Foundation by Isaac Asimov


Isaac Asimov

First published 1951.  I read a Bantam Spectra Books edition published 1991 on my older version Kindle, so not sure how many pages. Goodreads says 256 pgs.

Guardian 1000 novels: Science Fiction.

With trying American Gods, and loving Riddley Walker, I decided to stay with the Science Fiction Guardian titles for one more for now.  This was a good idea — once again the Guardian list led me to a book I probably never would have read but am now very glad I did.

Foundation is actually only one part of a complex series of books conceived by Asimov to describe the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire — a concept that he attributed to his reading of Gibbons’ famous work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  The action in Foundation occurs after two prequel novels — and there are four subsequent works that continue the story.  I have no idea how soon I will get back to any of them, and while I liked Foundation, I have so many other reads coming up and I’m not compelled to put those aside in favor of more Asimov right now.

Foundation begins with the trial of scientist Hari Seldon, who has discovered he can predict the future through a system of mathematical formulas.  He predicts the fall of the current Galactic Empire into a dark age lasting 30,000 years.  Naturally, the powers that be are not too excited about this.  Seldon is able to convince the government that if he is allowed to gather the most brilliant minds together to work on a compendium of human knowledge, the Encyclopedia Galactica, he will be able to reduce this period of dark ages substantially.   The government powers agree and send the “Encyclopedists” and their leader to a far-away planet at the end of the Galaxy, Terminus.   This group of exiles establishes the Foundation which is the heart of all the stories — a group dedicated to create the Encyclopedia, and more — to protect and enhance knowledge in the face of the impending dark ages.

The remainder of Foundation jumps us through a series of novelettes — Hari Seldon has passed away (kind of….) — but his Foundation lives on and morphs in the way all societies grow and change.  Space pirates, aristocrats and finally, traders, take their turns at guiding the Foundation in the face of the eventual crumbling of the Empire.

A funny side-note on this book; I shouldn’t have tried to read it on a Kindle.  Because the various episodes jumped forward in hunks of 50, 80 years at a time, I would have liked to flip back into the beginning pages to remind myself of various minor characters and events — but it wasn’t really that easy with the Kindle.

I liked Foundation, I liked the big ideas it presented about the gradual fall of empire when respect for science and truth fade.  I hope I do get time to return to this Galaxy soon.

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