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Foundation (Foundation Novels) by Isaac…

Foundation (Foundation Novels) (original 1951; edition 2008)

by Isaac Asimov

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11,525None231 (4)2 / 308
coffyman's review
Kind of slow, but I'm reading the whole series from the beginning, so I soldier on. The first two books were better, but this one was written in the 50s when he was just beginning his writing career. ( )
  coffyman | Apr 19, 2012 |
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I love Isaac Asimov??s ideas, but I just couldnƒ??t suspend disbelief for the plot of this famous novel. The premise is that Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian, has calculated the course of history and made preparations for preserving humanity on a distant planet. I think itƒ??s the psychologist in me that just canƒ??t get past this premise. Thereƒ??s no way that history can be predicted ƒ?? there are just too many factors. Another issue I have with Asimov, and itƒ??s so blatantly displayed here, is that though he could imagine all sorts of futuristic technology and possible histories, he didnƒ??t seem to be able to imagine that someday women might find their way out of their kitchens and bedrooms. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Similar to Dune, a classic that I had wanted to read for a long time. Enjoyable, with (to me) an unexpected structure. ( )
  JonathanCrites | Mar 17, 2014 |
Starwars came from this series. ( )
  jmcalli | Feb 6, 2014 |
I had heard a lot about the Foundation series and picked it up on a whim. This first book started out quite interesting. The premise that an all-encompassing library of knowledge would be the saving grace of a failing Empire. The story then drops the reader into various points of the next 1000 years - critical historical junctures known as "Seldon crises" that must be resolved so that the planned society could move forward through a plotted course in yet-conceived History. Each section proved to be rather confusing until the moments had been explained - and the plot-line utilizing this wears thin quickly. Its an "ok" start to a series, so I am a little interested to see where the next book takes things.... ( )
  TommyElf | Jan 5, 2014 |
Foundation is the first of The Foundation Trilogy. I like reading Asimov. His chapters are short and his characters are interesting though not the primary part of the story. In Foundation we are taken through years of time in leaps and bounds. The protagonist is really the Foundation and the evolution of society. The story is about growth according to the science of psychohistory and the theory of Hari Seldon that crisis will force the evolution along to the future Empire. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
i think i need to read the others. i liked this one, but i felt unfulfilled. yes, definitely i should look into the others. ( )
  amyolivia | Oct 25, 2013 |
My all time favorite Sci Fi book. Wonderfully written and imagined. I re=read this one every few years.
  MissJessie | Oct 16, 2013 |
I was expecting something more along the lines of scientific advancement, which will probably be more prevalent in the following volumes. Foundation focused more on psychohistory and the prediction and manipulation of the future. The premise was a fascinating exercise in galactic politics, I found myself abruptly moving forward in time before I was ready to detach myself from key characters. It was necessary in order to advance this particular plot, but it made me care a little less.

I was also a little disappointed in what the founder came up with in regards to the manipulation of human lives. While his goal of reducing great turmoil can hardy be argued with, I felt that there was a lack of disrespect in the use of religion to manipulate people. Yes, it has been done over and over, but the author seemed indifferent to what people really believed. Like all the other tools, religion in a spiritual sense was important only insofar as it accomplished the eventual goal. Had he used a secular ideology, although less effective than a false religion, I would have been less offended. Religion came across as a petty concept, yet from a humanitarian point of view it should have been portrayed with a modicum of dignity. There was a hint of arrogant pride in some of the affects of success, such as even fooling the priests. Human ideology, whether theist, agnostic, or atheist play a very important role on the human psyche and should be respected, especially when reaching out to a broad audience.

Regardless of my stand, this is a very engaging story and I am curious as to how it plays out in the following books. ( )
  YvonnevonInnes | Sep 25, 2013 |
A very engaging and fun sci-fi read with no wasted words. The plot is not action-heavy, but the psychology of the characters and how it affects history is more than compelling.

I had long been thinking about reading this, but never got around to it. Glad I did! Looking forward to reading more Asimov. ( )
  wethewatched | Sep 24, 2013 |
Hard to review a classic, really. Especially one I read long ago, and have fond memories of.

Suffice to say, although it shows that this was written as several short stories originally, it doesn't matter, in fact I wish a lot of modern authors would look at some of this older stuff and take note. You can successfully world (or in this case, galaxy) build, without including pages and pages of description, in fact this is a pretty short book considering what it covers. That said, it can be a little expository for my taste in places, but that's part of the style of the day, and since it's not also weighted down with overly much descriptive text, it's not too bad.

As to the ideas, well perhaps the science doesn't hold up that well, and some of the western cultural/social mores of the time stand out a little too much now, and perhaps chaos theory scuttles the psychology sociology writ large that is psychohistory, but it's still a good easy fast read. Which is the main thing, really.

( )
  krazykiwi | Sep 22, 2013 |
This really is a marvel! ( )
  IAmAndyPieters | Sep 14, 2013 |
Despite the author's reputation, it took me months to finish this book and only because of a dedicated effort did I decide to listen to the whole book. This trilogy is the story of civilization in it's nadir, jumping from crisis to crisis, with it's highlight another empire in 1000 years? Why an empire? One wonders that other forms of human government may be a better goal. I guess that will become evident in book 3 but I don't know if I'll get there. ( )
  buffalogr | Sep 11, 2013 |
It’s refreshing to read SF that has very little surface description. Visuals only attend supertechnology and spaceships and other exciting things that the prose slows down to emphasize. But generally the reader is left to their own imaginative devices. This has helped the novel seem timeless.

Dialogue drives the plot in the same speedy way as crime fiction. The prose also has the same sparse economy of crime fiction, with very little unnecessary detail, and this allows for a nice smooth pace. The chapters also read like small mysteries that get the reader to guess at the solution to the Seldon Crises. Asimov writes SF in the way I’d imagine Agatha Christie might, and I like that. I like the plain nondescript prose. Too much of SF is flamboyant and dense.

But the dialogue is awkward and wouldn’t stand up in crime fiction. Asimov uses far too many adverbs in one or two-word leads (Example: Angrily, “_____”). He also tries to break up the monotony of his characters’ monologues with hackneyed action – characters light cigars and cigarettes and stand up and sit down, etc. These attempts at naturalism are pathetic and distracting.

Much of the dialogue is exciting and twisty, and lot of the ideas are clever and thought-provoking, but it’s almost always clunky. I didn’t like Asimov’s attempts at writing dialogue how people actually speak it. He has no idea and should never pretend he does. He’s an idea machine that can write a good story. Not a keen observer of human interaction. ( )
  Algybama | Sep 8, 2013 |
Asimov's work is excellent, as always. He has the ability to condense important information into a small space, to introduce characters quickly and efficiently, to present scientific concepts with ease, and to lead the reader on whatever twists and turns he wishes. This makes one of his most famous books entertaining, at least, and delightful, at best.

There is not much I can say about the skill with which he writes this book. But I will mention why I downgraded the book from five stars to four.

First, the structure. In his style, he writes in sections, which separate the book nicely - but seeing as I complained about the chapter enumeration in McDevitt's work, and that enumeration is almost identical here, it would be incongruous for me not to mention my displeasure with it in this case. On the other hand, Asimov's publisher, whether it was a modern choice or not, has done a good job of making the pages clean and the chapter breaks clear, whereas McDevitt's pages seemed cluttered, and the chapter breaks random.

The second issue was something brought to my attention by an old associate. Now, let me preface this by noting that I have no problem with authors trying to convey important messages through their work; if they don't, there's not a whole lot of point to the work to begin with. An author has to talk about the human experience, or political problems, or religious questions, or philosophy, or history, or something, anything, other than "Bob and Sally had an adventure." It only makes sense.

But with that being said, it can get a little... overbearing. In "Foundation," the overbearing part is the pacifism. "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent," characters quip throughout the book. Every crisis, every situation, every challenge is resolved with completely non-violent means (or at least, no means involving direct violence; starting a kingdom-wide religious riot probably resulted in a little bit of violence). In fact, the whole point of the book is not the cleverness of psychohistory (which was heavily involved in "Prelude to Foundation"), nor is it technology, or even really the challenges of rescuing knowledge and science as civilization devolves at the end of an era. It's mostly about how peaceful means are more effective than violent means - inventing religions, manipulating economies, and playing politics are all more ethical behavior than fighting a war (even defensively).

What was most frustrating was that the last two sections of the book proved this to me. The penultimate section did not even deal with a Seldon crisis; its only purpose was to lay the groundwork for the final section (i.e., "There are traders, and they trade stuff."). And the final section does not bring us full circle to the first section of the book; it does not connect back with Seldon's initial appearance; and it does not close an overarching story from beginning to end. It does bring us back to the Empire, but only as an unexpected twist. One of the defining characteristics of Seldon crises is the appearance of Seldon with sage advice, which did not occur in the final section of the book.

In short, the reason I downgraded this otherwise-excellent book from five stars to four is that it struck me, not as a cohesive unit with constant theme and strong message, but as a collection of short stories, each of which tried to say, "Peaceful coercion is better than violent coercion, even if the peaceful behavior is traditionally unethical." ( )
  Versor | Sep 7, 2013 |
I really tried with this book, but I could never really get into it. Even more than half through I didn't care about it. It was well written and I appreciated what Asimov was doing with the story, but it didn't work for me. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Sep 1, 2013 |
I had read this book once before but didn't realize that when I started. It kinda spoiled the "plot twists" and the crises. I enjoyed this book but it's probably more fun to think about and discuss than to read.

Also, this is old sci-fi so and that is a bit tiresome because I continuously have to redact the narrative to make a believable future for me (Ie change some characters to females, insert energy instead of nuclear all the time (couldn't it be fusion/zero-point/etc?), replace microfilm, phones and fax etc.) ( )
  MickeNimell | Aug 24, 2013 |
Isaac Asimov
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I read this many years ago, I would bet in about 1966, because I have a copy of the Science Fiction book club Foundation Trilogy, signed by Asimov, dated 27 Oct 1967. My sister Anne went to a lecture by Asimov, and she asked for the autograph. The original publication date is 1951, but I suspect the stories might have appeared in magazines previously. I bought a new Folio edition recently, and decided to re-read the entire trilogy. Paul Krugman, an economist of note, wrote the introduction, recalling that Hari Seldon's psychohistory motivated him for his profession. I read this very quickly, because I did not recall the plot, and re-lived adolescence, when decisive, clever and powerful characters were my idols. This is really 3 or 4 separate short stories. We meet Hari Seldon as the foundation is exiled from Trantor, the center of the Empire. The foundation is then established on Terminus, and fights off the local conquering despots, after the mayor takes control from the encyclopediaists. The Foundation expands as a religion to local worlds, but encounters resistance in another Seldon crisis, turning to the traders for a new model of expansion. ( )
  neurodrew | Aug 4, 2013 |
I really loved this book. It's SO smart. Read it now! ( )
  trinkers | Aug 3, 2013 |
Bith difficult to get into but worth it ( )
  Chris.Graham | Jul 30, 2013 |
Bith difficult to get into but worth it ( )
  Chris.Graham | Jul 30, 2013 |
Really a three-and-a-halfer, but I've liked Asimov since I was a teenager, so I'll cut some slack. A fascinating story mixed with completely undeveloped characters and suspect socio/theologico/politico-economic theory. Feminists beware, since the only female character in the novel is a cold, conniving, evil aristocrat. A page-turner nonetheless, and impressive for both its scope and date of pub. It was interesting to read, by pure coincidence, directly after Popper's [b:The Open Society and Its Enemies|240592|The Open Society and Its Enemies|Karl R. Popper|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1173036523s/240592.jpg|6492090]. Popper vehemently attacks all versions of historicism (including psychohistory, or "psychologism,", as he calls it) that try to predict the future. He says they are utterly irrational, mystical, and exceedingly dangerous in character, and serve to take the responsibility for action off of mankind's shoulders, allowing us instead to wait around with our thumbs up our a** for the deus ex machina savior. No doubt he would have scoffed at the premise of this book. But I can dig it, as far as cheap sci-fi entertainment goes. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
Foundation is an amusing space opera with a naively positivist view of how history unfolds. It first appeared as a serial in some magazine, so the text includes a lot of recapping, which was not trimmed away for the sake of the book. Nevertheless it is considered a classic of its genre, and it kicked off a trilogy, then a seven-book series that generated a fictional universe that has kept growing even after the author’s death.

I know this book from way back. Recently I ran across a copy with a new (to me) introduction by the author, telling “The Story Behind the Foundation.” It seems that Asimov dreamed up this serial story in a big hurry one day in 1941. Seems that he was leafing through a book of Gilbert and Sullivan when his eye fell on “the picture of the Fairy Queen of Iolanthe throwing herself at the feet of Private Willis.” Well, that part didn't surprise me. It seemed like exactly the way an Asimov woman would be expected to behave around a man in uniform.

Anyway, that image started the ball rolling — that, and some recollections of reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. Soon Asimov was dreaming about a Galactic Empire in decline.

Asimov is completely enamored of “atomic” power in these books; it’s the one and only marker of human progress. He also enjoys guffawing at religion and even has his Foundation invent one — for the sake of spreading atomic power, of course. Combine this lust for atomic power with sexist stereotypes of women and you get what was to me, even as a teenage reader, the most laughable bit of futurism: the atomic washing machine. Always used by a female, of course.

In Asimov’s world, the 21st century belongs to the dim antiquity of man’s (yes, “man’s”) childhood. The passage of time is indicated by the elision of names, e.g., “Salvor Hardin,” the mayor of Terminus, who gets all the best lines. (“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”)
  Muscogulus | Jul 8, 2013 |
Pretty decent, short, simple classic sci-fi. Not going to blow your mind but is pleasant enough. ( )
  wweisser | Jul 6, 2013 |
This is the first Asimov book I read -- until this book, I thought that I didn't like sci-fi! I found it at the used-book store in a "10 books for $1" bin and needed another book to get my 10. What a surprise! I literally could not put it down until I finished it -- read the entire book in one day (and late night)! ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 26, 2013 |
Asimov's Foundation series really is a cornerstone of SF, but considered in isolation, this introductory novel really feels hollow. The premise is that, anticipating the imminent collapse of a galaxy-spanning Empire of 10,000 years, a brilliant scientist devises a plan to hasten the restoration of civilization in the aftermath though the establishment of a 'Foundation' of like-minded colleagues on an isolated colony world. By combining a statistical mathematics with human psychology, they 'calculate' the likely galactic history of the future, and seed the conditions to influence its direction. This novel presents five episodes from the first few centuries of this plan, each illustrating one pivotal crisis in the timeline, and its clever resolution. For this reason, characters come and go quickly, rarely allowing the reader time enough to identify with any of them on a human level. Instead, with a largely lecture-ly tone, Asimov's characters dialog endlessly through the intriguing little scenarios circumstances have placed them in. While these conundrums and their solutions are enjoyable, entire chapters can sweep past without any physical action beyond conversation taking place, and often the settings are prosaic enough that the reader can forget that genre here is meant to be Science Fiction. Asimov's Robot novels at least presented varied worlds and societies which took small concepts into extreme extrapolations as a backdrop to the mystery stories. The most unforgivable issue I had with the novel is the abrupt ending, when the fifth narrative came to a sudden 'and it was so' ending, making no effort to bridge the reader into the next novel. If you're reading this book for the first time, I can warn you that you'll want to plan on reading the whole series, or at least the original trilogy, but I can also assure you that the reward for doing so grows with each book. ( )
1 vote SciFi-Kindle | Jun 20, 2013 |
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