This is the first of seven volumes (very small ones) in the Foundation series. While I was positively surprised about the idea and politics in this book, it felt very much like a beginning, at set-up for potentially greater stories.
published: Spectra, 2004 (first published in 1951)
series: Foundation #1
my rating: 5,5/10
first sentence: Hari Seldon – born in the 11,988th year of the Galactic Era; died 12,069.
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–to 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–both scientists and scholars–and 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–or fight them and be destroyed.
The story of the creation and maintenance of the planet Foundation starts out with Hari Seldons idea to preserve all human knowledge in one place so that once the Empire destroys itself – as it inevitably will – the human race doesn’t have to start completely from scratch but has a chance of becoming great again. In only 1000 years instead of ten times that. The idea is intriguing and very well explained in the first part of this five-part book.
After this introduction, we jump a number of decades in each new part and are introduced to a set of new characters. While each of these governemnts, traders, princes and merchants may be likable and vivid, we spend too little time with them to really get emotionally involved. I found myself caring more about the idea of the Foundation, the planet itself and what it represents, than of the actual inhabitants.
What Asimov does fantastically though, is create problems for the Foundation. Be they political, economic or religious in nature, they lead to major crises and it’s up to the people on the Foundation to deal with them as best they can. Reading about their approach and solutions was a lot of fun. Sometimes, Asimov had me at the edge of my seat, trying to figure out how Foundation could possibly get out of the new trouble that’s been brewing. Unsurprisingly, Foundation’s inhabitants always do and there’s still some time left for the complete destruction of the Empire.
I didn’t engage fully with the characters and the language was somewhat underwhelming. But I am a huge fan of Asimov’s idea and I will definitely continue reading this series. These books are all quite thin and I should probably have read the first three books as one.
THE GOOD: Great idea, constant conflict keeps the plot full of suspense.
THE BAD: Episodic and maybe a little too short. Then again, it’s only the first in a series.
THE VERDICT: An interesting start for a story that promises to grow even bigger in scope.
RATING: 5,5/10 – better than avarage