Foundation (Foundation Novels)
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For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Sheldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future¡ªto a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire¡ªboth scientists and scholars¡ªand brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a fututre generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun¡ªor fight them and be destroyed.

Foundation marks the first of a series of tales set so far in the future that Earth is all but forgotten by humans who live throughout the galaxy. Yet all is not well with the Galactic Empire. Its vast size is crippling to it. In particular, the administrative planet, honeycombed and tunneled with offices and staff, is vulnerable to attack or breakdown. The only person willing to confront this imminent catastrophe is Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian and mathematician. Seldon can scientifically predict the future, and it doesn't look pretty: a new Dark Age is scheduled to send humanity into barbarism in 500 years. He concocts a scheme to save the knowledge of the race in an Encyclopedia Galactica. But this project will take generations to complete, and who will take up the torch after him? The first Foundation trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation) won a Hugo Award in 1965 for "Best All-Time Series." It's science fiction on the grand scale; one of the classics of the field. --Brooks Peck

Customer Reviews:

  • Foundation - Science fiction, social commentary, and politics as (un)usual.
    The big brain of Isaac Asimov composed this series and it shows. This book contains more characters than a fifteen-act Shakespearian play and still manages to unfold as one impressively coherent space-saga. This is by no means a detriment, and characters as well as past events are periodically referenced in later chapters.
    I'm by no stretch a science fiction aficionado, but upon reading summaries of the plot I couldn't wait to read this book, and it verily meets my expectations. The most interesting thing about this work is that it can be read as pure-science fiction or as social-commentary/social history. Without revealing too much, the sections of the book are dedicated to describing certain "Crises" that invariably occur due to the events of an imperialistic planet - planet Terminus, home-world of the Foundation - and it's attempts to reestablish (or supplant) a dying Galactic empire. The Foundation uses religion, politics, and economics to spread it's influence across the periphery, or "outer-edge" of the galaxy. Most of the book centers on characters who possess an aptitude for politics or are just plain cunning, and it's extremely entertaining to see how each character handles the crises and mini-crises laid before them.
    This book is, surprisingly, heavy on politics - but not politics as usual...that is to say, not any politics that you and I would be familiar with, but politics of fictional worlds and fictional people. However, the political theory behind it all is strong...
    I was hoping for a little more description when it came to the actual "science-fiction," but I guess it was Asimov's intention to leave most of the work to the imagination, and this actually works-out beautifully. Your imagination can truly run wild with this book - Asimov gives only the most cursory descriptions of the characters, but what he gives is enough to get you going. Besides, who wants to spend time reading about a character when there is a good chance that he or she will no longer exist a couple pages down the road? You can infer much of the characters content from their actions and dialogue. Foundation is an entertaining and ambitious book, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. Classic for a reason....more info
  • Foundation Review
    This book, Foundation, is a very detailed fictional book that place in the future. Isaac Asimov wrote many books and series in his lifetime and this book along with the series was one of his first books written. This story is mostly about the First Galactic Empire and its fall. Hari Seldon was a psychohistorian, and, using his advanced mathematics, was able to conclude that the Empire would soon fall in 500 years, and then be followed by 30,000 years of barbarism. Hari, however, could limit the 30,000 years to only 1,000 years, by having the people on a planet called Terminus follow an Encyclopedia Galactica that Hari Seldon had made. They followed this for 50 years until they found out it was a fake. Many years pass, and there are many different people who try to do something to help. Each person had a crisis to get past in order to keep doing what had to be done to limit the barbarism to 1,000 years. This continues until the end of the book, and is then continued in the sequels. I think that this book was very interesting and I enjoyed it a lot, but the only problem about it is that it is very difficult to follow because each chapter, new characters are brought in and it take place 50 or more years later in time. Other than that, if you are a good reader and enjoy fiction books then this is a great book to read. Also, if you really like the book, there are a ton of other books that he wrote, including several other sequels that you can read.
    ...more info
  • Interesting storyline
    I'm not a fan of sci-fiction, but really enjoyed it. I agree with other reviews that environment wasn't deeply described and there weren't any sophisticated characters, but this didn't disturbed me, because the storyline was fast-paced and interesting. I couldn't put this book down before it was over....more info
  • A great sci-fi classic
    This is the first book of the original trilogy, but the third book overall. Here's a list of all the books in the Isaac Asimov series.

    - Prequels -
    1. Prelude to Foundation (Foundation Novels)
    2. Forward the Foundation (Foundation Novels)

    - The Original Trilogy -
    3. Foundation
    4. Foundation and Empire (Foundation Novels)
    5. Second Foundation (Foundation Novels)

    - Later Works -
    6. Foundation's Edge (Foundation Novels)
    7. Foundation and Earth

    There are other books written by other authors called the Second Foundation Trilogy, but I haven't read those (and don't plan to).

    The plot centers around a psychohistorian named Hari Seldon who can predict the future using his newly invented science. He realized that the empire is failing, and the galaxy will be propelled into a 30,000 year stretch of barbarism before a civilized government is established. To reduce the time to a mere 1,000 years, he establishes two Foundations at each end of the galaxy.

    This book focuses on only the First Foundation, the Second Foundation makes its first appearance in the sequel, Foundation and Empire. The First Foundation expands to take over the edges of the receding empire using its superior intelligence instead of force. They win conflicts through technology, religion, and trade.

    The theme that reason can overcome brute force is cleverly illustrated in this science fiction classic. It's a relatively short book at 320 pages, and a very fast read. The first book of the original Foundation trilogy is the beginning of a truly great series, a must read for any sci-fi fan.
    ...more info
  • what masterpiece?
    This seems like awfully shoddy science fiction to me. The old complaint about thin characterization isn't even the worst of it, nor are the crazy anachronisms [rampant cigar smoking, newspapers and casual misogyny]. But so much of this plot develops in the form of uninteresting local political maneuvers between slightly AynRandized heroes and buffooning villians, with no sense of place or grandeur whatsoever.

    The timeline of the novel is suddenly too breif after introducing the vast concept of a 40,000 year swing through history, and neither the future society Asimov has envisioned nor the apparant brilliance of the plan at the heart of this series are ever portrayed convincingly. Whatever powerful effect this book may have had in its day, it is bereft of it now. ...more info
  • Superb!
    What else can one possibly say about one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written?? A terrific beginning to a beginning series. I can hardly wait to read the rest of them....more info
  • Amazing book to get hooked on Asimov!
    I won't bother you with much detail about the book, just know that this is one of the best (if not THE BEST) Science Fiction books I have ever read. I highly recommend this book to everyone. If you plan to read only one Sci-Fi book in your entire life, please make it this one! Asimov pretty much established the grounds for all space odysseys' that followed (think Star Wars, Star Trek, Hitchhiker's Guide, etc.). You wont be let down.

    The book is actually a collection of 5 short stories published together in one volume. It all begins at about 30,000 years after our time, and about 12,000 years after the Galactic Empire was established. Hari Seldon, a brilliant mathematician, has developed a theory (psychohistory) that can accurately foretell the behavior of immense human populations to the tee. Using it he placed the Empire's demise at 300 years, with an added bonus of 30,000 years of struggle in a chaotic and barbaric galaxy, until the Second Empire is established.

    What are you waiting for,get yourself a copy!!!

    ...more info
  • Book Review on Foundation by Isaac Asimov
    This book is one of the original science fiction novel of all time. I read this book as an outside reading assignment for my English class. First of all, I chose this book out of all the other books because I didn't want to read something that sounds dull and unexciting. I wanted to read something more innovative, and I certainly made the right choice when I picked this book from the library shelf.

    Hari Seldon, the protagonist, develops a area of study called psychohistory, which allows psychohistorians to predict future events in big pictures. According to psychohistory, the Empire will encounter decay in the future and an age of collapse will follow. This book portrays how our civilization tries to shorten the age of collapse by preserving all human knowledge.

    The book is divided into five section, each with different settings. First section explains the psychohistory and sets up the stage. Second section takes place 50 years after the first, and the new Empire starts encountering conflicts with resources. Third section starts 30 years later, and it deals with religion. Fourth section takes place 55 years later and the new civilization gets involved in a trade conflict. Last section takes place 20 years later and involves merchandise matters. Each section has different characters. Each experiences different conflicts, but they all pile up to show us how a civilization grows and how history is made.

    I liked how the writing is terse and straightforward. It is hard to follow the story because of the change of settings and many characters, but they do come together. I liked how I could observe the history being made. It is fun seeing a civilization encounter conflicts, digress from religion to economics, and so on. It feels like I'm experiencing a century of history. It's easy to read because there isn't really any complicating science that you need to understand or in-depth character conflicts into the story. Definitely a book to read if you want to know how it feels like to be a god looking down at human civilizations and how they behave. Read it if you want to know what Hari Seldon's true plan is!...more info
  • You can tell he was 21
    Many years ago I read Prelude to Foundation and found it compelling enough and well-written enough to go through to the end. I always thought I should try to read this epic sci-fi series and get into the history of the Galactic Empire. Fifteen years later I have attempted to do it, but I think too many years have passed and I've read too many well-written books.

    I gave it the "100-page rule" and after cringing through the dialogue and the over-active descriptions of everyone reacting to each other I decided it's not for me any more. The whole idea and construction is interesting, but the characterization is too painful to wade through....more info
  • Psychohistory and the statistical prediction of mob behaviour!
    By the end of the thirteenth millennium, mankind had populated millions of planets scattered throughout the galaxy. The centre of the imperial government was located on the planet Trantor, in effect a single planetary city some 75,000,000 square miles in extent. Every conceivable square foot of habitable space was occupied with a teeming population well in excess of 40 billion souls. Its internal problems were so vast that it was all but inevitable that its grip on the outer reaches of its dominion should weaken. The empire, like every other empire that had preceded it, was in the throes of decline.

    Hari Seldon, a brilliant mathematician and psychologist developed the science of psychohistory - the use of mathematics and symbolic logic to evaluate and predict the future behaviour of statistically large segments of human population. When he applied his analysis to the Empire, the conclusions were bleak and inescapable. The stagnating Empire would imminently fall and collapse into a galactic dark age - a period of anarchy and chaos and a loss of art, culture, knowledge, technology and science that would last for thirty thousand years.

    When he knew that imperial collapse was inevitable, he created the "Foundation" and implemented what was later to become known as the Seldon Plan. He couldn't stop the dark age but he could shorten its duration to a mere thousand years and give civilization the ability to start over again.

    Asimov, known to his millions of fans merely as the "good doctor", certainly didn't stint when it came to the scope of his ideas and the size of the canvas on which he chose to paint. "Foundation" is a classic sci-fi novel that leans far towards the left side of the sci-fi spectrum. Hard sci-fi, technology and advanced science are touched upon only to the extent that they are necessary to make sense of an Empire that spans an entire galaxy. Quaintly, much of the science is seriously dated - data storage is on microfilm, atomic power is the norm even in spaceships that are expected to travel galactic distances - and could hardly be considered brilliantly prescient.

    So it is clearly the ideas that Asimov deals with that have elevated "Foundation" to its status as one of the most loved and most read science fiction novels of all time - science as religion, the authoritarian nature of religious dogma, the insidious Machiavellian nature of political diplomacy, the inevitability of the decline and collapse of a major empire and a powerful discussion as to whether violence is a necessary tool to resolve differences or whether it is merely "the last refuge of the incompetent".

    While I will happily acknowledge that "Foundation" was interesting and thoroughly enjoyable, I was somewhat disappointed to discover that it did not have the same thrill or excitement that I experienced when I first read it thirty years ago. The level of science in the book seems almost lack-lustre and in my mind did not live up to the grandiose scope of the novel. Like so many of his peers in the 1950s, women were stoutly ignored and played no part in "Foundation" at all.

    Dickens wrote at the turn of the century so one expects his prose to be different. Asimov wrote "Foundation" in 1951 so one certainly expects it to be a product of that time. But, unlike Dickens (and I'm not really quite able to put my finger on the reason why), the prose simply didn't age quite as well. So, in the full knowledge that many will disagree with me, I'm unwilling to accord "Foundation" the 5-star rating that many will expect. Four stars only from this reader and a high recommendation that this book must be read if you claim to be a fan of the classic sci-fi genre.

    Paul Weiss...more info
  • Dr. A., I salute you.
    This book was recommended to me for a writing exercise, and I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it as much as I learned from it. I had lumped Asimov in with Clarke as a boring SF writer, and I was quite wrong. This book also works amazing magic with the passage of time and circumstance, and despite how quickly characters drop out of the landscape of the novel, the reader remains interested. A masterful work from one of the great masters.

    If you don't know much about SF, this is a good book for you; if you are a SF fan who thinks Asimov has nothing to offer you, this is a great book for you. Pick it up. ...more info
  • Review for the book Foundation (Foundation Novels (Paperback))
    this book is one of the most important books in science fiction history
    and a must for all science fiction lovers....more info
  • Incredible Science Fiction Novel
    The Foundation Trilogy is a "trilogy" of thirteen books. This review will mainly talk about book one. The Foundation, a group of scientists and engineers writing a galactic encyclopedia, starts before book one takes place. The prologue is about an apparently irrelevant person. Nonetheless, I think it is important to read the beginning because it sets up the story. The main story takes place much later, when the actual Foundation is formed at the edge of the galaxy. This entire group of people are the main character, though at time other people take the spotlight.

    During the book, challenges arise to meet the Foundation, and at each challenge, the Foundation uses a different and unique method of dealing with the task at hand. As the book progresses, the Foundation gets more and more technology, while the empire at the center of the galaxy dies away. The Foundation was created to start a new empire after the old empire is destroyed. To make sure this would happen, Harry Seldon used psychohistory to predict the future and lock the foundation in a path that will reach its goal.

    I think that this book should only be absorbed by people in college or beyond because it has very advanced ideas.
    ...more info
  • A Psychohistorical Guide
    Foundation (1951) is the first SF novel in the Foundation series. Although originally a series of novelettes published separately in Astounding, it was later combined into this novel.

    "The Psychohistorians" (1950) was created as an introduction to the series with the publication of the Gnome press novel. It describes the political maneuvering by Hari Seldon to establish the Foundation on Terminus.

    "The Encyclopedists" (1942) relates the first of the "Seldon Crises" when the Foundation is caught between the retreating empire and the growing Anacreon kingdom.

    "The Mayors" (1942) tells of the second crisis when Wienis, the Prince Regent of Anacreon, decides to take over the Foundation.

    "The Traders" (1944) depicts the third crisis after Askone arrests a Foundation agent trying to spread the Scientism religion.

    "The Merchant Princes" (1944) recounts the fourth crisis when a Foundation trader discovers a market for his advanced technology devices.

    Although the empire portrayed within this novel was actually based on the Roman empire, technology itself became a major force in the story. Thus, slavery was not a problem in this empire until it began to decline and lose its technology. This decline also allowed the Foundation to spread its influence through advanced technology.

    When these stories were written, computers were only laboratory toys. Thus, the original Foundation series didn't incorporate computers as such. These stories seem strangely old-fashioned without household, business and embedded computers. Nonetheless, the author did foretell the use of electronic hand calculators.

    The author did include computers in the robot stories written during this timeframe, but they were massive devices used in the factories to design and manufacture robots. The emphasis was upon positronic brains -- something like neural nets -- rather than true computers. Maybe our industry just hasn't yet caught up to his technological projections.

    This novel is one of the most famous works of science fiction. While it describes future sciences far beyond current capabilities, it still inculcated a sense of the methodology underlying real science and technology. While the author went on to become a major writer of science fiction, he also became one of the best elucidators of popular science in the world.

    Still, this tale contains all the flaws of Campbellian science fiction. The major characters are always male. The dialogue is somewhat stilted and old-fashioned. In addition, the story contains more ideas than action. Of course, this tale is also outdated because of all the imitations and stimulations resulting from it.

    Highly recommended for Asimov fans and for anyone else who wants to read classic works of science fiction.

    -Arthur W. Jordin...more info
  • Amazing Asimov read !!!!!!
    I can't say enough about this book, weather you like SF or not this book is a MUST READ!!! It's more about people/civilizations/political systems than SF but either way I highly recommend it.

    As for SF it is simply the best SF book ever written!!!!...more info
  • Nothing quite like the First
    What can you say about the first of a series? The best? Not necessarily. But, you can look back on it and decide that if it hadn't been that good, you'd have never picked up the second. Hari Seldon and psychohistory grabbed me when I was in my youth. Its setting is around the 12,000th year of the Galactic Era. God is referred to, if at all, as "Spirit". Man can travel intergalactically. But he is still man and can be predicted to do things with a particular certainty. This is the stuff of the psychohistorian. The Galactic Empire is nearing its final act and the Foundation "finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire."...more info
  • Foundation - Science fiction, social commentary, and politics as (un)usual.
    The big brain of Isaac Asimov composed this series and it shows. This book contains more characters than a fifteen-act Shakespearian play and still manages to unfold as one impressively coherent space-saga. This is by no means a detriment, and characters as well as past events are periodically referenced in later chapters.
    I'm by no stretch a science fiction aficionado, but upon reading summaries of the plot I couldn't wait to read this book, and it verily meets my expectations. The most interesting thing about this work is that it can be read as pure-science fiction or as social-commentary/social history. Without revealing too much, the sections of the book are dedicated to describing certain "Crises" that invariably occur due to the events of an imperialistic planet - planet Terminus, home-world of the Foundation - and it's attempts to reestablish (or supplant) a dying Galactic empire. The Foundation uses religion, politics, and economics to spread it's influence across the periphery, or "outer-edge" of the galaxy. Most of the book centers on characters who possess an aptitude for politics or are just plain cunning, and it's extremely entertaining to see how each character handles the crises and mini-crises laid before them.
    This book is, surprisingly, heavy on politics - but not politics as usual...that is to say, not any politics that you and I would be familiar with, but politics of fictional worlds and fictional people. However, the political theory behind it all is strong...
    I was hoping for a little more description when it came to the actual "science-fiction," but I guess it was Asimov's intention to leave most of the work to the imagination, and this actually works-out beautifully. Your imagination can truly run wild with this book - Asimov gives only the most cursory descriptions of the characters, but what he gives is enough to get you going. Besides, who wants to spend time reading about a character when there is a good chance that he or she will no longer exist a couple pages down the road? You can infer much of the characters content from their actions and dialogue. Foundation is an entertaining and ambitious book, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. Classic for a reason....more info
  • One of the best SF series ever written.
    The scope of this series is astounding. It wasn't written for the teenager or preteen like so many pathetic series are these days, but for the thinking person with a bit of imagination.

    Truly one of the greatest SF series ever written. And as such, never loses it's appeal even when read decades apart....more info
  • One of the best ever
    This book it simply one of the best science fiction stories ever written. It should be on the "must read" list for any sci-fi fan. ...more info
  • Not Free SF Reader
    The start of Asimov's highly influential groundbreaking future history series. The invention of the science of psychohistory captivated me the first time I read it. Basically, all those with an interest in SF should check this out.

    Asimov's intro gives some history of the evolution of this series with his editor, Campbell, as well as some entertaining silliness by the publisher Doubleday. He tells how they wouldn't publish him at one time, and later on they are at his door, cap in hand asking for a new book.

    Foundation : The Psychohistorians - Isaac Asimov
    Foundation : The Encyclopedists - Isaac Asimov
    Foundation : The Mayors - Isaac Asimov
    Foundation : The Traders - Isaac Asimov
    Foundation : The Merchant Princes - Isaac Asimov


    Future prediction equations suggest Galactic Empire go bye-bye.

    4.5 out of 5


    Struggles with Seldon's legacy.

    3 out of 5


    City split and the odd ship.

    3.5 out of 5


    Commercial leading edge.

    3 out of 5


    Seldon crisis and sellers of heaps of stuff.

    3.5 out of 5...more info
  • a sane reflection for those thinking about buying this.
    i am 45, and recently decided to expand my horizons. i have read very little poetry, few mysteries, and fewer works of science fiction. i know that lots of people enjoy these things, and i am jealous of them. so i am trying to get the joy from this stuff that others do. i gave "Foundation" a shot because i know that lots of fine folks consider this to be a SF masterpiece, a great book. well, i have read great books, and this is not one. this is quite mediocre, actually. mildly amusing in spots, at best. not really a novel, it's basically a few short stories threaded together by a premise that i won't bother going into. if you have read this book and loved it, and are just looking for confirmation from others that it's as great as you thought: sorry. my review is more for the person looking into science fiction as a novice, and trying to find works of excellence as a gateway into the genre. to such a person, i say "look elsewhere." there has got to be better stuff than this out there. there just has to be. in my twenties i read a few philip k. dick books, and loved them. so i am not without hope. i really want to like science fiction. this book just did not make me do that....more info
  • Fantastic book from one of sci-fi's greats
    The first book of Asimov's classic Foundation Trilogy. It is a must-read for any true fan of science fiction. Like other great works of the genre, it has held up over time, and is one of those books that you'll find yourself going back to read again and again. I highly recommend it. Be sure to also check out the other two books of the Foundation Trilogy, "Foundation and Empire" and "Second Foundation"....more info
  • Science Fiction at its best
    The main plot of the story copies the evolution of every human society. The decline and fall of empires, followed by the rise of others, depends on the same phenomena as those described here. We are puzzled by Psychohistory, but the notion itself (forecasting the future as the weather) is sound. This novel opens a range of questions and issues beyond other books of the genre....more info
  • A solid Foundation of a trilogy
    My sister likes to randomly give me things, based on conversations we had weeks prior that I barely remember. I must've been talking up Asimov (the man published enough articles/books for 10 lifetimes) because one day she gave me Foundation and asked me to read it. Not having read it herself, she said the only thing she knew about it is that it's the book that established him. In reality, the books, initially a chapter-by-chapter series in a two-bit magazine, never made him that much money until much later in his life. So it goes.

    You should, therefore, pick up this book knowing only that one piece of information; this book was his "big break." It starts engagingly enough: One arithmetician, Hari Seldon, has found a way to predict the fall of civilization, and develops a plan to stem the suffering of mankind. Very little of the story is actually about the man himself. By nature of the predicting-science, the science of history, the narrative spans a multitude of exotic settings, and even more lifetimes.

    An interesting thing happened to me as I was reading the book, however, despite having been warned by Asimov himself in the foreword. I realized that nothing happens in this book. That is to say, no actual action takes place. The entire book is dialogue driven.

    Unfortunately things sometimes take a hit or I have to stop pretending for a second, because during some of the dialogue exchanges people say or do things outside the boundaries of their character(lines like "and I'm glad you refuse to countenance it." from a Han Solo-style trader? Just say 'face it' instead!) It's clear that at the age Asimov was when he wrote it at least, that he had a Davincian understanding of women at best. Characters throughout sometimes act in grandiose, dramatic ways that defy common sense or motive. It's like watching a good play with bad acting, and as well, you can practically FEEL the curtain coming down in between chapters since so much of this book happens "behind the scenes." Speaking of scenes, they get somewhat sparse of props. Asimov will rarely, if ever, describe inanimate objects. Unless they do something science-fictiony (lets just say he GROSSLY over-estimated nuclear physics and under-estimated electronics.)

    Anydangway, there's also a problem of overconfident protagonists. At first you're not used to it, so the feeling of imminent peril is genuine, but after reading one cocky protagonist after another, you begin to stop worrying about them because they always come out on top in a vaguely predictable fashion. I suppose part of that is in the design of the book's thesis, but it would be nice to show some more range in his characters.

    I'm already almost finished with the second one. So far, this first one was better. I know after reading this review it sounds like I was hard on the guy, but really it's not bad. I'm only a little surprised a movie hasn't been optioned, because it kindof feels like Dune. Feel free to correct me if there actually is a movie out there.

    ...more info
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - In Space
    Few works of literature merit me acquiring several copies and I must say that the Foundation series is one of those. Whenever I find an old edition of this series I tend to pick it up and now I own several copies of this series of books ranging from decrepid old paperbacks to some of these newer copies.

    Here are a few spoilers about the story but I hope not too many:

    Overall, the premise for foundation is quite intersting. The books take place in a far away future where humanity has colonized the galaxy. In this far future, a scientist discovers that he can tell the future...not for any particular person but for the aggregate of humanity as a whole and then only over long periods of time. The future that Hari Seldon, our scientist, sees is grim: the galactic empire and the society that billions upon billions of people depend on will fall. Nothing can stop this decline and fall.

    The scientist though figures that his formulas and computers can find key inflection points in history when the future can be altered or "helped along" and if the right decisions are made, the empire can be restored much more quickly than if history was simply left to run its course.

    So, the Foundation is created to safeguard human knowledge and especially this concept of psychohistory and every few millenia or so - whenever the computers predict that a "shove" is needed to get the empire back ot its glory - the Foundation "speaks" and tells people what to do to fix things.

    Overall, this is a fantastic series that Asimov at some point winds up tying into with his whole Robot series...you know the laws of robotics?...which winds up being just fantastic.

    This book was written in the 50s or 60s so there is quite a propensity to use nuclear technology powered gadgets of all kinds and people smoke quite a bit and the characters don't tend to have that heavy gravitas that you find in some modern TV like Battlestar Galactics: it was a more innocent time and that comes across int he writing. It is quite interesting to read science fiction from this era as it shows some of the cutting edge thinking of the time, but Asimov was so good that his writing transcends through to today and in many ways is better than some of the overly complex baryon/tachyon hard sci fi of today. This is smart sci fi - and it is smart sci fi because Asimov is so well read. So please as you pick this up, put it in context - you're not going to get Stephen Baxter or even Gregory Benford and you're not going to get David Brin -- you are going to get Asimov and it just tastes different from modern sci fi. These words are 50 years old.

    Now, Asimov was very well read and that comes across in his writing and if you read carefully you will find Machiavelli, Gibbon, Plato, and a slew of other writer's concepts interwoven into some of the very original thinking of Asimov.

    Asimov was truly a giant and the Foundation series is required reading along with the Robot series. A couple of things, one - there is quite a bit of mythology and gravitas associated with Foundation as one of the foundational works of science fiction and that causes people to approach the work with different emotions. Some people have their hopes way up. Others, like me approached Foundation with a bit of trepidation, I was a bit scared as a 15 year old whether I'd be able to read this book - my literature teacher recommended it to me. I must say that Foundation reads fast and it is a rather engaging story, so you get sucked in pretty quickly and there aren't a ton of turns or multiple branches like in Zelazny - Foundation is straight forward....and refreshing in many ways.

    The second parting item I leave you with is regarding this edition. I found it to be more of a collectors paperback than a mass market paperback - a bith higher quality. It does give you the feel that you're reading something special...but if you want to save yourselves a few bucks go for the mass market edition or if you want to dress it up a bit, get this one --- or if you really want to get an old copy, go to some antique book shop and pick up a leather bound edition with the gold trim (yes such a beast is out there).

    In any case, enjoy - this is "classic science fiction." Those are loaded words and I offer them as consideration before you pick this book up. ...more info
  • Foundation: A Precocious Child Reviews a Classic
    Ah, Isaac Asimov. A god, some would say, in the sci-fi genre. I picked up this book at the urging of a friend, trusting in its reputation.
    At first I found Foundation unusual to read, it covers large swathes of time at once. However, Asimov does this extremely well. He gives us little anchors of information or characters that we can recognize, so we can figure out where we are in the time line without him having to come out and say it.
    Much of the book is dialogue, which is something I have not encountered before. Most of the story and characterization is carried in the dialogue rather than through plain description. Asimov doesn't tell you what the characters are thinking, he *shows* you what they're thinking as they explain it to other characters. This rather prevents us from growing too close to the characters, but that is rather the point because the time line goes so fast.
    Foundation was an unusual novel, but I can see why it is still a classic. It may be a little dry for some, but I enjoyed it....more info
  • Excellent
    Foundation is a masterpiece, bar none. It is not only great science fiction, but great fiction. Asimov does a truly wondrous job of painting a large picture, much in the way that the Hudson School of painting did in the 19th Century, while also giving compelling characterization, like a Rembrandt, and selecting the `right' moments that the reader can zoom in on, in this compelling account of future history. Asimov leaves Clarke in the dust in terms of characterization, and most of this is achieved via dialogue, while still painting a big picture. Asimov wrote wonderful dialogue, and one can read the tenor of a character's soul simply by how they react in words to other characters. That said, I am very surprised that Asimov did not take issue with George Lucas's Star Wars films, because without Foundation there would simply not be Star Wars. Everything is there to be plumbed and looted- a galactic Empire, rebels, space jumps to circumvent the speed of light, the Galactic Spirit (aka The Force), and so on. Even Star Trek took a heavy load of its mythos from this book, as the human dominated Federation and human-looking and human-derived aliens that dominate most of the Star Trek universe have much akin with the Empire that rules Foundation at novel's start....Foundation was first published in novel form in 1951, but consisted of a number of short stories published throughout the 1940s in magazines like John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction. Book One, The Psychohistorians, was written specifically as an opening for the novel; Book Two, The Encyclopedists was published as Foundation; Book Three, The Mayors, was published as Bridle And Saddle; Book Four, The Traders was published as The Wedge; and Book Five, The Merchant Princes, was published as The Big And The Little. Each of the Books within the novel functions almost as an autonomus story, much the way Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, or Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio do. Yet, it all ties together, and though it has always had a reputation as a space opera, even if the ultimate or original space opera, it transcends that label. Yet, those sorts of labels can be offputting to casual readers of a genre, like I am. For I am not a sci fi nut by any means, yet I sense that many people have avoided this book because like, say, reading a Rilke poem or watching Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, they have felt that something so overpraised and hyped is bound to be a letdown. It's not. It earns its praise and labels, like epic, for, even though the book is less than 150 pages long in my version, probably 250-300 pages in paperback, it is certainly epic- the timescales and range of the Empire demand nothing less. And although that term is grossly overused, in this case it is spot on. The very title of the book has, in the decades since its first appearance, taken on another connotation, though- that of not only referring to the Foundation within the tale, but its place as the Foundation upon which modern outer space sci fi is based upon.

    This is not to deny the books flaws, which are there. But, given that most of them have to do with technological things, they are not truly literary flaws, merely those of the nature of the sci fi genre. Among them are anachronisms such as typical hausfrau-like portrayals of women, who apparently still worry over household domestic products, an addiction to nicotine, an over-reliance on atomic power, the use of parsecs rather than light years as a unit of distance, the galactic Empire being at the center of the galaxy where we now know only a supermassive black hole exists and makes life as we know it untenable due to radiation, and other minor points. Other flaws are less anachronistic than what in film would be called continuity errors, such as being able to transcend the speed of light, but recording information in actual books, and on microfilm, rather than digitally, or quantumly, yet being able to teleport that information; the Empire possessing holographic technology, yet it all being powered by vacuum tubes; or civilizations possessing interstellar ships but having economies dependent on fossil fuels- which means that dinosaurs and the like must have appeared on millions of the other worlds. Then there are just the plain odd things, such as Asimov's faith in capitalism being the solution to the galactic ills, even though in his universe it's what ails all the worlds. The idea that even were an Empire to arise and dominate a galaxy that such a massive thing could ever stagnate, seems odd. Diversity argues against that, but this shows Asimov's pessimism regarding the human ability to evolve. That these future men also have life spans akin to ours, smoke, and suffer cancer, bespeaking there seems to have been little in the way of medical breakthroughs (this was pre DNA discovery), also seems a bit of an imaginative lack.

    But, perhaps the greatest flaw of the book is Asimov's love affair with the Freudian Psychohistory (although I'm told in later books Asimov redacted the mythos to reveal it all a fraud), which reeks of determinism, exalts psychology to a `hard' science, damns free will, plays to the Fallacy Of Uninterrupted Trends, and has been totally demolished in the wake of chaos theory. Still, even though Psychohistory fails as science, it's still far easier for a writer to predict human nature than scientific advances.

    But, again, these are mere quibbles, relatively speaking. Let me look at the pro side of the ledger. The very Psychohistory that, in reality, is specious, allows for the very drama of the tale to exist. While poor science it makes for excellent drama. To watch the various Foundation leaders grapple with their own will versus their faith in Seldon is the essence of existentialism. Asimov's use off offstage action is not just a condensing device, but clues the reader in to what is really important- the human moments and confrontations, not the comic book like blowing up of great interstellar vessels. A third device that works well is the use of select epigraphs throughout the story, culled from the fictive Encyclopedia Galactica. They unify the tale, lend it grandeur, and ground this future history as if it were already in the reader's past, much as Edward Gibbons' real and influential The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire did, and which Asimov acknowledged as his main source of ideas. Wisely, there is not too much technobabble, which helps date a work more than anything else. Also, as stated before, the book is rife with humor and sparkling dialogue, as well as plausible catchphrases like `Galaxy knows' or `By galaxy!' It is also worth re-stressing that the book's focus is not on scientific progress but social progress, and this predicates a number of major existential queries, such as what is progress? How does progress reconcile with human nature? Is progress ever expanding, cyclical, or helical? What is knowledge? How do the two square? Should knowledge be commoditized? Should knowledge be mysticized? What is free will and ethical agency? But most of all, how can all these subjects and ideas be best related?

    Yet, most of all, despite the ideas and the narrative, is the wonderful fact that Asimov is just flat-out a damned good writer. His prose is sometimes muscular, sometimes poetic, but always lucid and clear. His plots are not overly Byzantine, yet quite complex, his sentence and paragraph structure not ornate, but subtly seductive. How Hollywood has never optioned this book for a film is beyond me. Wait, no it's not. Why would they want to do compelling, human-based science fiction when they can pump out the pseudo-intellectualism of a Philip K. Dick, or the vapid ¨¹r-mythography of Star Wars, and make a fortune? Perhaps Asimov might be re-thinking his faith in Adam Smith's invisible hand in the great beyond? ...more info
  • Fantastic concept, well executed
    Asimov's Foundation books are well-crafted, masterfully imagined, and peopled with fascinating characters. Spanning some several thousand years, and multiple generations of characters (often more than one per book), the author does a fantastic job keeping each set unique and captivating. The stories follow the progression of Psychohistory, a technique for predicting the future behavior of masses of people, and the people set up to use its information to further the birth of a greater galactic empire. Space battles, intrigue, mutants, telepathy and mind control, as well as personal triumphs and failures run throughout all the novels. They are, in my opinion, among the best crafted series in the sci-fi genre ever produced....more info
  • Expansive View of Future History, Enduring Narrative
    Over a decade ago I checked this book out of the library, only to return it later having read only a couple of pages. I bought a copy the other day and was pleasantly surprised.

    Asimov started writing the Foundation series when he was 21 and this novel was first published in 1951. In some ways the time period in which it was written can be seen. Nuclear power is envisioned as the be-all, end-all of energy. People smoke (although the cure for cancer was apparently found, so any carcinogenic effects would be annulled) and there's talk of "microfilm records."

    That said, the story was well-written and the reader can clearly imagine the events depicted as plausible. There is an overarching narrative focusing more on the grand sweep of history, but it is told in vignettes from the lives of key characters at important moments in time.

    "Foundation" is a clever book with a storyline that ages well....more info
  • Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right
    This is an awesome book, but if you're looking for battles and Star Wars style action, the sequels to this story have more. This novel spans the first 100 or so years of events that take place after the fall of a Galactic Empire. It's a very thin book and a quick read. Some terms such as "Gallopin' Galaxies" appear in the book, but be mindful of the times in which this book was written...and the intended audience.

    What is entertaining and interesting is how the characters solve Hari Seldon's predicted problems throughout the book. How cool would it be to have an entire planet of scientists (make that two)...a tiny portion of the galaxy that is pretty much responsible for running it. As a fantasy, it's as fun to dream of scientists in charge as it is to imagine winning the lottery. You might even glean tactics for handling dopey managers, or solving problems without going into combat. Asimov's wit and intrigue throughout make for an entertaining and thought-provoking read....more info
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - In Space
    Few works of literature merit me acquiring several copies and I must say that the Foundation series is one of those. Whenever I find an old edition of this series I tend to pick it up and now I own several copies of this series of books ranging from decrepid old paperbacks to some of these newer copies.

    Here are a few spoilers about the story but I hope not too many:

    Overall, the premise for foundation is quite intersting. The books take place in a far away future where humanity has colonized the galaxy. In this far future, a scientist discovers that he can tell the future...not for any particular person but for the aggregate of humanity as a whole and then only over long periods of time. The future that Hari Seldon, our scientist, sees is grim: the galactic empire and the society that billions upon billions of people depend on will fall. Nothing can stop this decline and fall.

    The scientist though figures that his formulas and computers can find key inflection points in history when the future can be altered or "helped along" and if the right decisions are made, the empire can be restored much more quickly than if history was simply left to run its course.

    So, the Foundation is created to safeguard human knowledge and especially this concept of psychohistory and every few millenia or so - whenever the computers predict that a "shove" is needed to get the empire back ot its glory - the Foundation "speaks" and tells people what to do to fix things.

    Overall, this is a fantastic series that Asimov at some point winds up tying into with his whole Robot series...you know the laws of robotics?...which winds up being just fantastic.

    This book was written in the 50s or 60s so there is quite a propensity to use nuclear technology powered gadgets of all kinds and people smoke quite a bit and the characters don't tend to have that heavy gravitas that you find in some modern TV like Battlestar Galactics: it was a more innocent time and that comes across int he writing. It is quite interesting to read science fiction from this era as it shows some of the cutting edge thinking of the time, but Asimov was so good that his writing transcends through to today and in many ways is better than some of the overly complex baryon/tachyon hard sci fi of today. This is smart sci fi - and it is smart sci fi because Asimov is so well read. So please as you pick this up, put it in context - you're not going to get Stephen Baxter or even Gregory Benford and you're not going to get David Brin -- you are going to get Asimov and it just tastes different from modern sci fi. These words are 50 years old.

    Now, Asimov was very well read and that comes across in his writing and if you read carefully you will find Machiavelli, Gibbon, Plato, and a slew of other writer's concepts interwoven into some of the very original thinking of Asimov.

    Asimov was truly a giant and the Foundation series is required reading along with the Robot series. A couple of things, one - there is quite a bit of mythology and gravitas associated with Foundation as one of the foundational works of science fiction and that causes people to approach the work with different emotions. Some people have their hopes way up. Others, like me approached Foundation with a bit of trepidation, I was a bit scared as a 15 year old whether I'd be able to read this book - my literature teacher recommended it to me. I must say that Foundation reads fast and it is a rather engaging story, so you get sucked in pretty quickly and there aren't a ton of turns or multiple branches like in Zelazny - Foundation is straight forward....and refreshing in many ways.

    The second parting item I leave you with is regarding this edition. I found it to be more of a collectors paperback than a mass market paperback - a bith higher quality. It does give you the feel that you're reading something special...but if you want to save yourselves a few bucks go for the mass market edition or if you want to dress it up a bit, get this one --- or if you really want to get an old copy, go to some antique book shop and pick up a leather bound edition with the gold trim (yes such a beast is out there).

    In any case, enjoy - this is "classic science fiction." Those are loaded words and I offer them as consideration before you pick this book up. ...more info
  • Truly unparralleled among sci-fi classics
    A brilliant, original story that shows how ahead of his time Asimov truly was. The premise and scope of this novel are staggering and the plot develops at a blistering pace. You will not be able to put this book down once you start. The only minor critique I have of this book is that, as a series of novellas that continually advance into the future, characters you have grown to care about are quickly whisked away and replaced by new ones. Therefore, it is helpful to approach this book as a set of separate, though interconnected stories. When all is said and done, this book sets the stage for one of the greatest sci-fi series of all time. Complete with larger-than-life characters, unforgettable twists and suprises, this book is sure to satisfy any who have an interest in science fiction. Highly recommended....more info
  • Foundation Review
    This book, Foundation, is a very detailed fictional book that place in the future. Isaac Asimov wrote many books and series in his lifetime and this book along with the series was one of his first books written. This story is mostly about the First Galactic Empire and its fall. Hari Seldon was a psychohistorian, and, using his advanced mathematics, was able to conclude that the Empire would soon fall in 500 years, and then be followed by 30,000 years of barbarism. Hari, however, could limit the 30,000 years to only 1,000 years, by having the people on a planet called Terminus follow an Encyclopedia Galactica that Hari Seldon had made. They followed this for 50 years until they found out it was a fake. Many years pass, and there are many different people who try to do something to help. Each person had a crisis to get past in order to keep doing what had to be done to limit the barbarism to 1,000 years. This continues until the end of the book, and is then continued in the sequels. I think that this book was very interesting and I enjoyed it a lot, but the only problem about it is that it is very difficult to follow because each chapter, new characters are brought in and it take place 50 or more years later in time. Other than that, if you are a good reader and enjoy fiction books then this is a great book to read. Also, if you really like the book, there are a ton of other books that he wrote, including several other sequels that you can read.
    ...more info
  • Got it all the way
    This is a classic series of galaxy rebuilding. These books combine stories that jump hundreds of years to become a history of the Foundation. This is a new and different way to look at science fiction writing that has created many copycats. As the series comes to a close the location of the actual Foundation is moved from planet to planet so many times that the reader is ready for the unexpected twist. Science fiction writing is all about the concept and the Foundation series has a concept that can produce books for years to come....more info
  • Expansive View of Future History, Enduring Narrative
    Over a decade ago I checked this book out of the library, only to return it later having read only a couple of pages. I bought a copy the other day and was pleasantly surprised.

    Asimov started writing the Foundation series when he was 21 and this novel was first published in 1951. In some ways the time period in which it was written can be seen. Nuclear power is envisioned as the be-all, end-all of energy. People smoke (although the cure for cancer was apparently found, so any carcinogenic effects would be annulled) and there's talk of "microfilm records."

    That said, the story was well-written and the reader can clearly imagine the events depicted as plausible. There is an overarching narrative focusing more on the grand sweep of history, but it is told in vignettes from the lives of key characters at important moments in time.

    "Foundation" is a clever book with a storyline that ages well....more info