Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Be warned this book is not for the week of heart. It is dense reading. It is extremely politics heavy and is not the kind of story where you get attached to characters and grow with them. However, if you do stick it out this is science fiction at it’s best.
I say this a lot, but good science fiction makes you think about the world that you live in, the world that is presented to you, and everything in between. It makes you question and wonder. It drives you to open you mind and think outside of the box. It poses the kind of what if questions that get under your skin and refuse to leave. Foundation does exactly that.
This first book is told in five sections, each following different characters, and each propelling us further in time. It is an interesting structure for a book and definitely cements this book into the form of an epic. The story isn’t about the characters we encounter. They are merely pawns in the grand scheme of things. What we are following is the Foundation and what Hari Seldon laid forth for those to come.
Let’s take a moment to discuss Hari Seldon. He is the most prevalent character in the book. He is prominently featured in the first section and then briefly in a few others. However, throughout the entire story everyone harks back to Hari Seldon and his knowledge. He was an enigmatic character in his appearances. There’s something about his intelligence that draws you in and makes you want to know more of him and his psychohistory. As the best psychologist in the world he is able to use mathematics to predict the likelihood of the future. With this knowledge and with it power, he is able to game the system to his benefit to help the universe. I often found myself excited and waiting to learn more of what Seldon predicted as it was interesting how accurate he was.
There were a number of characters in this. In fact, you generally got a new set of characters inhabiting each new time period, although one or two characters would carry over each time. As such, you had to readjust and get to know new characters and their personalities each time. This can be a bit frustrating because by the time you form a bond with a character, their story is over and you are moving on. Eventually, I got to the point where I just stopped trying to connect to these characters knowing that they wouldn’t be around for much longer. That didn’t mean that I didn’t still form bond after spending long chunks of time with these characters.
As I mentioned previously the story is heavy on the politics. Very heavy. In fact the entire story is reliant on the politics. Hari Seldon predicted a future and set up the Foundation so that they would know their choice once they had no other options. However, Seldon never told the people what they would have to do or when it would happen. That meant people had to figure it out themselves. So when certain things reached a tipping point we went into the politics of how the people of The Foundation maneuver to maintain the Foundation and keep moving forward. That means lots of conversations. It means idle threats and manipulation. It means mostly dry content that in the end pays off. Personally I am not a politics person and as a result I found this tedious and not always compelling. I did, however, find the repercussions, results, and actions taken from these dialogue heavy wordplay between characters interesting.
This is a dense book. While it is incredibly engaging I also recommend not to rush this one. There are a lot of topics and events that will make you think. The book thrives to make you question how people think and how they are driven to conclusion. It makes you think of how groups can be manipulated and how mob mentality is what drives our society. It’s very interesting.
So while, I really did enjoy this, the inability to connect to a character and thus find myself invest to people, I felt invested in the Foundation. That made the characters that came through feel entertaining, but expendable. Also the massive amount of politics was a bit off putting to me. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. While I wouldn’t recommend this to the average person, I would for any serious fans of Science Fiction or fans of books that make you think and question.
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