Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Foundation

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future -- to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire -- both scientis...

Title:Foundation
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0553803719
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:244 pages

Foundation Reviews

  • Christy
    Sep 29, 2007

    Honestly, I don't get why this book/series is so popular. There are some interesting elements to it (for instance, the use of religion as a tool of mass control and the implicit resultant argument that religion is no more than a fraud, "the opiate of the people," after all), but the book gave me little to enjoy or dig into. The forces of the novel are broad, historical, dealing with masses of people; this means that there is little to no room for individual characters here and little to be done

    Honestly, I don't get why this book/series is so popular. There are some interesting elements to it (for instance, the use of religion as a tool of mass control and the implicit resultant argument that religion is no more than a fraud, "the opiate of the people," after all), but the book gave me little to enjoy or dig into. The forces of the novel are broad, historical, dealing with masses of people; this means that there is little to no room for individual characters here and little to be done by the few characters who do appear. One leader says, in fact, in response to a crisis, the threat of warfare and annihilation, "I'm going to do nothing. One hundred percent of nothing, and that is the secret of this crisis" (191). This is a recurring theme. Plus, there are no female characters to speak of. One man's wife makes a brief and apparently unnecessary appearance for a page-long chapter, but that's it. All else is done by and to men.

    There are a couple of minor things I do like about the book. One is Salvor Hardin's statement that "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent," which I like for its endorsement of nonviolent alternatives. Another is the characters' habit of saying "Space" or "Galaxy" instead of God when they exclaim or curse.

  • Thomas
    Nov 19, 2008

    The Foundation trilogy (three first books) and the Foundation series (all seven) are often regarded as the greatest set of Science Fiction literature ever produced. The Foundation series won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Isaac Asimov was among the world's best authors, an accomplished scientist, and he was also a genius with an IQ above 170, and it shows in the intelligently concocted but complex plots and narrative. There are already 331 reviews for this Science Fi

    The Foundation trilogy (three first books) and the Foundation series (all seven) are often regarded as the greatest set of Science Fiction literature ever produced. The Foundation series won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Isaac Asimov was among the world's best authors, an accomplished scientist, and he was also a genius with an IQ above 170, and it shows in the intelligently concocted but complex plots and narrative. There are already 331 reviews for this Science Fiction novel, however, I still believe I have something unqiue to contribute which is stated in my last paragraph.

    This book and the rest in the series take place far in the future (allegedly 50,000 years) at a time when people live throughout the Galaxy. A mathematician Hari Seldon has developed a new branch of mathematics known as psychohistory. Using the law of mass action, it can roughly predict the future on a large scale. Hari Seldon predicts the demise of the Galactic Empire and creates a plan to save the knowledge of the human race in a huge encyclopedia and also to shorten the barbaric period expected to follow the demise from 30,000 years to 1,000 years. A select people are chosen to write the Encyclopedia and to unknowingly carry out the plan to re-create the Galactic Empire. What unfolds in this book and in the books that follow is the future history of the demise and re-emergence of a Galactic Empire, written as a series of adventures, in a similar fashion to the Star Wars series.

    Even though this is arguably the greatest set of Science Fiction novels ever written, I do not recommend it to those who are only mildly interested in Science Fiction. Character development is not the focus of these novels and the large amount of technical/scientific details, schemes and plots can become both confusing and heavy for the unitiated Science Fiction reader. If you read this one you will feel the need to read the others which may take a long time. If you are new to Science Fiction start with something lighter and when you are hooked you can continue with this series. Also, in my opinion the second and third books were better than the first.

  • Kane
    Dec 28, 2010

    Foundation. The name is apt.

    Isaac Asimov's sprawling scifi tale is the rock on which much of today's space opera is built. Truer scifi historians than me would cite the late 1920s and pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories and E. E. "Doc" Smith as the DNA donors that spawned a thousand space operas. They would be right, but Asimov's fame towers above all others. His 1952 story of the decline and fall of the Galactic Empire is space opera's... foundation.

    Unfortunately, the analogy continues. Fou

    Foundation. The name is apt.

    Isaac Asimov's sprawling scifi tale is the rock on which much of today's space opera is built. Truer scifi historians than me would cite the late 1920s and pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories and E. E. "Doc" Smith as the DNA donors that spawned a thousand space operas. They would be right, but Asimov's fame towers above all others. His 1952 story of the decline and fall of the Galactic Empire is space opera's... foundation.

    Unfortunately, the analogy continues. Foundation has all the elements of poor writing that makes stuffy literary aristocrats stick their noses up at the genre. And rightfully so. Flat characters, a lack of economical yet creative prose, and endless dialogue are the genre's Achilles heel, and not in a cool Ilium way.

    This rant covers only Foundation itself. Despite owning an old edition which includes the entire original trilogy, I only managed to slog through the first book. Barely.

    The first chapter with Hari Seldon and a death-or-exile-decision was promising. But the plot device that makes the story potentially interesting also pulls it apart like the gravity of a gas giant. Foundation spans decades and with each shift into a new era, you're introduced to new characters. You learn almost nothing about them and in some scenes the dialogue is so pervasive, violating the hallowed "show-don't-tell" rule so thouroughly, I was actually unsure where these people were.

    One of my favorite parts of reading science fiction is being exposed to the new ideas of smart visionary authors. Good scifi ends up being right, cool or both. I obviously try to give anything as old as Foundation more of a pass on this front but I really didn't find any of its concepts mind-bending, or even mind-tickling. Psychohistory, as I understood it, was alright. I guess. Statistics.

    Dated elements abruptly eject the reader from the ever so important suspension of disbelief. For days I couldn't shake the scene where two characters shared a bunch of "snuff". I thought, is it reasonable that humans are still using tobacco products 12,000 years in the future?? And snuff?? Atomic energy is the big technology in the Foundation universe. That's like, fascinating, and stuff.

    Immediately after I "finished" Foundation, I picked up Scott Westerfeld's The Risen Empire. A quote on the cover claimed "In the tradition of Asimov". Uh oh. But wait. Intellegent turns of phrase? Break-neck action? Verisimilitude in the progression of civilizations? Technology that drives the plot, is extremely inventive and is extrapolated from today's knowledge base? Well-thought out characters whose behaviour makes sense but is not cardboard predictable? Other wicked-cool oddities like undead royal families? No snuff? Yes, I'm in the safe and familiar bio-tech embrace of a trusted friend: New Space Opera.

    Stories like Foundation are the reason why we even needed a New Space Opera in the first place. Unlike the misadventure of New Coke, this was a significant improvement on the original. The authors of this reinvigorated genre like Banks, Hamilton and Westerfeld (with all due respect to Stephen Baxter and his physics lectures some call novels) focus on quality writing, character development and social commentary. Oh and scientific accuracy verging on "whooooa there". A few, like Dan Simmons' georgeous Hyperion, are masterworks in any genre.

    All this poison being said, I can easily watch old GI Joe and He-Man cartoons and marvel at their sheer genius while a 10-year old today would brand me an idiot. Nostalgia is a shiny prism through which we all view our past. If I had not first read Foundation in my thirties but instead in my teens this review would like be entitled "Asimov is like chewing on expensive snuff!". But alas I am stuck with current me.

    This review also marks several times now that I give poor grades to scifi written prior to 1980. I'm a linear person: old before new, read things in order, cake before coffee, no spoilers please. So I've attempted to read Asimov, Niven, Pohl and I have to say: meh. I now vow brown cow to not feel guilty by skipping the basement of my favorite genre and instead enjoy the first floor, second floor, jacuzzi, balcony and pool. I'll get to that basement. One day. When it's raining. Ooo look a squirrel!

    Being a solid fan of New Space Opera, I must give proper respect to works upon whose shoulders it stands. I do so. But as with many of you, I have more books on my to-read list than I can tackle in a lifetime. I must prune and trim aggressively and I'm afraid the rest of the Foundation series is likely to end up on the greenhouse floor. Hopefully before I'm dust a clever New Space Opera idea about extending human life expectancy will give me more time to explore books about advanced civilizations prone to cancer of the mouth due to snuff addictions. Until then, I give thanks to the Old and say bring on the New.

  • Lyn
    Jul 30, 2011

    I read this again after about a thirty year hiatus. I remember as a high schooler liking it, and I read and liked some of the sequels, but not entirely getting the full ideas presented.

    After some time to grow up and mature, I think I can appreciate Asimov's vision better than before. Maybe it was the lack of much action that hindered my enjoyment as a teenager, but as an adult I really liked the concepts approached and the ideas put forth.

    Great science fiction and very influential on the works

    I read this again after about a thirty year hiatus. I remember as a high schooler liking it, and I read and liked some of the sequels, but not entirely getting the full ideas presented.

    After some time to grow up and mature, I think I can appreciate Asimov's vision better than before. Maybe it was the lack of much action that hindered my enjoyment as a teenager, but as an adult I really liked the concepts approached and the ideas put forth.

    Great science fiction and very influential on the works that came later. This is a MUST read for SF fans.

  • Brad
    Mar 26, 2013

    From my first reading of this Foundation Trilogy when I was fourteen to my latest reading today, I still put these in my top ten books of all time. No question.

    Why?

    So many reasons. And even though the characters and the short-story-like presentation of the different times are quite fine and memorable, it isn't these that I point to.

    It's the ideas.

    It's also how our history is writ large as SF.

    It's the social exploration. It's the re-establishment of civilization, one building block at a time. It

    From my first reading of this Foundation Trilogy when I was fourteen to my latest reading today, I still put these in my top ten books of all time. No question.

    Why?

    So many reasons. And even though the characters and the short-story-like presentation of the different times are quite fine and memorable, it isn't these that I point to.

    It's the ideas.

    It's also how our history is writ large as SF.

    It's the social exploration. It's the re-establishment of civilization, one building block at a time. It's the scary devolvement of all civilization, too. All dystopia and the glimmer of optimism. It's a grand slide and a hard scrabble in a far future galactic civilization that might as well be us in a mirror.

    I've since read Gibbon's

    and I've read about the ancient history of India's economic empire around 5 thousand years ago, mainly accomplished peacefully and with great demand, eventually leading to a grand civilization.

    Both of these histories played a huge part in Asimov's imagining of his empire, but it's mostly the Roman Empire's history that this book emulates, from the ousting of its malcontents, the fracturing of the provinces, the devolvement of knowledge and learning into dogma and religious pomp.

    Asimov curtails the worse parts of the Roman empire by having the Foundation eventually focus upon economics as a last-ditch stopping point before outright violence overwhelms the rest of the galaxy.

    It's not a perfect solution, but this is merely the first of three novels that absolutely need to be read together. :)

    I'm still absolutely amazed that history is retold so convincingly and grandly as an epic SF with such clear and sharp prose.

    Asimov has always been known as a wonderful teacher. Even his most entertaining and important works, such as this, always remain a testament to his own learning and his absolute insistence on making everything perfectly understood to his audience.

    The novel is ambitious, wide-sweeping, and terrifying. It's honestly mind-blowing, taken together with the other two, just how much information and development and implications are poured out onto the page. :)

    If this is any indication, I think we're all doomed to repeat our History. :)

    Of course, with all the things we know now, I'd have loved to see how Asimov would have written this today. :)

  • Apatt
    May 03, 2014

    Yes, I have read Foundation before, chances are you have too! However, for some reason I missed out on the later Foundation books from

    , I can barely remember who Hari Seldon is or why “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”. So reread the series from the beginning it is then; no great hardship really, a fun time is already guaranteed, and the three volumes combined are shorter than a single book by

    .

    The very first Foundation story was published in 1942

    Yes, I have read Foundation before, chances are you have too! However, for some reason I missed out on the later Foundation books from

    , I can barely remember who Hari Seldon is or why “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”. So reread the series from the beginning it is then; no great hardship really, a fun time is already guaranteed, and the three volumes combined are shorter than a single book by

    .

    The very first Foundation story was published in 1942, around the time poor Anne Frank was writing her diary. I first read the trilogy in an omnibus volume in the early 80s, before

    came out. I did, of course, gobble up all three books up at once, and I did love it, in fact I have never met anyone who does not like the Foundation Trilogy (and I don’t want to, I suspect they are all churls).

    The trilogy is auspiciously my first sci-fi series, I have since read many others, though I don’t think I have read a better one (yes, I prefer it to the

    trilogy). This first Foundation book is a fix-up novel of connected short stories, unlike some fix-up novels I have read these stories join up beautifully into one cohesive novel. In this volume we meet the legendary Hari Seldon, the founder of the Foundation and ultra-brilliant “psychohistorian”, who is able to predict the future through mathematical algorithms combined with history, sociology and goodness knows what else. Such prediction is necessarily based on aggregate behavioral trends of vast numbers of people (billions). Seldon predicts the fall of the Galactic Empire and makes it his life’s mission to reduce the span of the dark ages which will inevitably follow. To this end the Foundation is established on a remote planet called Terminus ostensibly to compile a mega Encyclopedia Galactica but in truth to save mankind as a whole from an extended period of dark ages, and eventually to set up a Second Empire.

    Seldon is not the only protagonist of Foundation, as the book spans hundreds of years and several generations three other heroes (no anti-heroes here) follow him: Salvor Hardin, Linmar Ponyets, and Hober Mallow. The first is a politician and the other two are traders. What they have in common is a can-do attitude, a disdain of violence, and the instinctive wiliness to outwit just about anybody they come across. In fact this series is a fine example of “The Triumph of Intellect and Romance Over Brute Force and Cynicism” (thank you Craig Ferguson). The showdown between these heroes and their antagonists are all battles of wit, no ass kicking is ever implemented.

    What I did not appreciate in my teens is what a good writer and story teller Asimov is. He is not great prose stylist (witness the ample use of exclamation marks in the narrative), nor did he need to be for the type of stories he wanted to tell. However, there is a sincere and infectious enthusiasm in his story telling and a clarity that render the narrative very readable and entertaining; not to mention the witty and sardonic humour in much of the dialog. The scene where the Foundation citizens are waiting outside a vault for a hologram of Seldon to appear after 50 years is really quite thrilling.

    The futuristic tech and world building are a lot of fun of course, though you will have to allow for some dated tech ideas or anachronisms such as messages printed on tapes, the use of microfilms and lack of AI (computers are not mentioned).

    As good as this first Foundation volume is I find it to be the least exciting of the trilogy. I distinctly remember some edge of the seat developments in the two follow-up volumes; see links below.

    ________________________

    (Foundation #2)

    (Foundation #3)

    (Foundation #4)

    (Foundation #5)

    ________________________

    • Here is an excellent reference for the series: Omni's

    (spoiler galore!).

  • Sanjay Gautam
    Feb 11, 2015

    Absolutely Loved it! Hail Asimov! He is brilliant! His writing is enchanting and filled with awe inspiring genius. Work of sheer Ingenuity! Height of Inventiveness!

    ........................................................

  • Bookdragon Sean
    Apr 20, 2016

    The scope of this is just hugely imaginative. The idea is to create the new, and perfect, galactic empire. The old one is dying. But new empires don’t just pop up overnight; it takes years for the right circumstances to arise; it takes years for all the pieces to slot perfectly into place. The brightest mind of the age has used his incredibly farfetched, yet incredibly brilliant, psychohistory to predict the exact date the empire will fall. He has

    The scope of this is just hugely imaginative. The idea is to create the new, and perfect, galactic empire. The old one is dying. But new empires don’t just pop up overnight; it takes years for the right circumstances to arise; it takes years for all the pieces to slot perfectly into place. The brightest mind of the age has used his incredibly farfetched, yet incredibly brilliant, psychohistory to predict the exact date the empire will fall. He has used this 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.

    The old empire will crumble in exactly 300 years, so he manipulates the ruling body to send him, and his following, to a remote planet that will eventually develop into something grand. The settlers are all scientists, and they’re all set on one manipulated goal. Harry Seldon controls the future from the grave; he knew what would happen, and he knew exactly when the people of the future should act. He predicted that it would take 1000 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.

    It’s a remarkable book, so broad and innovative. I’m shocked reading this today; imagine what it would have bene like reading it in the 50s. It clearly defines so much of the genre. Star Wars and Star Trek clearly drew upon Asimov’s foundation. Would they have existed without it? The parallels are here. It’s a visionary book, though there are a few problems with it. 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. That’s not the purpose of this story. The idea is to show the development of a nation, of an empire, across the centuries. I found it hard to fully invest in it because of this. The scenes that didn’t have Harry Seldon in felt a little flat. He was the glue that held it together, the rest of the characters were forgettable.

    Thus, there is no action or real climax. Structurally speaking, this is essentially five short stories put together. They’re decades apart, and so were the characters. It shows the development of an empire, but from a great deal of distance. There was no real human element or emotions involved. This work is practically a work of genius, though it was impossible to fully care about the story because everything was objectified. It was a major case of show rather than tell. So I couldn’t rate it five stars even if I was tempted to. I’m a realist, I know he couldn’t have told the story any other way, but for me it lacked the human angle.

    This was a great book, though it lacked that vital element of storytelling. It was very deceiving at the start too; it was quite dry. I almost gave up with it, but I’m glad I persisted. I will be reading further into the series to see how things go, but I will most likely only go so far as the original trilogy.


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