May 24, 2021

Mike Reads a Book: The Foundation Trilogy

Mike Reads a Book: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation is considered a classic Sci-Fi novel. Most people know Isaac Asimov for his iRobot novel that was made into a movie starring Will Smith. Asimov has done far more. iRobot was the first novel of his that I ever read. It was different. It read like a collection of short stories, like early Sherlock Holmes. I eventually learned that much of Asimov's writing initially occured in SciFi magazines, where his work was published as novellas. It was later he collected them to create full novels.

The Foundation Trilogy is a collection of three books. The Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. These books cover around the first 400 years of the Foundation's existence. The Foundation is a group of scienstins ushered away to the edges of the galaxy as a stop-gap against an age of barbarism following the fall of the Galactic Empire. The story really follows the historic fall of the western Roman Empire. You can see numerous real-world parallels with the rise of Christianity, the emergence of the merchant republics in Italy, and barabarian hordes appearing out of thin air.

The events of these novels are set in motion when a man, Hari Seldon, predicts the fall of the Empire, followed by a 30,000 year long dark age. But through the science of "psychohistory", he has figured out how to shorten this dark age to a mere 1000 years.

It's an interesting set of stories, to be sure. What was more intriguing was how scifi has changed over the years. Early in The Foundation, one of the plot points revovles around how certain planets lose access to nuclear power, but they are still able to travel through space, reyling on oil and coal. Super interesting. Computers are also not a large part of these stories as the novel was originally published in the 1950's. So many of the plot points in these stories would be resolved with computers and networks. I mean, they still read newspapers that contain the news of the glaaxy.

I also found the length of time in these novels interesting. Strong bold statements like "This empire has stood for 10000 years" or "the empire rules over a million planets" are scattered throughout the stories. Sometimes it feels like these numbers were pulled out of thin air, just to fluff up the scale of the book.

3-Point Scale Rating: 2.5

I don't think I'll read these books again, or finish the remaining books in the series. The best word to describe the books is "old". The book feels old, without being timeless like a Jules Verne novel. That said, The Foundation is an important novel, inspiring a generation of scifi novelist. For that reason alone, I feel it's worth reading.