Friday, October 4, 2013

Foundation: Review

Many moons ago, I was a big SF geek.  Star Trek started that.  I grew up in golden glow of Classic Trek in syndication and when I spied that 5-book set of Star Trek novels back in 1981 and had the great good fortune to find it sitting under the Christmas tree later that year, I was hooked.  It wasn't long before I was reading all the classic science fiction authors--Bradbury, Clarke, Silverberg, Heinlein, Tiptree, Le Guin....and Asimov.  And in 1984 I put another set of books on my Christmas list: The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.  And somehow never managed to read any of them....until now (almost 30 years later--yikes!).

Thanks to Anne from Creativity’s Corner and Kristilyn from Reading in Winter and their 2013 Book Bingo Reading Challenge, I finally got around to the first novel in the series. It's my last read for the "Everybody But Me" category (and the last book necessary to cover the card, by the way!)--and it seems like everyone who's at all interested in science fiction has read this one.  And everybody in the SF world back in 1966 voted it (and the other two books in the original trilogy) the Best All-Time Series.  When I solicited suggestions for the "Everybody But Me" category, my friend Carrie suggested this one.  That worked out perfectly since I had it sitting right over there (points) on the teetering TBR stacks.

Now...was it worth it after 30 years?  Well...maybe.  I can't say my enthusiasm is as great as Carrie's.  Asimov can write.  He was one of the giants of science fiction.  I loved him when I was younger--everything from Nightfall to Caves of Steel.  All the robot tales--novels and short stories.  Foundation has a lot going for it: sweeping future history, grand world-building, Asimov's attention to all the details of his psychohistory.  But I think part of my difficulty is that this is a book that has pulled together a bunch of short stories and has been made into a "novel."  Just when I get settled with a new group of characters--they meet their psychohistory crisis and the next story jumps ahead 50 or 30 or 70 years.  New people to meet and get used to.  That format just didn't work well for me at this point--perhaps it would have worked better had I read these books when I got them.  I would have enjoyed following any of these groups throughout the novel.  For my experience--three stars.

Here's the scoop on the story:

The Galactic Empire has been going strong for 12,000 years.  Think Rome on a HUGE scale.  The Empire doesn't just rule over a few measly's got over million planets in its grasp.  The problem...well, just like Rome, it's getting ready to fall.  Hari Seldon, the creator of a science called psychohistory (which can--sortof--predict the future) knows that if it falls, there would most likely be a period of 30,000 years of Galactic Dark Ages.  Years of barbaric and savage warfare.  

He comes up with a plan to save mankind's knowledge and shorten the dark period to just a thousand years.  He gathers the best scholars and scientists to work on the Encyclopedia Galactica...the sum of mankind's knowledge and arranges for it to located on Terminus at the edge of the galaxy.  He calls the sanctuary of knowledge Foundation...with a second Foundation at the other end of the Empire.  He also arranges a system to display pre-recorded messages at predetermined times once he's dead.  At times of crisis.  For soon the Foundation will find itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun--or fight them and be destroyed.


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