Rating: +

Isaac Asimov

I have finished the first book in the Foundation trilogy and I liked it a lot. I agree with previous comments that Asimov's writing isn't anything to get excited about, but I think that the plot makes up for that quite well.

The premise of the book (and the trilogy) is that in the extremely distant future the galaxy is run by the Empire (cue Star Wars music), a huge governing entity with an emperor at the head and the entire galaxy in it's control. A psycho-historian (somebody who uses psychology and a lot of math to understand trends in history and ultimately to predict the future of society as a whole) predicts that the Empire will fall and that their will be chaos and everything will revert to barbarian times for 30,000 years until order is restored. However, he also claims that if he and the people who work with him are allowed to create an encyclopedia of the galaxy's knowledge before the fall occurs, then the time of chaos will be reduced because humanity's knowledge will be saved.

The plot goes on from there, and you learn that the psycho-historian's plans were much more detailed and in depth than you ever suspected. The book follows the encyclopedia foundation (hence the trilogy name) through the following centuries, recording the path of history mostly focusing on various crises that occur and have to be resolved. I was often surprised while reading this book, and (unlike the future) was not too predictable.

The idea that somebody could predict the future (and the future is predicted with a surprising degree of detail) is interesting, and I think that it is very interesting that Asimov manages to use science rather than magic or some sort of psychic powers or something as the means for the predictions. Of course, Asimov is a scientist himself so it isn't surprising, but it makes for an interesting book. There are the obligatory discussions between characters about what is the point of acting if the future has been predicted; if you trust science then isn't the future inevitable since it's been shown to be a certain way. The responses aren't sophisticated but it's fun to see the question take on the dual issues of faith in science and free will.

The one thing that I had difficulty with was the lack of continuity in characters. Because the plot moves across several centuries, no one character is available through the whole book. In addition, Asimov narrates through various points of view within any one time period, hence introducing even more characters. By the end I was having some trouble keeping track of who was who.

I have started the second book in the trilogy, Foundation and Empire. I don't think that the book is as good, but I am interested in what happens with the foundation, so I'm going to keep reading it. At this point, the plot seems to becoming a bit formulaic. On the other hand, when I stopped reading, a big wrench just got thrown in the works that might change that, so I'll reserve my opinion on the trilogy as a whole until later.

(Note: All of the books in the Foundation trilogy that Asimov wrote are all decent books. The first is the best, but if you get through the entire trilogy, you get a clearer picture of the world Asimov set up and how things work out. Some aspects of the story got a bit silly in the final book, so if your interest starts to wane in the second one, you might not want to go on.)


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