finishing the rest of the series.

8/10

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9 Comments

  1. I loved this novel and the entire series. Looking forward to hear your thoughts on the next two.

    Reply
  2. I liked the second two books even better than the first! I hope you enjoy them. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Too bad you didn’t get in on the trilogy group read with us at the start of the year. It was my second read-through of the series and I discovered so many things I had missed the first time.

    You are right, this book is a good one to represent the word “epic”. Wow! It spans so much time over the course of the three books.

    It was interesting in our group read because this was so different structurally and in scope from what most were used to reading. Moving from one character, or group of characters, to a time in the future when those folks were then gone was really interesting for the group to process. And looking at the various motivations of characters, of the Foundation, etc. was so much fun. We definitely had some good conversation going.

    I’m so happy you enjoyed the first one and hope you’ll read the rest. And when you are done and looking for some more Asimov robot goodness, check out The Positronic Man, the novel co-written with Silverberg. It is very good. I also really enjoyed Currents of Space.

    Reply
    • It really seems like the type of book that you could read 5 or 6 times and discover something new every time. I really enjoyed the first book, maybe I’ll head through everyone’s blog archives and find the posts about Foundation. Who cares if I’m a few months late?

      Reply
  4. Thanks, Adam. I haven’t read this either, and I know it’s one of the key books in the genre. You’ve inspired me to put it on my list.

    Reply
  5. hannahrose42

     /  April 20, 2012

    I planned to read this anyway, because I enjoyed I, Robot, but now it sounds even more interesting. Odd that the two collected works I have or have read through from Barnes and Noble are also The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the works of Edgar Allen Poe. I love my black and red bound Poe book. I’m a sucker for collected works — they just seem so much more exciting. 🙂

    Reply
    • It’s also easier to buy them in a collected volume. Especially for someone like Poe, you would have to find a couple of poetry books, then a collection or two of his stories just to make sure you get everything. In the case of my Hitchhiker’s collection, I already owned all 5 books but I thought it just looked really cool with the gold edged pages and whatnot. For the Foundation Trilogy it was actually a little cheaper to just buy the collection, and it’s cool to look at.

      Reply
  1. April 2012 Month in Review « Reviews and Ramblings

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