Looking to read some classic science fiction, I turned to a book many consider a cornerstone of the genre. What I found unfortunately was a book that feels dated and oftentimes boring despite being a mostly enjoyable read. I’m talking about Foundation by Issac Asimov. It is worth noting that Foundation is not a novel, but rather a collection of five short stories set in the same universe and arranged in chronological order.
Foundation is set far enough in the future that earth as we know it is treated as a myth and there is no history or proof of its existence. Hari Seldon, the creator of psychohistory, is one of the characters we are introduced to early on in the first story, The Psychohistorians. Psychohistory is a mathematical discipline that can be used to predict the general course of the future. Seldon uses psychohistory to predict that the fall of the Galactic Empire is imminent and that the entire universe will fall into many years of anarchy unless an attempt to preserve present knowledge is made. So two Foundations are setup on opposite ends of the Galactic Empire to create an Encyclopedia of all this knowledge.
That’s the basic setup of the plot and really most of what happens in the first story. The rest of the stories show both the future of the Foundation and of the galactic empire. Rather than talk about the plot more, let’s talk about characters. Other than Hari Seldon, the other characters we are introduced to really have no depth. Most of the stories are short enough that you barely get to know the characters and what you do learn about them generally doesn’t make you feel closer to them. That point kind of leads into my disappointment with the book overall. There is no real development or plot building. The stories are short and full of dialog about Galactic empire politics. While I found it pretty interesting in the first few stories, I was somewhat burnt out on it by the end. It’s a tad hard for me to say that because there were some really cool, though dated, concepts in the book. I tried to imagine myself reading this book as someone growing up in the 1950s (not the easiest thing to do) and I bet the technology seemed awesome back then. Personal shields, pocket sized nuclear reactors, video phone booths, etc. Anyways, a lot of it seems relatively neat but it still wasn’t enough for me to get engrossed in the stories.
So now I’m going to try to find some nicer things to say about Foundation. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the first two stories quite a bit upon initial read. What else….I finished reading all five stories. But really, not much there for me. I’m still happy I finished reading it because I did enjoy Asimov’s writing style overall and might investigate his Robot series at some point.
A science fiction classic. I think it’s worth reading for that alone, but it is a somewhat dry read. Lots of dialogue, lame characters, no personality. Basically a bunch of men talking space politics with a hint of action here and there. Great premise initially, but I didn’t like where it went from there.
Rating - C
I’ve been really, really busy lately so I haven’t been finding time to write nearly as much as I’d like. Trying to find a way to work reading/writing back into my regular schedule. Even if nobody is reading this, I still enjoy thinking and writing about the books I’ve read.