Friday, April 6, 2012


Every once in a while I look at my bookshelves, and think "OK, it's time I read ", and with weary heart I pluck it off the shelf and haul it upstairs to start reading. Often, the classics are hard going - written for a different time, written without the mass market in mind, but good for the mind - they're the Brussels sprouts of novels. Such were my feelings when I decided to read Isaac Asimov's Foundation. It's undoubtedly one of the greats, but as a sci-fi novel written in the fifties I was expecting a slow-going, cardboard-charactered read.

Foundation turned out to be a nice surprise. The characters are disposable and cardboard, but the story is rich and deep, and spans a scale of decades, across an entire galaxy. It starts with a scientist who is the greatest Psychohistorian ever, studying psychohistory, the science of predicting the big-picture future (this was written thirty years before chaos theory was invented, so at the time it was written, it was possibly scientifically credible). He realises the galactic empire is crumbling, and starts putting things in place to ensure humanity won't go into a 30,000 year dark age. The Foundation series is the story of what follows, with the first book broken into five sections, each with a mostly different cast of characters, set decades apart.

Each section works well, and it's enjoyable to see the history unfolding. It's also interesting to read in terms of the groundwork it laid for science fiction as a genre. It's certainly worth a read, and I'm following it with the rest of the original Foundation trilogy.


Krin said...

I read the entire Foundation series in my teens - it was on my parents' bookshelves.

I remember enjoying it mostly, as you've identified, because the premise and the world(s) he created were so interesting. The only character I can remember was the captain of a space ship...

My only crticism of the series is when one of the books (the third one? Or the sequel to the trilogy) goes one about the miniaturisation of technology (which is interesting given the subsequent development of Moore's Law). At the time I remember thinking this was a major flaw in the book's futurisitc thinking rigour, as why would it take 30,000 years AFTER Foundation to miniaturise stuff.

Danzilla said...

I've noticed that too, even in books 1 and 2 - that a galactic empire with space drives is having trouble miniaturizing things, and that's the big advance the Foundation are making. Also that all the high tech stuff is powered by "atomics". I try to put my "living in 1952" hat in when reading, and it helps :)