Read Foundation by Isaac Asimov Online

foundation

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future -- to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire -- both scientisFor twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future -- to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire -- both scientists and scholars -- and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.But soon the fledgling Foundation finds 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....

Title : Foundation
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780553803716
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 244 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Foundation Reviews

  • Christy
    2019-02-13 16:44

    Honestly, I don't get why this book/series is so popular. There are some interesting elements to it (for instance, the use of religion as a tool of mass control and the implicit resultant argument that religion is no more than a fraud, "the opiate of the people," after all), but the book gave me little to enjoy or dig into. The forces of the novel are broad, historical, dealing with masses of people; this means that there is little to no room for individual characters here and little to be done by the few characters who do appear. One leader says, in fact, in response to a crisis, the threat of warfare and annihilation, "I'm going to do nothing. One hundred percent of nothing, and that is the secret of this crisis" (191). This is a recurring theme. Plus, there are no female characters to speak of. One man's wife makes a brief and apparently unnecessary appearance for a page-long chapter, but that's it. All else is done by and to men.There are a couple of minor things I do like about the book. One is Salvor Hardin's statement that "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent," which I like for its endorsement of nonviolent alternatives. Another is the characters' habit of saying "Space" or "Galaxy" instead of God when they exclaim or curse.

  • Kevin Kelsey
    2019-02-05 13:34

    A great story, told in a terribly boring fashion. One-dimensional characters engaged in various trade negotiations, political upheavals and general planning. Dry beyond belief. The concepts are very engaging--religion as a means of control, psychohistory, etc--but the telling of the story leaves much to be desired. Some sections are much better than others, particularly 1 & 3. There is a really good story between the lines here; one that I think would work much, much better as a television series.

  • Bookdragon Sean
    2019-01-23 17:42

    This is the most ambitious thing I’ve ever read. The scope of this is just hugely imaginative. The idea is to create the new, and perfect, galactic empire. The old one is dying. But new empires don’t just pop up overnight; it takes years for the right circumstances to arise; it takes years for all the pieces to slot perfectly into place. The brightest mind of the age has used his incredibly farfetched, yet incredibly brilliant, psychohistory to predict the exact date the empire will fall. He has used this field of academia to predict the future, and because of this he can alter events, long after his death, and guide his fledgling civilisation into power.The old empire will crumble in exactly 300 years, so he manipulates the ruling body to send him, and his following, to a remote planet that will eventually develop into something grand. The settlers are all scientists, and they’re all set on one manipulated goal. Harry Seldon controls the future from the grave; he knew what would happen, and he knew exactly when the people of the future should act. He predicted that it would take 1000 years for the new empire to be born. So he appears to them in real moments of crisis in pre-recorded holograms to guide them in the right direction. “To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well.” It’s a remarkable book, so broad and innovative. I’m shocked reading this today; imagine what it would have bene like reading it in the 50s. It clearly defines so much of the genre. Star Wars and Star Trek clearly drew upon Asimov’s foundation. Would they have existed without it? The parallels are here. It’s a visionary book, though there are a few problems with it. All the characters are scientists and politicians; they are powerful and driven; they are singular in their forceful purposes. None of them really have the chance to develop. That’s not the purpose of this story. The idea is to show the development of a nation, of an empire, across the centuries. I found it hard to fully invest in it because of this. The scenes that didn’t have Harry Seldon in felt a little flat. He was the glue that held it together, the rest of the characters were forgettable. Thus, there is no action or real climax. Structurally speaking, this is essentially five short stories put together. They’re decades apart, and so were the characters. It shows the development of an empire, but from a great deal of distance. There was no real human element or emotions involved. This work is practically a work of genius, though it was impossible to fully care about the story because everything was objectified. It was a major case of show rather than tell. So I couldn’t rate it five stars even if I was tempted to. I’m a realist, I know he couldn’t have told the story any other way, but for me it lacked the human angle. “The fall of Empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damming of curiosity—a hundred other factors. It has been going on, as I have said, for centuries, and it is too majestic and massive a movement to stop.” This was a great book, though it lacked that vital element of storytelling. It was very deceiving at the start too; it was quite dry. I almost gave up with it, but I’m glad I persisted. I will be reading further into the series to see how things go, but I will most likely only go so far as the original trilogy.

  • Adina
    2019-01-24 21:50

    2.5* rounded up to 3 for the idea. I postponed writing the review as I was hoping that something would click in my head and I would realize just how magnificent this novel is. It did not happen, unfortunately. First of all, I was made to believe that this is a SF book. It isn’t. Not really. It is more of a socio-political one. It is not even a novel, but a set of stories who present a series of political, sociological, psychological and religious ideas all based on the famous Psychohistory concept. The ease with which a religion can be created and the power it can have over the masses scared me as it is so valid even today. To use religion to control planets was a brilliant and scary idea and it felt the most interesting part of the book. The premise of the Foundation is brilliant, I admit. However, it would have been marvelous if the author have made me care about any of it. The characters had no growth, no real personality and the prose was so dry. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between different people who scheme and try to outrun each other with their cunning and intelligence in order to gain power. The fact that the whole thing takes place in space feels secondary to me. Please do not throw virtual tomatoes at me for what I am about to say. Here it goes…I believe Asimov is not a very good writer. It seems he can only write in dialogue and descriptive passage longer than a paragraph gives him the chills. This is a pity as it adds up to the (false) idea some people have that SF is not literature. I read enough of the genre to know that there are well written SF novels but I don’t think this one (or the Prelude) is one of them. If the novel is not very well written, too sciency or too deep than it is fun, right? Well, not really. It has its moments but mostly it is filler, filler and at the end we realize how smart the main guy of the story was.A funny thing that I observed is that there are only male characters except for a single chapter about a bitchy, sour wife who makes life miserable for one of the rulers of a planet. I know, I know, it’s the time the book was written. I am not offended. Still, I could not observe a phrase that went something like this: On the Foundation planet (forgot its name) there were X people together with their wives and children. So wives are not people, interesting idea. I appreciate the idea of the series and it could have been a wonderful experience had it been written by someone else. Like Ray Bradbury or Frank Herbert.

  • Lyn
    2019-01-23 20:45

    I read this again after about a thirty year hiatus. I remember as a high schooler liking it, and I read and liked some of the sequels, but not entirely getting the full ideas presented. After some time to grow up and mature, I think I can appreciate Asimov's vision better than before. Maybe it was the lack of much action that hindered my enjoyment as a teenager, but as an adult I really liked the concepts approached and the ideas put forth. Great science fiction and very influential on the works that came later. This is a MUST read for SF fans.

  • Kane
    2019-01-19 16:29

    Foundation. The name is apt. Isaac Asimov's sprawling scifi tale is the rock on which much of today's space opera is built. Truer scifi historians than me would cite the late 1920s and pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories and E. E. "Doc" Smith as the DNA donors that spawned a thousand space operas. They would be right, but Asimov's fame towers above all others. His 1952 story of the decline and fall of the Galactic Empire is space opera's... foundation.Unfortunately, the analogy continues. Foundation has all the elements of poor writing that makes stuffy literary aristocrats stick their noses up at the genre. And rightfully so. Flat characters, a lack of economical yet creative prose, and endless dialogue are the genre's Achilles heel, and not in a cool Ilium way. This rant covers only Foundation itself. Despite owning an old edition which includes the entire original trilogy, I only managed to slog through the first book. Barely. The first chapter with Hari Seldon and a death-or-exile-decision was promising. But the plot device that makes the story potentially interesting also pulls it apart like the gravity of a gas giant. Foundation spans decades and with each shift into a new era, you're introduced to new characters. You learn almost nothing about them and in some scenes the dialogue is so pervasive, violating the hallowed "show-don't-tell" rule so thouroughly, I was actually unsure where these people were. One of my favorite parts of reading science fiction is being exposed to the new ideas of smart visionary authors. Good scifi ends up being right, cool or both. I obviously try to give anything as old as Foundation more of a pass on this front but I really didn't find any of its concepts mind-bending, or even mind-tickling. Psychohistory, as I understood it, was alright. I guess. Statistics. Dated elements abruptly eject the reader from the ever so important suspension of disbelief. For days I couldn't shake the scene where two characters shared a bunch of "snuff". I thought, is it reasonable that humans are still using tobacco products 12,000 years in the future?? And snuff?? Atomic energy is the big technology in the Foundation universe. That's like, fascinating, and stuff. Immediately after I "finished" Foundation, I picked up Scott Westerfeld's The Risen Empire. A quote on the cover claimed "In the tradition of Asimov". Uh oh. But wait. Intellegent turns of phrase? Break-neck action? Verisimilitude in the progression of civilizations? Technology that drives the plot, is extremely inventive and is extrapolated from today's knowledge base? Well-thought out characters whose behaviour makes sense but is not cardboard predictable? Other wicked-cool oddities like undead royal families? No snuff? Yes, I'm in the safe and familiar bio-tech embrace of a trusted friend: New Space Opera.Stories like Foundation are the reason why we even needed a New Space Opera in the first place. Unlike the misadventure of New Coke, this was a significant improvement on the original. The authors of this reinvigorated genre like Banks, Hamilton and Westerfeld (with all due respect to Stephen Baxter and his physics lectures some call novels) focus on quality writing, character development and social commentary. Oh and scientific accuracy verging on "whooooa there". A few, like Dan Simmons' georgeous Hyperion, are masterworks in any genre. All this poison being said, I can easily watch old GI Joe and He-Man cartoons and marvel at their sheer genius while a 10-year old today would brand me an idiot. Nostalgia is a shiny prism through which we all view our past. If I had not first read Foundation in my thirties but instead in my teens this review would like be entitled "Asimov is like chewing on expensive snuff!". But alas I am stuck with current me. This review also marks several times now that I give poor grades to scifi written prior to 1980. I'm a linear person: old before new, read things in order, cake before coffee, no spoilers please. So I've attempted to read Asimov, Niven, Pohl and I have to say: meh. I now vow brown cow to not feel guilty by skipping the basement of my favorite genre and instead enjoy the first floor, second floor, jacuzzi, balcony and pool. I'll get to that basement. One day. When it's raining. Ooo look a squirrel!Being a solid fan of New Space Opera, I must give proper respect to works upon whose shoulders it stands. I do so. But as with many of you, I have more books on my to-read list than I can tackle in a lifetime. I must prune and trim aggressively and I'm afraid the rest of the Foundation series is likely to end up on the greenhouse floor. Hopefully before I'm dust a clever New Space Opera idea about extending human life expectancy will give me more time to explore books about advanced civilizations prone to cancer of the mouth due to snuff addictions. Until then, I give thanks to the Old and say bring on the New.

  • Bradley
    2019-02-08 20:45

    From my first reading of this Foundation Trilogy when I was fourteen to my latest reading today, I still put these in my top ten books of all time. No question.Why?So many reasons. And even though the characters and the short-story-like presentation of the different times are quite fine and memorable, it isn't these that I point to.It's the ideas.It's also how our history is writ large as SF. It's the social exploration. It's the re-establishment of civilization, one building block at a time. It's the scary devolvement of all civilization, too. All dystopia and the glimmer of optimism. It's a grand slide and a hard scrabble in a far future galactic civilization that might as well be us in a mirror.I've since read Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and I've read about the ancient history of India's economic empire around 5 thousand years ago, mainly accomplished peacefully and with great demand, eventually leading to a grand civilization.Both of these histories played a huge part in Asimov's imagining of his empire, but it's mostly the Roman Empire's history that this book emulates, from the ousting of its malcontents, the fracturing of the provinces, the devolvement of knowledge and learning into dogma and religious pomp. Asimov curtails the worse parts of the Roman empire by having the Foundation eventually focus upon economics as a last-ditch stopping point before outright violence overwhelms the rest of the galaxy.It's not a perfect solution, but this is merely the first of three novels that absolutely need to be read together. :)I'm still absolutely amazed that history is retold so convincingly and grandly as an epic SF with such clear and sharp prose.Asimov has always been known as a wonderful teacher. Even his most entertaining and important works, such as this, always remain a testament to his own learning and his absolute insistence on making everything perfectly understood to his audience. The novel is ambitious, wide-sweeping, and terrifying. It's honestly mind-blowing, taken together with the other two, just how much information and development and implications are poured out onto the page. :)If this is any indication, I think we're all doomed to repeat our History. :)Of course, with all the things we know now, I'd have loved to see how Asimov would have written this today. :)

  • Sanjay Gautam
    2019-01-18 19:55

    Absolutely Loved it! Hail Asimov! He is brilliant! His writing is enchanting and filled with awe inspiring genius. Work of sheer Ingenuity! Height of Inventiveness!........................................................

  • Apatt
    2019-02-04 18:56

    Yes, I have read Foundation before, chances are you have too! However, for some reason I missed out on the later Foundation books from Foundation's Edge, I can barely remember who Hari Seldon is or why “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”. So reread the series from the beginning it is then; no great hardship really, a fun time is already guaranteed, and the three volumes combined are shorter than a single book by Peter F. Hamilton.The very first Foundation story was published in 1942, around the time poor Anne Frank was writing her diary. I first read the trilogy in an omnibus volume in the early 80s, before Foundation's Edge came out. I did, of course, gobble up all three books up at once, and I did love it, in fact I have never met anyone who does not like the Foundation Trilogy (and I don’t want to, I suspect they are all churls).The trilogy is auspiciously my first sci-fi series, I have since read many others, though I don’t think I have read a better one (yes, I prefer it to the Dune trilogy). This first Foundation book is a fix-up novel of connected short stories, unlike some fix-up novels I have read these stories join up beautifully into one cohesive novel. In this volume we meet the legendary Hari Seldon, the founder of the Foundation and ultra-brilliant “psychohistorian”, who is able to predict the future through mathematical algorithms combined with history, sociology and goodness knows what else. Such prediction is necessarily based on aggregate behavioral trends of vast numbers of people (billions). Seldon predicts the fall of the Galactic Empire and makes it his life’s mission to reduce the span of the dark ages which will inevitably follow. To this end the Foundation is established on a remote planet called Terminus ostensibly to compile a mega Encyclopedia Galactica but in truth to save mankind as a whole from an extended period of dark ages, and eventually to set up a Second Empire.Seldon is not the only protagonist of Foundation, as the book spans hundreds of years and several generations three other heroes (no anti-heroes here) follow him: Salvor Hardin, Linmar Ponyets, and Hober Mallow. The first is a politician and the other two are traders. What they have in common is a can-do attitude, a disdain of violence, and the instinctive wiliness to outwit just about anybody they come across. In fact this series is a fine example of “The Triumph of Intellect and Romance Over Brute Force and Cynicism” (thank you Craig Ferguson). The showdown between these heroes and their antagonists are all battles of wit, no ass kicking is ever implemented. What I did not appreciate in my teens is what a good writer and story teller Asimov is. He is not great prose stylist (witness the ample use of exclamation marks in the narrative), nor did he need to be for the type of stories he wanted to tell. However, there is a sincere and infectious enthusiasm in his story telling and a clarity that render the narrative very readable and entertaining; not to mention the witty and sardonic humour in much of the dialog. The scene where the Foundation citizens are waiting outside a vault for a hologram of Seldon to appear after 50 years is really quite thrilling.The futuristic tech and world building are a lot of fun of course, though you will have to allow for some dated tech ideas or anachronisms such as messages printed on tapes, the use of microfilms and lack of AI (computers are not mentioned).As good as this first Foundation volume is I find it to be the least exciting of the trilogy. I distinctly remember some edge of the seat developments in the two follow-up volumes; see links below.________________________Notes:• My review of Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2)• My review of Second Foundation (Foundation #3) • My review of Foundation's Edge (Foundation #4) • My review of Foundation and Earth (Foundation #5) ________________________• Here is an excellent reference for the series: Omni's Ultimate Guide to the 'Foundation' Series (spoiler galore!).

  • Thomas
    2019-02-01 14:55

    The Foundation trilogy (three first books) and the Foundation series (all seven) are often regarded as the greatest set of Science Fiction literature ever produced. The Foundation series won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Isaac Asimov was among the world's best authors, an accomplished scientist, and he was also a genius with an IQ above 170, and it shows in the intelligently concocted but complex plots and narrative. There are already 331 reviews for this Science Fiction novel, however, I still believe I have something unqiue to contribute which is stated in my last paragraph. This book and the rest in the series take place far in the future (allegedly 50,000 years) at a time when people live throughout the Galaxy. A mathematician Hari Seldon has developed a new branch of mathematics known as psychohistory. Using the law of mass action, it can roughly predict the future on a large scale. Hari Seldon predicts the demise of the Galactic Empire and creates a plan to save the knowledge of the human race in a huge encyclopedia and also to shorten the barbaric period expected to follow the demise from 30,000 years to 1,000 years. A select people are chosen to write the Encyclopedia and to unknowingly carry out the plan to re-create the Galactic Empire. What unfolds in this book and in the books that follow is the future history of the demise and re-emergence of a Galactic Empire, written as a series of adventures, in a similar fashion to the Star Wars series. Even though this is arguably the greatest set of Science Fiction novels ever written, I do not recommend it to those who are only mildly interested in Science Fiction. Character development is not the focus of these novels and the large amount of technical/scientific details, schemes and plots can become both confusing and heavy for the unitiated Science Fiction reader. If you read this one you will feel the need to read the others which may take a long time. If you are new to Science Fiction start with something lighter and when you are hooked you can continue with this series. Also, in my opinion the second and third books were better than the first.

  • Markus
    2019-01-28 14:38

    ”Now that the Empire had lost control over the farther reaches of the Galaxy, these little splinter groups of planets became kingdoms – with comic-opera kings and nobles, and petty, meaningless wars, and a life that went on pathetically among the ruins.A civilization falling. Nuclear power forgotten. Science fading to mythology – until the Foundation had stepped in.”After twelve thousand years of peace, prosperity and expansion, the Galactic Empire is crumbling. Its vain aristocracy is ignorant of this, but the psychohistorians, making predictions of the future under the guidance of the brilliant Hari Seldon, know it for a statistic fact. By careful planning and manipulation, they start the project that will provide a beacon of light and knowledge lasting through the Dark Ages in preparation for the formation of a new empire: the Foundation.The book centres around the leaders and people of the Foundation itself, mostly on an around the main planet of Terminus, a faraway rock in outer space. The story is a series of novellas set at various points during the first two centuries of the foundation, and chronicle the future and developments of Hari Seldon’s ideal.The internal workings and tenets of the Foundation are quite interesting, mainly how it manipulates, threatens and employs divide and conquer strategies to combat those who would seize its resources, all without using violence. ”Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” is a fascinating mantra, and one the Foundation builds itself around.The innovate and prolific Isaac Asimov is by many regarded as the greatest and most popular science fiction author of all time, the Foundation series often coming in second behind Dune on rankings of sci-fi series. More?Most importantly, this book has become such a solid pillar of the genre, sending ripples through the future into the minds of later science fiction authors who became the heirs to Asimov’s legacy. While journeying through the pages of Foundation, the reader will discover so many passages and descriptions reminiscent of the greatest works the genre has later produced.There are flaws. One issue that invited curiosity followed by annoyance is the astounding lack of women. I was two thirds through the book when I realised there had been not a single female character nor any mention of the existence of women. I was curious because I assumed there would be some form of explanation, and that this was all part of the setting. Then the appearance of one single unimportant female character only to try on some jewelry made it abundantly clear that there was no good explanation.Another point, which is hardly a flaw, but something readers should be aware of, is that Foundation is not about the setting, the characters or even the story, but rather the ideas. As others have pointed out before, this reads more like a fictionalised essay than a tale of science fiction. Characters and places are never particularly compelling compared to later works of the genre.But despite the flaws, and more than anything, this is an early work that inspired so many brilliant stories yet to come. Isaac Asimov’s most famous series is indeed a foundation for the genre of science fiction to stand on and develop from.

  • Ken-ichi
    2019-02-04 15:36

    An amusing read, but I think I still prefer Brin and Simmons when it comes to epic space opera. Probably the most interesting thing about this book (and, I assume, the rest of the series) is the millennia-spanning time scale of its narrative, which Asimov handles by establishing Hari Seldon's statistical prophesy, and then dropping in at critical junctures to investigate how individuals contrive to fulfill that prophecy. It's kind of a fun model, always knowing the general direction of the plot without knowing the detail, a bit like reading the last page first. It can also be dull, contradictory, and occasionally unpleasant. There isn't that much suspense when you can always know Seldon is going to end up correct, and the in the end the Foundation will end up ushering in the Renaissance. Asimov's characters also aren't all that likable, or human. They're like strategic robots, avatars the author can inhabit to explain the brilliance of the little political puzzle he's concocted. It's also slightly ridiculous that in a universe where computational power is so great as to statistically model the destiny of civilizations with great accuracy, we are asked to believe that individual wills and intellects are responsible for shepherding these statistical trends. Characters are always saying, "Oh, it's a Seldon crisis, we should make sure we don't screw this up." Of course they won't screw it up.This is also a universe of white guys. I'm not against books about white guys, and I don't think every book needs to have a sympathetic, fully-realized representative of every socio-sexual-political-racial identity, but I don't love books about boring, soulless white guys in which all the other humans are pointedly idiotic. I think there is one woman in the entire book, and she's a petulant, impotent princess who's easily impressed by fancy jewelry. I guess it's not really a book about people.Anyway, a decent read, though I'm not feeling particularly compelled to read the next. Should I?

  • mark monday
    2019-02-15 15:57

    psychohistory - "that branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli" - says that the patterns and cycles of human societies can be accurately predicted.Hari Seldon - that genius psychohistorian whose homely visage speaks to his followers hundreds of years after his death - says that the Empire must fall and that thousands of years of barbarism must follow.The Foundation - that secretive colony of scientists established by Seldon on the planet Terminus - says that they will be humanity's last hope for shortening those thousands of years of barbarism and building humanity back up to its former glory.Isaac Asimov - that celebrated science fiction Grand Master and clear-eyed progressive - says that he can fix up five linked stories and make of them a single novel with a single-minded purpose, a novel with prose that is straightforward but often witty and resonant, and a narrative that moves forward swiftly but with a decidedly fateful inevitability.mark monday - that dilettante - says that this novel was a pleasure to read. it often told instead of showed, but that was no problem. it often lead to a climax that was purposely anticlimactic, and that was no problem either. it had one story of the five that held familiar pleasures such as action and sweet revenge and a face-off with a villain, and that was a delightful surprise. it had mystery and intelligence and a dry tone with spiky undercurrents and a lot for him to think about. can humanity's behavior over time truly be predicted?history - that condescending know-it-all, that ignored librarian, that screaming Cassandra - says that Yes, it can!

  • Simona Bartolotta
    2019-02-02 17:57

    3.5"Call it idealism. Call it an identification of myself with that mystical generalization to which we refer by the term, 'humanity.'"I have read exactly fourteen novels and countless short-stories written by this genius of a man (because people, he's a genius. Don't even start looking for a more fitting word, because you won't find any. He's a genius, period) and this is only the third time I rate one of his works less than four stars. The fact that this is happening with the first installment in the most famous of his series only makes the entire thing even more incomprehensible to my eyes and hurtful to my heart.•The idea of keeping an account of the ten centuries (this book covers approximately the first two) that are supposed to separate the still unofficial fall of the Galactic Empire from the dawn of a new civilization is undoubtedly intriguing, all the more so because of the huge, enormous dimension of such a project. No wonder, then, that the author was forced to adopt some kind of strategy to make sure that all this material could be adequately contained in only three books. Thus, the episodic structure of Foundation.Now, I have nothing against episodic structure. Most of the times, actually, I even enjoy it, and a lot. Here Asimov employs it with his usual skill: each "episode" has an initial situation, a conflict, a resolution. In terms of plotting and scheming, every single one of them is perfect. The actualization of each stage, though, leaves a bit to be desired.•While a climactic moment is -let me add, theoretically- present in each episode, just as it is supposed to, in none of them it is endowed with the emotional effectiveness that it is, by definition, meant to possess. This doesn't mean that the whole book is dull, or uninteresting, because it's far, really far from being so, but when it comes to the b>pace this fault is nonetheless remarkable and more than a little annoying.•Being the story so fragmentary, it's difficult to warm up to or duly appreciate any of the characters. And I know that Asimov's literary production has never shone for and didn't make his fortune thanks to its cast, but truth be told I've always had a particular weakness for his characters, especially his robots (yes, believe it or not, this man created the most human and robotic robots I've ever read about. Doesn't make any sense? I couldn't care less. Go read his Robot series and then we can talk about it). •In spite of this, even though we don't have the opportunity to get to know the characters, they always have the occasion to put to work that cunning, sensible and deft intellect, the ability to plan and to foresee that is typical of all the most loves Asimov's heroes. Which is, at the end of the day, the reason why I'll never, ever, ever stop to read this magnificent author.

  • Tom
    2019-01-19 16:29

    I highly recommend Foundation to anyone who professes to have a grain of interest in Sci-Fi. The political intrigue, religious undertones, innovative sci-fi thoeories, world building, and epic scope make Foundation one of the most worthy reads of speculative fiction.The premise is that the genius, Harry Seldon, has created and perfected a new science, phychohistory, a form of advanced statistics, to the degree that he can mathematically predict and guide the future of extremely large population samples. Through mathematics, he predicts the inevitable fall of the galactic Empire and the decline of humanity into a barbaric dark age. He then sets in motion events to minimize the negative effects of this dark age and eventually create a new Empire to maintain the glory of humanity throughout the universe. The novel and sequels cover generations of time as the events he posthumously predicts and directs take place. Having some statistics background from my Economics education, I found Asimov's ideas of psychohistory to be both fascinating and implausible. Even though Harry Seldon's phychohistory plots the future using data from an enormous sample size, history is largely written by leaders whose individual actions could not be determined or swayed by mathematics. While it is plausible to me that advanced perfected statistics could predict the fall of the empire, I must suspend my disbelief to believe that Seldon could accurately predict the course of the much smaller Foundation which so heavily depends on the decisions of individual leaders like Salvur Hardin. Although some of the concepts behind Foundation require a dose of suspended disbelief, I didn't mind because the same ideas are so damn interesting and the way Asimov applies them to the plot is brilliant. I don't think that "beaming up" or "hyper space travel" are plausible notions either, but I love the ideas nonetheless. The idea of psychohistory, or a super-advanced form of the econometric regression analysis I studied in college, is absolutely fascinating and serves as the basis for one hell of a clever read. I loved how Asimov approaches the idea of God. I personally believe in a God that is omnipotent and omniscient-- able to guide and predict the future. Asimov sets up Seldon to be a God-figure and explains his powers to predict and guide the future by his genius wielding of psychohistory. Religion even crops up based on Seldon's legacy. Speculating about the nature of higher power is a classic facet of sci-fi. An interesting sidenote is that this kind of speculation gave way to Tom Cruise's Scientoligist beliefs through the author L. Ron Hubbard. This shows that a clever idea placed in the right mind at the right time can dramatically influence the masses--which happens to be a theme of Foundation. With my background rooted in Cristianity, I find characters such as Aslan, Jean ValJean, and Harry Seldon that symbolize deity or reflect the authors ideas of higher power fascinating.

  • Denisse
    2019-01-27 21:55

    Buddy Read at: Emma's Tea PartyThe Foundation trilogy is considered to be the best Science Fiction series of all time. And with reason. This first book is what we can call a huge introduction to what is in my opinion and little experience the best sociological study ever put in fiction. There is no problem exposed in Foundation that cannot be transposed to our reality or history. As a warning I must say the book doesn’t have any kind of character development. It doesn’t even have a main character. And that can be difficult for some readers. It is a book about the history and future of the Galactic Empire, an empire so big that any catastrophe to come with it will have huge repercussions. Excellent pace, great exposition and incredibly intelligent. A must for anyone who appreciates a serious and mature plot in the genre. Empecé y termine este libro con una cara de alegría como no tienen una idea. A pesar de la gran cantidad de exposición social y política que tiene el libro, no se siente en ningún momento denso o difícil. Aunque si requiere tu atención completa a la lectura. Necesitas poner a jalar el hámster. Lo que mas me llamo la atención es lo tan no-ficción que es este libro de ficción. O sea si, un Imperio galáctico tan enrome que tiene 25 millones de planetas habitados, y requiere un planeta completo para su administración. Si, eso es bastante ficticio, pero los problemas que presenta o va a presentar según nuestro psicohistoriador Hari Seldon, tienen las bases mas realistas que se puedan imaginar, y mas de una vez te acordaras de eventos pasados o presentes de nuestro planeta.Excluyendo la primera parte, el personaje principal de las otras 4 es siempre alguien con ambición al poder. Siempre estamos dentro de un político, o comerciante, etc. Así que no necesariamente te van a agradar los POV, mas que nada te parecerán interesantes, sobretodo si los extrapolas al mundo real. Y es que Fundación trata sobre las razones por las cuales una sociedad cae estancamiento de aprendizaje, sobredependencia del exterior, etc y las que necesita para levantarse conocimiento de ciencia, historia, arquitectura, etc. Y utilizara un plan ingeniosamente trazado por Seldon para reducir el tiempo de barbarie tras esta caída. Todo eso mezclado con una escritura y fluidez fantástica. No necesariamente veremos el surgir de la Fundación como algo poético o maravilloso, mas bien como algo realista que requerirá la manipulación de la gente para aceptar su verdad que no es mas que el conocimiento que quieren salvar y usualmente a lo que se hace mas énfasis es a la Energía Atómica. Una recomendación personal: leer con mucho cuidado la primera parte, que es la que va a dar sentido a las demás. Esta primera parte sirve como “predicción” de lo que pasara en las otras 4 y te ayudara a entender el plan gigantesco de Hari Seldon y por consiguiente la novela completa. Muy importante leerla con detenimiento y razonar todo lo que dice. Entre menos sepan lo que van a encontrar en estas páginas, mas interesante se les va a hacer. Eso si debes estar muy abierto a los temas reales del libro porque Asimov usa la ciencia ficción para explicar otras cosas y no para entretener al lector. No esperen acción ni ningún tipo de sentimentalismo ya sea con historias de amor o amistad. Así que vean bien cuando estén listos para ese tipo de lecturaAltamente recomendado para quien sabe admirar y apreciar una trama seria. Y para cualquiera con un interés real en la ciencia ficción. Sacale la vuelta si no puedes leer nada que no tenga por lo menos 20 explosiones. O si por el momento simplemente no estas de humor para algo muy profundo. No es una buena opción para tus inicios en el genero, pero si ya llevas tiempo en el, no es mal libro para avanzar a otro nivel :D

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-01-26 13:34

    527. Foundation (Foundation, #1), Isaac Asimovعنوانها: ظهور امپراتوری کهکشانها؛ ظهور امپراطوری کهکشانها (هفت کتاب)؛ نویسنده: ایزاک آسیموف؛ انتشاراتیها: (شقایق، نی نامه)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سپتامبر سال 1994 میلادیعنوان: ظهور امپراطوری کهکشانها - کتاب نخست از هفت گانه بنیاد؛ نویسنده: آیزاک آسیموف؛ مترجم: محمد فیروزبخت؛ تهران، شقایق، 1371؛ در 474 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نی نامه، 1382، در 474 ص، شابک: 9649521542؛ موضوع: داستانهای علمی و خیال انگیز از نویسندگان امریکایی - قرن 20 مسه گانه را بارها خوانده ام و گاه کتابها را گم کرده ام و دوباره یافته ام، اما مجموعهٔ «بنیاد» نام مجموعه‌ ای هفت جلدی از آیزاک آسیموف است که مشهورترین مجموعهٔ علمی-تخیلی خوانده شده‌. داستان این مجموعه به ترتیب زمان انتشار پیش نمی‌رود. آسیموف نخست: جلدهای سوم (بنیاد)، چهارم (بنیاد و امپراطوری) و پنجم (بنیاد دوم) را نوشتند و سپس با وقفه‌ ای طولانی و تنها برای رضای دل خوانشگران مجموعه جلدهای ششم (لبه بنیاد) و هفتم (بنیاد و زمین) را به آن سه گانه افزودند. پس از آن باز هم با وقفه‌ ای نسبتا طولانی جلد اول مجموعه (سرآغاز بنیاد) و در نهایت نیز اندکی پیش از درگذشت خویش جلد دوم (پیشبرد بنیاد) را نوشته‌ اند. ترتیب نگارش این داستان‌ها جدا از خط داستانی آن‌هاست. آسیموف در سال 1951 میلادی نگارش سه‌ گانهٔ بنیاد را آغاز کردند. ایشان در سال 1951 میلادی: بنیاد اول، در سال 1952 میلادی: بنیاد و امپراطوری؛ و در سال 1953 میلادی: بنیاد دوم را نگاشتند. ایشان برای نوشتن این مجموعه داستان از ظهور و سقوط امپراتوری روم الهام گرفته است. دنیای سه‌ گانه بنیاد، دنیایی رو به زوال کهکشانی ست. آسیموف در این مجموعه یک امپراتوری را به تصویر کشیده، که دوازده هزار سال است پا بر جاست، و از بیست و پنج میلیون سیاره ی مسکونی تشکیل شده‌ است. ریاضی‌دانی به نام: هری سلدون؛ راهی می‌یابد تا با استفاده از ریاضیات، سیر آیندهٔ تاریخ را پیشگویی کند. او این دانش جدید را «روان-تاریخ» می‌نامد، و با استفاده از آن؛ سقوط قریب الوقوع امپراتوری کهکشانی را پیش‌ بینی می‌کند. سه‌ گانه شامل کتابهای: بنیاد، بنیاد و امپراتوری و بنیاد دوم است. ا. شربیانی

  • Trish
    2019-02-07 15:38

    Not my first work by Asimov but I was told that this trilogy, together with his robot stories (that I've read), are his finest work and some of the most important works in science fiction. I now understand why.Asimov does not only have an extremely amiable writing style, he is a master in phrasing complex matter in a simple, unassuming way that immediately transports you tens of thousands of years into the future. Any concept, no matter how alien to us, becomes "normal" within only a few lines.In this particular case we start out during the time of the Galactic Empire - humanity has spread across the universe but as with any great civilisation, stagnation sets in and with it, doom. A scientist has a mathematical way of predicting the future and not only predits the fall of the Empire but also how long the ensuing "dark ages" would last. Before that backdrop, there are 5 parts of this novel:- The Psychohistorians- The Encyclopedists- The Mayors- The Traders- The Merchant PrincesThe first part shows the aforementioned scientist and the outrage caused by his calculations as well as his measures to ensure that his plan can proceed. His plan, simply put, is to shorten the period of the "dark ages" (from the predicted 30.000 to 1.000 years).The second takes place 50 years later when the so-called Enyclopedia Galactica (a collection of all the knowledge of the doomed Galactic Empire) is already under way but politics interfere with progress. However, to me, that is in no way the worst. Far worse is the discovery that so many supposedly studied people content themselves with reading ancient texts, comparing them, never researching for themselves, questioning what they are taught/told, even if they have the opportunity. In short: laziness and complacency is spreading which is exactly what is bringing down the entire Empire and therefore endangers the original plan/reason for the Foundation.The third story takes place yet another 30 years in the future and here is where I disagree with the author. You see, in only 30 years technology has become a religion with technicians and maintenance personal being "priests". Now, I do believe that many people nowadays are ignorant as to how certain technological achievements work and therefore I do not doubt that could happen in the future too. However, 30 years to go from technology used by everyone (even if not understood), to being worshipped as something divine?! And what is more, it's not just ignorant people worshipping, the men being educated at the Foundation's main seat, Terminus, actually believe that their toolbox is a collection of holy artifacts. *bangs head against the wall*Nope, not buying it, not in such a short amount of time.This is also where I started doubting the Foundation. Before, I thought it was a great idea to preserve technology and shorten the "dark ages" but I despise religion and this one is no different.The fourth story takes place 55 years after the third (135 years after the start of the book) and introduces the traders that bring technology to the far corners of the galaxy in order to expand the influence of the Foundation (financial and political). The religious part of the movement is retreating, in many circles (especially amongst the traders) even frowned upon. Naturally, this story is therefore full of political intrigue since some worlds refuse to enslave themselves by accepting to depend upon Foundation's technology. However, as we are told within this story: "Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right!" And I hope I'm not the only one seeing the Foundation as a bully by this point.The fifth and final story takes place 155 years after the start of the novel and is about a trader being sent out into a far corner of space where Foundation ships mysteriously keep disappearing. It is believed that another world has technological growth, which puts the powerful position of the Foundation in jeopardy. Does the Empire still exist? Is there a new power? Again, we have political intrigue on Terminus (still Foundation's headquarters/home world) but also another protagonist that solves problems with wit instead of brutal force.The main theme throughout the book seems to be that violence is not the answer. Knowledge, if used correctly, is a far better weapon. I'm not sure it is morally better though. I get where Asimov is coming from, especially considering that he wrote/published this in 1951 (consider the American political climate back then!), but what we see in these stories has me thinking if the Foundation's way really is better.I deliberately left the rest of the novel shrouded because giving away too much would ruin the story (except that I will say there was another pocket of scientists much like the ones that started the Foundation on Terminus but installed on the other end of the galaxy and I'm already curious how that will play out). It's in no way a book that is supposed to be as thrilling as an action movie or horror book. Instead, there is a lot of social exploration in a very clever and accessible way, yet never preachy or boring or too theoretical.One last comment about Scott Brick, the narrator of my audio edition - he is fantastic. Somehow seemingly stoic but engaging at the same time. Talk about perfect combination.No surprise this trilogy (I assume at this point that the other two novels will be of the same quality) are so well-known and well-liked. They are ground-breaking on several fronts, not least of which on the so-called psycho-history (the mathematical process with which to predict the future).

  • Penny
    2019-02-07 21:50

    There's a reason everyone recommends this trilogy. It really is that good. I flew through this (granted it really isn't long) and loved every second! It's essentially 5 short stories that follow one another and need to be read in order. I'm very keen to read the rest of the Foundation novels when I'm finished with my 2014 challenge. The investigation of science, religion and trade, and how they can work together and against one another is remarkably well done. It was unusual to read Asimov sans robots, but of course he didn't disappoint. Highly recommended to anyone and everyone!The introduction tells the story of how Isaac Asimov came up with the idea for this series (the fall of the Roman Empire in space basically) and how the original publication proceeded. The interesting part came when he'd completed the trilogy and was very much done with the Foundation novels, but could not escape their popularity and was eventually strongly persuaded by his publishing company to write more Foundation novels. When he re-read his trilogy, he found that he did have a lot of unanswered questions and there was a lot more to write, and so he wrote the sequels and prequels. I'll be reading this series in publishing order.

  • Kevin Xu
    2019-01-27 21:35

    This is where Science Fiction especially Space Opera first started. Any fan of Science Fiction has to read this, this is the father of all Science Fiction. Its why its called Foundation. It is the Foundation of science fiction.

  • Steven Harbin
    2019-02-11 15:51

    I just re-read this for about the 5th or 6th time, although this was probably the first time I've gone back to this volume in over a decade or even two. Asimov still holds up for me, though I can't say how much of that is nostalgia. Still, he's probably not for everyone, a little wordy at times, not much action. Even so the whole Foundation series was a major great concept when it first came out and I still recommend it to anyone who loves science fiction, especially "classic" science fiction. This book is a collection of 5 short stories, in chronological order, concerning the establishment of the "First Foundation" and how it survived and thrived on the outer edges of the galaxy as the original Galactic Empire began to wane and decline. Asimov's heroes/protagonists are usually men (and sometimes women, though not in this book) of thought rather than action, but they outwit (or sometimes simply outwait) their antagonists. I recommend it to any science fiction fan who hasn't ever read, if just to see what the fuss was about. If you are a history fan like me as well, then that helps with the enjoyment of Asimov's "Future History." Still 5 stars as far as I'm concerned.

  • Phrynne
    2019-01-29 19:33

    This is a very interesting book full politics and intrigue. Actually not a lot really happens but the author provides a lot of food for thought. Some times I felt the writing was just a bit too dry and the characters a bit too bland. Overall however it is a classic piece of science fiction and I am happy I have read it.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    2019-01-18 21:56

    $1.99 Kindle sale, July 23, 2017. One of my very favorite old Golden Age SF novels. The old empire is dying, says one Hari Selden, a brilliant historian and statistician, even though hardly anyone believes him. Can he and his followers use their knowledge of history and human behavior to build a better galactic society when the current empire collapses? A quick and absorbing read that's great fun.I cut my science fiction-lovin' teeth on this trilogy. Asimov was brilliant.Read count: I dunno, 4 or 5 times?

  • Maruf Hossain
    2019-01-30 21:59

    বইটা শুরু করার আগে আশংকায় ছিলাম 'দেরি করে ফেললাম না তো! বয়স পার করে ফেলিনি তো!' পড়তে শুরু করার পর সে আশঙ্কা হাওয়ায় উড়ে গেল! এ যেন সায়েন্স ফিকশনের মোড়কে এক মহাকাব্য!বিশাল ক্যানভাস নিয়ে কাজ করেছেন আসিমভ। এতই বিশাল যে এই নাদান পাঠকের টানা ২০ দিন লেগে গেল মাত্র আড়াইশ' পৃষ্ঠার এ বই শেষ করতে। পড়তে পড়তে হাঁপ ধরে যায়, টানা বেশিক্ষণ পড়তে পারিনি। তাই ১০-৫ পাতা করে পড়েছি।বইয়ের কাহিনি অনেক পরের ভবিষ্যতের। মানব সভ্যতা তখন চরম উৎকর্ষতায় আরোহণ করে এবার অবরোহণের পর্যায়ে আছে। তবে এই অধঃপতন হচ্ছে এত ধীর গতিতে যে কেউ বুঝতেই পারছে না। তাই, মহান গণিতবিদ হ্যারি সেলডন যখন ভবিষ্যদ্বাণী করলেন, এগিয়ে আসছে মানব সভ্যতার অন্ধকার যুগ, তখন সবাই তাকে 'কুফা সেলডন' বলে উড়িয়ে দিল। সেলডনের কথা অনুযায়ী শিগগিরই মহাবিশ্বে নেমে আসছে ৩০ হাজার বছরব্যাপী 'অন্ধকার যুগ'। তার এইসব সতর্ক বার্তা রাজদ্রোহের মতোই শোনাল হর্তাকর্তাদের কানে। তাই তার কপালে জুটল নির্বাসন।আসলে সুপরিকল্পিতভাবে সেলডনই বেছে নিলেন নির্বাসন। তিনি তার দল নিয়ে নতুন এক গ্রহে গড়ে তুললেন শিল্পকলা, বিজ্ঞান ও প্রযুক্তি নির্ভর এক সভ্যতা বা, শক্তি, যার নাম 'ফাউণ্ডেশন'। যা হবে নতুন মানব সভ্যতার কেন্দ্রবিন্দু। ফাউণ্ডেশনের কাজ হলো ৩০০০০ বছরের অপ্রতিরোধ্য অরাজকতাকে ১০০০ বছরে নামিয়ে আনা। এই বিশাল সুমহান হাজার বছরের যাত্রায় ফাউণ্ডেশনকে মোকাবেলা করতে হয় কিছু সমস্যা বা 'ক্রাইসিসে'র। এসবেরই চমকপ্রদ সব কাহিনিতে ভরপুর 'ফাউণ্ডেশন'।যথাসম্ভব সহজ করে বিশাল ক্যানভাসের জটিল বিজ্ঞানের এই গল্পটা ফেঁদেছেন আসিমভ। একেকটা সৌর জগতকে পুরো গ্যালাকটিক এম্পায়ারের একেকটা প্রদেশ, একেকটা গ্রহকে একেকটা শহর, এবং পুরো গ্যালাক্সিকে বর্তমান পৃথিবীর সাথে তুলনা করে পড়তে বসলে আমার মতো নাদান পাঠকদের বইটা আত্মস্থ করতে একটু সহজ হবে। বইটি পড়তে পারার জন্য অনুবাদক একটা বড়-সড় ধন্যবাদই প্রাপ্য। বিজ্ঞানের জটিল সব বিষয়-আশয় যথাসম্ভব ঋজুভাবে, পরিশীলিত ভাষায় তুলে এনেছেন অনুবাদক। সাই ফাই ভক্তদের তো বটেই, সাহিত্যপিপাসু পাঠকদেরও বইটা পড়া উচিৎ। কারণ, বইটাকে আমার কাছে সায়েন্স ফিকশনের মোড়কে নিখাদ এক মহাকাব্যিক আখ্যান বলেই মনে হয়েছে।

  • Scott
    2019-02-06 17:32

    Confession: This is one of my favorite books and I've probably read it 20-25 times, I usually read it at least once a year.The first book in the Foundation series (this series won the Hugo award for best all-time series) as we follow the path of Foundation set out by Hari Seldon and his psychohistory.Galaxy spanning - huge cast of characters - hundreds of years are covered - most epic, most awesome.Highest possible recommendationIf you're one of the five people left who haven't read this book just go do it...now

  • Buğra Aydoğan
    2019-02-11 21:33

    Vakıf'ı ilk kez okumamın üzerinden altı sene geçmiş. İkinci kitabı da okuduktan sonra kalan kitapların baskısının olmaması, sahaflarda bulunanlar da uçuk fiyatlarla satıldığından seriyi bir kenara attım. Bir de utanmadan Vakıf'ı dört yıldızla, Vakıf ve İmparatorluk'u da üç yıldızla değerlendirmişim. Zamanla okur nasıl değişir, kitaba karşı beklentiler nasıl değişir okurken anladım.Son birkaç senedir kitaplarının bulunmamasından dolayı Türkiye'de bir Asimov merakı baş gösterdi. İthaki'nin seriyi yeniden basması, yoğun bir şekilde reklamını yapması Asimov'u hiç duymamış insanlarda bile merak uyandırdı. Gördüğüm kadarıyla sık sık hayal kırıklığına neden olan bir seri. Bu nedenle Vakıf'ı okurken beklentileri biraz farklı tutmak gerekiyor. Vakıf serisi ne bir uzay operası ne de alışılagelmiş bilim kurgu edebiyatı örneklerinden biri. Psikoloji, sosyoloji, tarih ve retrofuturizm harmanlı bir Roma İmparatorluğu alegorisi. Özellikle bu konuda Asimov'un kurgusuna hayran olmamak elde değil. İmparatorluk dağılırken Avrupa'da yaşanan kaos ve Roma'nın mirasçısı olma gayesiyle yükselen Kutsal Roma İmparatorluğu fikri kitabın temellini oluşturuyor. Seri Galaktik İmparatorluğun binlerce yıllık tarihini anlatıyor, doğal olarak ilk kitapta zaman çizgisinde çok sık sıçramalar var. Karakterler sık sık değişiyor ve hepsi yüzeysel olarak tanıtılıyor. Ayrıca feodal monarşi göndermelerinden dolayı olduça maskülen bir kitap Vakıf. Olaylar din, ticaret, bilim gibi medeniyetin temel dinamikleri üzerinden çözümleniyor. Bunların çıkış noktası da Asimov'un özenle kurguladığı psikotarih bilimi. Asimov psikotarih ile birlikte bir nevi insanoğlu uzaya da çıksa tarihi tekerrür edecektir ama her şey öngörülebilirdir mesajı veriyor.

  • Stephen
    2019-01-19 16:37

    6.0 stars. On my list of "All Time Favorite" novels. The epic scope of this series (e.g., a Galactic Empire spanning 25 million worlds and containing over a quadrillion people), the great characters, the fun story and the concept of psychohistory, which I think is one of the coolest concepts ever, make this an absolute must read for SF fans. It is just loads of fun. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!Winner: Hugo Award for Best All Time Series (The Foundation Trilogy) (1966)Voted onto the Locus List of All Time Best Science Ficiton Novels (4th)

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2019-01-29 13:35

    Alongside the Robots, the Foundation must be the most endearing (and enduring) thing that Asimov has created. Being the mathematics nut that I am, I enjoyed the whole concept of being able to predict human behaviour accurately statistically, given the size of the population was big enough. The discipline of psychohistory is presented with just enough uncertainty to make it credible. A terrific read!

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-02-05 20:52

    I read the Foundation novels when I was younger, probably around the same time that I began getting into science fiction and fantasy in grades 7 and 8. I read a lot of Asimov, both because there was a lot of him in my suspiciously well-stocked public library and because … well, he wrote a lot of books. I read about the Foundation, psychohistory, his Three Laws of Robotics … everything and anything Asimov, if I could check it out with that brilliant plastic card, I would devour it. I can’t remember if this is my second or third time reading Foundation, but when I saw this well-preserved copy at a used bookstore, I decided now was a good time to revisit.My reading tastes haven’t changed all that much since I was twelve, but the way I read and critique what I read obviously has. To twelve-year-old me, Foundation was a fascinating and amazing story about how psychohistory—which is like psychology on steroids—can be used to manipulate the fate of human society in the far, far future. On re-reading it, I realize that Foundation probably resonated quite a bit with Dune, the first real seminal SF book I read as a child. More on that later though.To twenty-three-year-old-me, Foundation is a fascinating but not necessarily impressive story about how psychohistory can be used to manipulate the fate of human society in the far, far future. There is no question in my mind that this book or its successors deserve their status as classics and juggernauts in the field of science fiction. However, as stories, and particularly when it comes to Asimov’s writing, they are just not that great. I’m going to attempt to reconcile this disparity.This is a slim volume, and I read it over the course of a single night. Foundation is very easy to read. Firstly, as a collection of short stories more than an actual novel, with each story featuring a completely different cast and plot, it breaks into easy chunks that are independent of each other. I could have read each one as a bedtime story over the course of a week if I had the patience (and a bedtime). Secondly, none of the stories feature much in the way of action or description; if you look carefully, they are almost entirely dialogue. Asimov is fond of didactic conversations between various ideologically different characters, over the course of which he reveals both exposition and plot. It only works precisely because each story is self-contained, but it works, and it means I don’t have to pay much attention as my eyes move down the page.So we have five short stories that are mostly dialogue. With very little description or narration, Asimov doesn’t create much of a physical presence of the Foundation universe. I say this as someone who routinely doesn’t visualize images—but I do rely on descriptions to give me a sense of physicality. The characters in these stories are, for me, even less well-defined talking heads than usual.There is one exception: Asimov creates a strong physical presence for Trantor in “The Psychohistorians”. (It is notable that this is the only story not originally published with the rest but rather written for inclusion in this volume as a kind of preface to the others.) Gaal Dornick’s amusing country bumpkin awe at the scope and mechanization of Trantor is both evident and edifying:He could not see the ground. It was lost in the ever-increasing complexities of man-made structures. He could see no horizon other than that of metal against sky, stretching out to almost uniform greyness, and he knew it was so over all the land-surface of the planet. There was scarcely any motion to be seen—a few pleasure-craft lazed against the sky—but all the busy traffic of billions of men were going on, he knew, beneath the metal skin of the world.There was no green to be seen; no green, no soil, no life other than man. Somewhere on the world, he realized vaguely, was the Emperor’s palace, set amid one hundred square miles of natural soil, green with trees, rainbowed with flowers. It was a small island amid an ocean of steel, but it wasn’t visible from where he stood. It might be ten thousand miles away. He did not know.These are perhaps the most verbose, in terms of description, and most effective two paragraphs in the entire book. With it, Asimov establishes the nature of this empire of which Trantor is the centre. This is a vision of a humanity that has replaced nature with machinery at every opportunity. Trantor is so urbanized, so built-up, that it has layers upon layers descending deep beneath the surface. Most of its inhabitants are frightened by the notion of a sky. (Notice, too, how Asimov mentions “the busy traffic of billions of men”. It’s almost too easy to take shots at Foundation for the complete absence of female characters. Nevertheless, the latent sexism in the language of the time creates an unintended, almost dystopian effect for more modern readers. It’s not just a neglect or sexist portrayal of women; it implies a complete negation of women!)So, Trantor is the bloated, corpulent symbol of human civilization in this great and bountiful empire. It is the Rome of the galaxy, and as Foundation opens, it is in the midst of its own decline and fall. The parallels between Trantor and Rome are unmistakable. Asimov has translated Rome’s decline from Earth to a galaxy-spanning empire. Trantor loses control of the provinces, which fracture into their own kingdoms. The stories themselves are told from the perspective of Foundation members in those provincial territories, with only the barest hints that the Empire itself remains intact, albeit ailing, at the centre of the galaxy.Asimov’s doomed empire is a reminder of the impermanence of things, particularly of those instituations who have reached the point of senesensce where they no longer believe they are vulnerable. But Hari Seldon, a psychologist and mathematician, can see the decline happening, can predict the timeline of the fall, and has developed a revolutionary science he wants to use to shorten the subsequent chaos and get humanity back on its feet as quickly as possible. To this end, he manipulates the Empire into setting up the eponymous Foundation with the nominal goal of creating a vast encyclopedia of knowledge that it will preserve during the Dark Ages.The science that lets Hari get this done is psychohistory. It is a way of predicting the future by using pyschology to anticipate the behaviour of large groups. It’s not as crazy as it sounds—large systems often behave more predictably than smaller, individual components within those systems. On the other hand, it’s crazy to believe that a single person can develop some kind of mathematical way of predicting what will happen centuries hence. Psychohistory would suffer from the same flaw as any other attempt at futurism: there is no way to account for the unknowable. Seldon starts from a set of initial conditions and works forward along deterministic and probabilistic paths … but how can he account for external forces—the sudden discovery of aliens, or an intense gamma ray burst destroying Terminus, or something of a similarly unforeseen magnitude?Yet science fiction is all about saying what if? What if we had faster-than-light travel? What if aliens visited us and gave us telepathic cheese graters? So, in that grand tradition of what if, let us just ask what would happen if we could predict the future to that degree of accuracy. Let us assume we could manipulate the rise of a new Empire, as Seldon has orchestrated, from the ashes of the old one. It helps that, in this book, all the stories take place relatively close to the end of Seldon’s life (all about within two centuries). I believe the later books are set much further into the future, which is where serious deviation from Seldon’s plot would occur. Indeed, if I remember correctly from my blurry memories of the sequels, Seldon anticipated that and came up with a kind of monumental “reset” to compensate for such drift. Asimov is a cheeky but clever fellow, isn’t he?I’m also intrigued by the parallels between Foundation and Dune, which was published after this book. Dune and its subsequent novels really a lot on the prescience of Paul Atreides and his descendants. Paul becomes obsessed with leading humanity down the “Golden Path” that will prevent its stagnation, and his son takes up that quest in a rather extreme way. Prescience in Dune bears many similarities to psychohistory—namely, it doesn’t work as well if people are aware of the predicted future, and it creates a sense of hopelessness, of being manipulated: “to know the future is to become trapped by it”. Whereas Frank Herbert confines prescience to the bailiwick of a small group of people, at least during the first few books, Asimov establishes that psychohistory is useless when applied to individuals. So I find it interesting that, in every story, it is an individual character who drives the plot towards its successful Seldonian resolution.Each story, with the exception of the introduction, follows the same mould. The protagonist realizes a Seldon crisis approaches and begins plotting how best to steer the Foundation through it successfully. He has several conversations with people who doubt there is a crisis, or who criticize the protagonist’s inaction, insisting that the Foundation should be more aggressive. Finally, the protagonist reveals how, by doing nothing, their options have dwindled to a single course of action that somehow makes everything OK.True, the resolution is a consequence of Seldon successfully predicting the way various galactic factions would behave. But because of the perspective Asimov takes here—a lone mayor on Terminus, a self-satisfied trader on a mission, etc.—it feels like the resolutions owe more to a single individual. So, what gives? Is Seldon lying about psychohistory’s utility for individuals? Is Asimov just clumsy here? Or am I reading into it too much?Also, at no point does Asimov really examine whether Seldon’s vision for the future is the correct or moral one. During the early days of the Foundation, seen in “The Encyclopedists”, there are certainly calls to abandon the idea that the Foundation is being protected by the Emperor back on Trantor. Later, younger generations who don’t really respect the caché of Seldon’s legacy argue that the Foundation should use its knowledge to become the dominant power in that part of the galaxy—screw the current or future Empire! The protagonist at the time, Salvor Hardin, gives those characters the equivalent of a ruffling of the hair and a, “Oh, you kids and your silly imperialistic dreams!” before proceeding to navigate through the next Seldon crisis. Never does he seriously engage in a dialogue about whether Seldon is right. Why should there be another empire—why not a democracy? Why have a centralized civilization for humanity at all? Who is Hari Seldon to say what should become of humanity after the Fall?I’m disappointed by Asimov’s lack of engagement with these deeper issues of the future of humanity. He certainly doesn’t lack for vision; these stories prove what a magnificent sense of scope he has for thinking about the future of our species. It just seems, however, that he is more interested in showing off the nifty concept of psychohistory than he is in looking at the political or sociological ramifications of the societies he portrays. This is what separates Foundation from being a truly great book, in my opinion.If Foundation doesn’t make the grade, then why is it still a classic? All sorts of reasons—timing, publishing bias, the phase of the moon and the sun spot cycle and the baseball trading card racket…. I don’t know why it’s a classic, but I agree with that status. Foundation showcases how science fiction, given a single fascinating concept like psychohistory, can start asking questions about the trajectory of human civilization. It starts raising questions about self-determination, of individuals and of the species. And it makes for some interesting conversations between characters who are being manipulated by a man several decades deceased.So, I’m giving Foundation three stars. The quality of its writing, its weak characterization and description, and my reservations about the depth of its philosophy would ordinarily result in a paltry two-star rating. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the fact that there is something resilient about this book, something that allows it to bear the psychic weight of being a cornerstone in science-fiction’s canon. For that reason, it deserves recognition.

  • Eric
    2019-01-28 15:50

    It's always good to read something that helped mold a genre you love -- in the case of science fiction, that means reading Heinlein, Bradbury and Asimov. What's even better is when that classic turns out to be more interesting than anticipated. In this particular case, that seems to be in spite of itself. It tries really hard to be very boring, in a number of ways. 1) Consistently telling instead of showing, to the extreme that there were literally no action sequences in the entire novel, a novel in which the namesake Foundation's credo is "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent," which, while I theoretically agree, does not lend itself to fascinating science fiction literature.2) Skipping generations in each segment, giving the reader no characters to view the world through, or, for that matter, to connect with in any substantial way.3) Having no character diversity -- there are scientists, politicians, and traders. Sometimes the scientists are politicians, sometimes the politicians are traders. None of them, in any case, are female. All of them love speechifying, pontificating, and palavering.The book survives, and even thrives, despite these flaws, because Asimov's idea about Hari Seldon and his psychohistory is so strong and compelling, and the reader is so invested to see how each Seldon crisis plays out, they are willing to forgive these trifling annoyances for the greater good of an epic story spanning over 150 years.