Foundation Trilogy Readalong: Foundation

First of all, I’m sorry this is a little later than I said it would be. From here on out, we should be good with a book a month. (Especially because the books are a nice, reasonable length, and fairly readable.)

So! Foundation is the first Asimov book I’ve probably read in at least 10 years, but there is a reason why Asimov is my favorite of the “classic” science fiction authors. To be honest, I’m not sure why I haven’t read the trilogy before, because I went through a definite Asimov phase as a teenager. I even read his collection of fantasy short stories. I don’t recommend that one.

But, onto the book. I really liked it, Squiders. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t read any decent science fiction lately, or if it’s just because Asimov and I get on, or if it was just awesome, or some combination of the three, but I enjoyed the experience.

I’d say stop here if you don’t want to be spoiled, but I really think that, after 50 years, you don’t get a warning anymore.

I also thought it was interesting how the book was set up, with the time jumps. I mean, I guess I should have expected them, because I’ve read things like I, Robot and Bicentennial Man, but I honestly went into the trilogy having absolutely no idea what the books were about. Apparently the parts of the trilogy were originally a series of short stories, so it makes sense in retrospect.

Also, Asimov has always been quite good at developing characters in a short period of time. A lot of older scifi is so focused on plot and science that the characters become unimportant, but that’s not Asimov. So, you know, even though you only get characters for 75 pages, you remember them and understand them.

I wonder how it went when he was writing the stories. Did he just start with the one and thought he was done? Or did he lay out all thousand years (and beyond) from the beginning, expecting to slowly dole out the stories as the urge hit him? I almost feel like it might be the first, that he had the first idea, with the psychohistory and Hari Seldon and the founding of the Foundation, because the tone of that part of the story read a little different than the rest.

But it’s rather ingenious, really, how one thing flows into the next, from the intellectual, to the religious, to the capitalist. (Though I admit I was a little skeptical about how quickly and fanatically the religion set in. But not enough to really care about it.) I’m interested to see where we go from here in the next book. After all, we’re only 150 years into the Foundation, and we’ve only had three Seldon crises.

Have you read Foundation, Squiders? What did you think? What’s your favorite Asimov story, or who’s your favorite “classic” scifi author?

We’ll discuss Foundation and Empire on April 8.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. I’d never read any of the Foundation books, so when you announced the read-along, I thought, “Hot dog, I’m gonna read me some classic science fiction!” and promptly bought the e-book.

    I’m sad to say, I was disappointed.

    Don’t get me wrong. As far as Golden Age stuff goes, it’s pretty good. As far as Golden Age stuff goes. Big on concepts, small on characters. Even smaller on women.

    So you’ve got this deus ex machina Seldon guy who has a mathematical formula for predicting generalized future events. OK. How does Isaac execute it?

    Man: I am Seldon, and I have this awesome concept. I am also a super genius, and will manipulate people into doing what has to be done. I’ll just set the timer on this holographic projector…

    Next generation man: I am an adherent of Seldon, and the first Seldon crisis is here. This is what the future looks like, check out this fancy tech, and BOOM solved the crisis. As proof, here’s a projection of Seldon himself, locked away in a time capsule, re-animated to congratulate me.

    Next next generation man: I am an adherent of Seldon, and the second Seldon crisis is here. This is what the future looks like after the first crisis passed, check out this fancy tech, and BOOM solved the crisis. As proof, here’s a projection of Seldon himself, locked away in a time capsule, re-animated to congratulate me.

    Woman: Ooh, pretty dress. Now I won’t object to next next NEXT generation man sticking his foot in the door in order to make our culture economically dependent on his culture. Sooo silky. Ooh.

    Seriously, two women are in the book, one a maid, the other a wife, and both get all wibbly-wobbly in the knees about a fancy holographic dress. Classic Golden Age writing, and couldn’t more clearly have been written by a man. The only other reference to women is a passing remark about one of the Seldon men being free to chose his mistresses.

    But even the male characters aren’t that well-developed. Each is an overly-confident and underestimated genius. Which I guess is only natural, since those are the type of MEN who would solve a Seldon Crisis. But since I knew that, I felt no tension as each protagonist had obstacles thrown his way prior to solving the current Seldon Crisis.

    I suppose my reaction to the book is more about me than the book. In high school, I would have lapped this up and eagerly sought out more in the series. I read Asimov back then, and LOVED him. I scoured the library for his books.

    But now that I’m a little more nuanced in my world view, I have to say, I’m a little disappointed in Isaac. Product of his time and all that, I know. But this was not a book that engaged me.

    And honestly, I *AM* saddened by that. I really wanted to love this book the way I remember loving his I, Robot series of books. And I have to wonder, if I went back and re-read those books now, if I’d still love them.

    I’m not sure I want to find out.

    Reply

    • I’m so bad at this sort of thing. I didn’t even note that there were only two women in the entire book. What does that say about me?

      Reply

      • That you’ve been successfully conditioned by the Patriarchy? I wish that last statement was meant entirely as a joke…

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