View Poll Results: Foundation by Isaac Asimov

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Thread: Foundation by Isaac Asimov

  1. #1
    Registered User JacobF's Avatar
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    Foundation by Isaac Asimov

    There's no question among critics and fans of the misunderstood and often underestimated genre of science fiction that Isaac Asimov was a galaxy-shifting writer. He took the genre and squeezed it from the pulp when he penned the classic saga of space sovereignty, Foundation. Although it's set 12 000 years in the future, this is no bubble-gum space opera. There are deep political, spiritual and economic implications which Asimov portrays in the struggles for dominance between multiple planets over a period of three-hundred years.

    The novel introduces with psychohistory, a statistical method used for calculating the future, which Hari Seldon, the inventor of the science, uses to claim that the Empire -- the center of political gravity which rules every planet in the universe -- is going to crumble in 1,000 years, which will be followed by 30 000 years of dark ages. Hari Seldon is viewed by the Empire as a fear-monger, and is exiled to a desolate planet, Terminus, with very little resources. This creates a major problem for him, because his project, The Encylopedia Galactica, whose mission is to compile all the knowledge of the universe before the dark ages come, will fail under the new economic crippling which has been imposed upon him. Now, he creates a "time vault" which reveals useful prophecies for the mayors of Terminus to come, in order to possibly delay the inevitable fall of the Empire and continue the project. These prophecies are what move the plot along in the novel, which is separated into five parts, all of which are responses to these prophecies and how Terminus applies them to conflicts between them and the Empire.

    This theme of history and how it repeats itself in Foundation isn't totally from Asimov's imagination. He borrowed "a little bit of cribbin' from Edward Gibbon" when writing the novel, and the influence that The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire has on Foundation is massive, almost to the point where Foundation is a full-fledged allegory of Gibbon's masterpiece. This shouldn't come as a disappointment, as the events in Foundation are still satisfying in regards to the science fiction element of the novel, but rather it is fascinating to watch the parallels between the events in the Empire and the history of Western Rome. Plus, they're subtle enough that you'll appreciate the small comparisons -- the way Mayor Commdor threatens to kill his wife to keep his power and how Emperor Nero in Rome did the same, for instance -- just as much as the primary ones.

    Asimov lends a hefty amount of Foundation to scenes of pure dialog, which may turn off readers who yearn for some intergalactic dogfights and supersonic tyranny. While both of these are supplied in the novel, much of the novel's progression comes from political meetings and merchant bartering sessions. These are fascinating, considering Asimov's formidable ability to intrigue the reader, but I wished I saw more scenes like in the second part of the novel where we see the lives of ordinary people and their reactions to events in the Empire and not just mayors and elite religious leaders.

    Foundation probably won't convert any readers who are dead-set on avoiding science fiction, since the novel unmistakably caters to the genre, and those who are only remotely interested in SF may find it difficult to suspend their disbelief to the extent that Asimov demands. But it will brighten the nebula within those of us who cherish science fiction, and remind us of why we grew to revere the genre in the first place.

    9.5/10
    Last edited by JacobF; 07-01-2009 at 12:06 PM.

  2. #2
    Skol'er of Thinkery The Comedian's Avatar
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    Awesome writing and review JacobF. I am an interested reader of Sci-Fi and will certainly place this book higher on my "to read" list based on your review.

    Good Hunting!
    “Oh crap”
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  3. #3
    Registered User JacobF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Comedian View Post
    Awesome writing and review JacobF. I am an interested reader of Sci-Fi and will certainly place this book higher on my "to read" list based on your review.

    Good Hunting!
    Thanks. Yup, it's something you shouldn't miss out on reading if sci-fi's your thing.

  4. #4
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    That is a good-looking review. I've heard some less kind responses to the book, but you did well to explain why people might react that way. If I ever do get around to trying this one out, I'm sure your perspective will help me enjoy it. I was a big big fan of his short stories back in the day, but I (as a short-attention-span teen) couldn't make it through the novel I tried (maybe it was called Pebble in the Sky?). Man, there's so much stuff to read, thanks a lot for making the backlog even bigger!

  5. #5
    Registered User Night_Lamp's Avatar
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    The first pure sci/fi novel that I loved! I'm into Roman history (I'm majoring in english, minoring in classical studies) and I love the pieces in the text that are taken from Gibbons.

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