Thursday, 20 January 2011

Foundation Review

- Isaac Asimov

Publisher: UK - Collins (1994 reprint)

Foundation marks the first of a series of tales set so far in the future that Earth is all but forgotten by humans who live throughout the galaxy. Yet all is not well with the Galactic Empire. Its vast size is crippling to it. In particular, the administrative planet, honeycombed and tunneled with offices and staff, is vulnerable to attack or breakdown. The only person willing to confront this imminent catastrophe is Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian and mathematician. Seldon can scientifically predict the future, and it doesn't look pretty: a new Dark Age is scheduled to send humanity into barbarism in 500 years. He concocts a scheme to save the knowledge of the race in an Encyclopedia Galactica. But this project will take generations to complete, and who will take up the torch after him?

I have to admit I would probably not have picked this book up if my friend Kris hadn’t challenged me to me read it. While I like science fiction films and TV Series, I never really get into sci-fi books much (Strange considering my astrophysics degree!). SO I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It’s basically a collection of short stories relating turning points of the Foundation, from initial set to various crisis at various points – all predicted in advanced by Hari Sheldon.
The concept of being able to predict the behaviour of large groups of humans over vast periods of time is quite creepy and believable. Individually we each have a variety of choices but collectively we’re predictable. This idea is key to story and one I wanted to explore more – the book stops just 200 years into Seldon’s 1000 year plan. The stories tended to focus on a handful of key individuals who put Seldon’s plans into action and re-enforced the predictability of the masses. This kind of paradox was very clever – there’s a reason why Isaac Asimov is consider a founder of modern science fiction. Despite being written over fifty years ago, the book didn’t feel dated at all – it doesn’t include much hard science despite the space and planetary setting. The story follows human behaviour and insight into us as a species.
I enjoyed this enormously but I don’t think it will be for everyone. There are no characters to develop or major set peices. The action is told through politics which I personally enjoy reading.
Recommended for fans of Stephen Baxter & Iain M Banks. 8 out of 10
Part of FTC's Speculative Fiction Challange Book 1/12

Part of My Personal Classics Challenge Book 1



  1. I have yet to read this one, but it does sound good. Will have to put it on my wishlist for a personal challenge. Great review!

  2. Asimov is still one of my favorites. Good review of a classic. I hope you will read more of his books.