by Isaac Asimov

  General / Favorable Reviews
  Critical Reviews
  The First Part of One of the Finest Series of All Sci-Sci *****

The Foundation Trilogy is my favorite sci-fi book series, and also my favorite work by Asimov. The first book in the series, Foundation, is concerned primarily with two concepts. The first is the concept that history repeats itself over and over again, and that just as great empires fell in the past, the same problems will in the future afflict empires once they become too big. And naturally after the fall of a great empire, chaos ensues. The other concept this book describes is the theory that science and mathematics are capable of predicting the trends in complex systems such as large groups of people.

I am going to be honest. This book was revolutionary for its time, and a great many famous sci-fi writers were inspired after reading this book. I know that I personally could never look at world governments the same way after reading this book. It truly opens your eyes to tendency of people to make the same mistakes over and over again, repeating the same patterns on a large scale. And not only is this book easy to read and greatly thought-provoking, it is also great fun. It uses Asimov's trademark style. Little violence, even less sex, but a great plot and lots of cool technology. If you take science fiction at all seriously, you owe it to your self to give this book a read.

-Strategos "The Guardian of Time"


  Still a Classic ***

This is the first of the three novels in the original "Foundation Trilogy". The trilogy is similar to "I, Robot", in that the novels are created out of shorter fiction that was first published in "Astounding Science Fiction" in the 1940's. It was first published in novel form by Gnome Press in 1951. A trimmed down version was published under the title "The 1,000 Year Plan" by Ace books in the 1950s.

While certainly a classic and important to setup the series, "Foundation" is easily the weakest of the three novels. Consisting of five parts, four of which are taken from the shorter fiction from years before, it covers a large period of time in a relatively short amount of space. In addition, the stories are fairly short, and it is rare for a character to appear in more than one. As a result, there is little in the way of character development in this book. The subsequent novels ("Foundation And Empire" and "Second Foundation") are each comprised of just two works of shorter fiction, and thus do not suffer as much in this area.

The sections of "Foundation" are:

"The Psychohistorians" - This is the story of Gaal Dornick who has come to the capital of the Empire, Trantor to work with Hari Seldon. This story introduces the key concepts of the series; introducing the reader to Psychohistory, the Empire, and the purpose of the Foundation. It is unique among the sections of this book, in that it was written specifically for the novel and was not published previously.

"The Encyclopedists" - In this story, the Foundation becomes separated from the Empire, and is threatened by its neighbors, the Anacreonians. It is in this story that the citizens of the Foundation find out their real purpose, having believed before that they were sent there to create a Galactic Encyclopedia to preserve man's knowledge. This was first published in part as the novelette "Foundation" in "Astounding Science Fiction" in May of 1942.

"The Mayors" - This story is closely tied to "The Encyclopedists", and there are some of the same characters. Once again the Foundation is threatened by the Anacreonians; however, this time the Foundation uses its technological expertise to avert the crisis. This story also introduces the use of `Priests' to spread the influence of the Foundation. This was first published as the novelette "Bride and Saddle" in the June 1942 edition of "Astounding Science Fiction".

"The Traders" - This story is about the use of trade to expand the influence of the Foundation. More specifically, it is about an agent of the Foundation who has been imprisoned on Askone, a planet that prohibits the use of the Foundation's devices. This was first published in the October 1944 edition of "Astounding Science Fiction" as the short story "The Wedge".

"The Merchant Princes" - This is a more complicated and involved story than the others included in this book. A merchant trader, Hober Mallow, goes in search of several missing Foundation ships, discovering evidence of the old Empire. More important though, is the struggle for power within the Foundation which results in the abandonment of religion in favor of economics as the source of expanding the influence of the Foundation. This was first published as the novelette "The Big And The Little" in the August 1944 edition of "Astounding Science Fiction".

The trilogy has been recognized by readers and critics alike over the years. In 1952, it was rated as the 15th best book overall by the Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll. It moved up to 12th on the same poll in 1956, and then to 1st in 1966. In 1975 it was ranked 6th on the Locus poll for All-Time Novels. In 1987 it was 6th on the same poll for SF Novels. In 1998 it was ranked 4th on the same poll for novels before 1990. It also received the 1966 Hugo for All-Time Series, beating out Tolkien's "The Lord Of The Rings", Smith's "Lensman", Heinlein's "Future History", and Burroughs' "Barsoom" series for the award.

-Dave 42



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