In honor of Isaac Asimov’s birthday I’d like to do a quick review of his Foundation Trilogy. More books were written beyond the trilogy and so I guess to say the Foundation Series is more accurate, but I’m going to stick to the first three books as those are my favorites.
The books are set in the far future, and as the trilogy opens with “Foundation”, a great galactic empire has entered into its twilight years, though the members of that empire are completely unaware that it is in decline.
There is one exception to this ignorance, Hari Seldon. Seldon is a mathematician and has developed a discipline called psychohistory. With it he can predict the future events for large groups of humans, in a broad manner. He has foreseen the fall of the empire and wishes to shorten the length of the time of barbarism that will follow. To do so he sets up a foundation that will collect information and become a seed for civilization to grow again.
The opening piece is delightful. Being built upon stories published in the 40s, the books do not feel dated like some old science fiction can. This is because the primary focus of the series is on humanity, history and the evolution of societies. There is much less emphasis on technology. Book one finds Seldon launching his foundation and follows their seemingly inevitable rise.
The second book is “Foundation and Empire”. In the first section of the book the foundation comes into conflict with the empire that gave it birth. After this, Asimov shows his genius as a mutant comes onto the scene and all bets are off. Seldon’s plan is at best in crisis but may be completely destroyed by this powerful individual that could not have been predicted by any analysis of humanities masses. The mutant is not content just to worry about the foundation. Seldon had mentioned a second hidden foundation, and the mutant is obsessed with seeking it out.
This leads right into the third book, “Second Foundation”. I really don’t want to give anything away and it’s possible I’ve already said too much about plot. But the whole trilogy is like watching an incredibly impressive Rube Goldberg machine made of words. It truly is a work that will challenge and entertain the mind. It is space opera on a level rarely achieved in the genre. If you have never read Asimov (I’m assuming if you have, you’ve already read these books.) this is not a bad place to start. These are rich, well told tales that I find myself returning to read again and again.
Title: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation
Author: Isaac Asimov