Thursday, March 2, 2017

Book Review: Foundation

Having read an awful lot of Science Fiction over the years I'm pretty well read in the field. Not to an academic level mind you, but definitely to one that leaves me pretty familiar with the names and major works of any number of writers depending on the decade. So having just finished working my way through David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Books, I thought I should go back and catch some of the classics I had missed through the list or on my own.

Which brings me to Asimov's Foundation (1951), actually more a collection of short stories and itself the beginning of one of the most highly regarded series in Science Fiction. The story begins with a scholar named Hari Seldon who has come up with a science called psychohistory, which allows him to predict the future on a massive scale, both in time and number of people effected.  The science doesn't work on predicting any individual person, but instead planetary civilizations.

Seldon has discovered that the galactic empire he lives in is soon to collapse into a dark age, but he believes that his science can be used to dramatically decrease the projected time of barbarism from 30,000 years to a mere 1,000 by transporting a small group of 100,000 people to an isolated planet on the outreaches of the empire.  The rest of the book follows his foundation over roughly the first two-hundred years of his plan.  Each section features a different main character and a different challenge facing his new society.

The stories work as intricate puzzles and although his characters are a little two-dimensional as compared to Bradbury or Heinlein's, I really enjoyed the logic behind each problem and solution, as well as the fact that as each group solves a problem in their own story, they, or their solution, has become the problem in the next story.

Although I had read Foundation back in high school, I had never got around to the rest of the series, so I figured that I should start with book one to get my bearings.

A fascinating read.

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