Hari Seldon predicts that the glorious Galactic Empire will collapse within three hundred years. Obviously, the Empire doesn’t take the news well—in spite of Seldon claiming he knows how to soften the effects of the fall. He plans to create “The Foundation.” With a hundred thousand men, women, and children, he will see that the ensuing dark ages will be shortened from thirty thousand years to a single millennium. Their job (as far as the Empire and everyone else knows) will be to record history and science so that knowledge won’t be completely lost during the time that follows the Empire’s destruction. Thanks to Seldon’s insistence, a planet is founded for the Foundation’s use in the far reaches of the galaxy, and with it, the seeds of the next Galactic Empire.
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation wasn’t at all what I expected. The novel is told in five parts and set in four different generations. It isn’t the story of any one person but rather the story of how the Foundation itself survives the increasing dangers that spring up around it. In a weird way, the Foundation and Hari Seldon (who’s dead for nearly all the book) are the main characters. Once I realized that, I got invested in how the Foundation evolved and whether or not it was going to survive. That’s probably a first for me (getting emotionally attached to an entire world), but it was fascinating to see how Foundation had to adapt in the face of destruction. By the end of the novel, the fall of the Galactic Empire is not quite in sight (there’s still about a hundred and fifty years left), but Foundation has already developed from a group of encyclopedists into a religion and a power in trade. It was very neat to see how and why that happened.
My favorite part of Foundation though was watching how different leaders sprung up and solved the crisis facing the world. Since Foundation was started by a group of psychohistorians and encyclopedists, it’s not like anyone was battle ready. All major problems had to be solved by cunning and manipulation rather than by might. In a way, it reminded me a lot of George R. R. Martin’s Tuf Voyaging. That novel was a series of short stories about how Tuf solved problems with his mind rather than through violence. I actually liked Foundation a little more than Tuf Voyaging (in spite of it lacking Tuf’s dinosaurs), but both were interesting cases of science fiction where the brain is more powerful than brawn.
My only real issue with the novel was how few women there were present. There’s literally only one female character who speaks more than a handful of lines (and she’s a complete harpy). There’s also only three women mentioned in the entire book. If this had been written in the past decade, I would have rage-quit it, but I’ve learned to be a little more forgiving of older books. Foundation was written in the fifties so, while I’m not happy about it, I can deal with the fact that Asimov apparently didn’t care to include women in his future world.
I loved Foundation in spite of myself. It’s not the sort of thing that I usually like (since it’s not about characters and the woman issue and all), but it was fascinating all the same. I definitely want to continue on with the series, especially since the next book is called Foundation and Empire. I need to see how Foundation takes the Empire out for good. Hopefully, through very sneaky means.
I’d definitely recommend this book. There were times the political machinations reminded me of Star Wars. So if you’re enjoying reading about the Fall of that Galactic Empire through comics and tie-ins, this is a book that can help keep you entertained until December!
One last thing! I can’t talk about this book without pointing out that microfilm is a thing in the Galactic Empire. Microfilm.
Speaking of, what’s the worst anachronism you’ve seen in a Science Fiction novel?
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