Retro-review (a Reader’s viewpoint): Foundation
Foundation is the epic story of the fall of a galactic empire. Hari Seldon is the architect of psychotherapy, a branch of science that can plot the behavior of large groups of people. Using this unique talent, Seldon is able to forsee the collapse of the galactic empire, and correctly plot the path mankind must take to escape a fall into a thousand year era of barbarism. To that end, Seldon establishes a Foundation to preserve a kernel of the knowledge and culture that once was. The path that the Foundation must follow (as mapped out by Seldon) is a series of crisis points and decisions, all of which lead the galaxy toward the establishment of a new Empire within a few hundred years instead of a thousand.
The Foundation is established on a small, resource-starved planet called Terminus. There they begin to compile the ambitious Encyclopedia Galactica. Their work is interrupted when the political turmoil of the surrounding planetary systems try to involve them. Quick thinking on the part of Salvor Hardin, the first mayor of Terminus, saves the Foundation from extinction and establishes a foothold of power using the one resource that they alone understand in this decadent time period: atomic power!
From that time on, the Foundation grows in power and influence using the atom, becoming almost an empire in itself. To read Foundation is to get a small glimpse into civilization; it’s a micro anthropology lesson. From primitive beginnings, to theocracy, to expansionism, and coming full circle to bloated bureaucracy. Mr. Asimov successfully convinces us that his story is part of a larger universe. This is why I loved reading Foundation and its three sequels Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. Oh, there are many, many more books from his Foundation universe. For the full list, check out the Wikipedia article.
Foundation began as a series of short stories published in Astounding Magazine between 1942 and 1950. Unfortunately, the short story origin of the book is the only flaw to be found; the story has a slightly disjointed feel about it. Do I care? NO. From one viewpoint, it’s that sense of discontinuity that creates the ‘bigness’ of the story, the feeling that it takes place in a very large and fragile galactic Empire.
As soon as I can, I’ll post a review of Foundation from a writer’s viewpoint. TTFN!