Forward the Foundation
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2003
It's a prequel, of course, but in realtime it was the last book written in the series.
Strictly _as_ a Foundation book, I don't think this one is quite as strong as its immediate predecessor, _Prelude to Foundation_. It's good, all right -- but it's not very tightly unified, the writing is sloppy in places, and it introduces a few things that seem to contradict the original series at certain points.
What really makes this four-vignettes-plus-an-epilogue volume so engaging is that in it, Hari Seldon has clearly become a literary alter ego for Asimov himself. And Asimov was well aware as he wrote it that he hadn't long to live.
And _that_ suggests that in writing about Dors Venabili, Wanda Seldon, and psychohistory, Asimov was "really" _also_ writing about his wife Janet Jeppson Asimov, his daughter Robyn, and his own literary oeuvre. So completely aside from its value as an SF novel (or, really, a story collection), it's also of great interest for the light it sheds on Asimov himself.
Asimov is generally credited with three autobiographies: _In Memory Yet Green_, _In Joy Still Felt_, and _I. Asimov_ -- the last being my personal favorite because it's the most introspective and revealing of Asimov's character. (Excerpts from all three, plus some further surprising revelations that you've probably heard about by now, are included in Janet Jeppson Asimov's _It's Been a Good Life_.)
But there's a case to be made that he wrote a fourth volume of autobiography, and that this is it. At the very least, this work of ostensible fiction is almost as revealing of Asimov's character and end-of-life concerns as any of his nonfictional autobiographies.
For that alone, it will be of interest to every Asimov fan. May the Good Doctor rest in peace.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
This was Isaac Asimov's last novel; he died in April of 1992. This book, a part of Asimov's noted Foundation series, concerns events taking place between "Prelude to Foundation" (1988) and "Foundation" (1951) and helps pull together those two books. It consists of a series of four stories, each taking place at a different time in the life of the mathematician Hari Seldon. The first story ("Eto Demerzel") begins about eight years after the end of "Prelude to Foundation." Seldon's work on his mathematical theory of psychohistory is going slowly. He finds that he has to assist the First Minister of the Empire, Eto Demerzel, in defeating a populist demagogue. (A new Foundation trilogy was begun in 1997. "Foundation's Fear" by Gregory Benford takes place between the first and second stories in "Forward the Foundation." Greg Bear's "Foundation and Chaos" and David Brin's "Foundation's Triumph" also take place within the time frame of "Forward the Foundation") The second story, "Cleon I", takes place ten years later. Seldon is now First Minister of the Empire and he finds that he and his adopted son, Raych, must defeat the remnants of an opposition group and stop an assassination attempt. In the third story, "Dors Venabili", occurring about ten years later, Seldon and his wife, the historian Dors Venabili, must quelch the designs of a ruthless military junta that is governing the Empire as well as detect and stop someone within the psychohistory project from taking it over. In the last story ("Wanda Seldon"), about six years later, Seldon and his granddaughter Wanda must find a way to obtain funding to continue the research after Hari Seldon dies. He soon comes up with the idea of two, independent Foundations whose goal it is to return the Galaxy to his former glory after the upcoming millennia of dark ages. In addition to these four stories, there is a short Epilogue that takes place two years after the end of Part I of "Foundation" (1951). This series has had an enormous impact in the history of science fiction and all serious students of science fiction literature should be familiar with all of the books in the series.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 27, 2002
This novel begins eight years after Prelude to Foundation, and it is chronologically the second novel in the seven that Asimov wrote. I think this just might be the best novel Asimov wrote, and it happened to be completed just before his death.
The novel consists of four parts, each separated by about ten years. This is really about Seldon, and the path his life takes. In the first part, many things are simliar to Prelude, the Empire is falling to pieces, an old friend from the Robot series is the person functionally running the empire, and psychohistory is still just a fledgling science. He and his wife, who is his protector (appointed by Daneel Olivaw), have adopted the young boy they encountered in Prelude. The events of this first part see the departure of Daneel, with Seldon being unexpectedly elevated to fill his position.
Part two deals with Seldon's life as a political functionary, running the dying empire while trying to hammer out psychohistory so that he can save humanity. Again, a major character exits the scene, but not quite as one might expect. This results in Seldon exiting politics and focusing solely on his work in part three. Governmental authority has been assumed by the military, and psychohistory is finally able to make some predictions. Hari loses an old friend and his family uncovers a plot to kill someone, they think Hari is the target. While the plot twists a bit in this part are VERY well done, the end is really tragic. This time Hari lost the most important person in the galaxy to him.
In part four, Hari is essentially all alone, with only his granddaughter remaining of all the friends and family he once had. His son and daughter-in-law each meet unfortunate fates, while the capital planet Trantor is now feeling the decay that the empire as a whole has felt for some time. Hari is forced to make some decisions that enable the second foundation to be created, though it also costs him someone dear.
The ending is as one might expect, the death of the great one, as readers of the series would know. He manages to wrap things up in time, at least enough to set things on the track that psychohistory saw fit, and that the second foundation can steer.
I really think this was a story of Asimov himself in many ways. It deals with a brilliant man, recognized as such during his own lifetime, who deals with the loss of his friends and family as he outlives them all. But still he works. And he dies while working. Asimov himself said that he identified with Seldon more than any of his other characters, and after chronicling the life and death of Seldon, Asimov himself died. He is already sorely missed.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2002
I need to share with other readers the feeling that this book is not up to the usual standards set by the previous Foundation stories. It had a rushed feeling, as if the master tried to tie in all loose ends before his death. This resulted in gaps in the plot, in sketchy, monodimensional characters, in unlikely coincidences (example : in a 40-billion people planet, Seldon just happens to stumble upon the second "mentalic" and hires him as a bodyguard before his grandaughter finds out the truth!?!).
Already with Prelude to Foundation I had the feeling that Asimov tried too hard to tie the Foundation series and the Robot series, attributing to R. Daneel Olivaw an even more important role (as if this was necessary...) This book continues in reducing the importance of Seldon, from a unique genius to a simpler man with a brilliant idea which nonetheless would have amounted to nothing if not for people around him. According to this book, together with Prelude, Seldon would not have further researched his "psychohistory" were it not for Daneel / Demerzel. He would not have built the science were it not for Yugo Amaryl's devotion. He had nothing to do with the invention of the Primary Radiant. And the Second Foundation was the result of a fluke, of a granddaughter with mind-reading powers. What a disappointment...
BUT...
I really appreciated the way he described the fall of the Empire. The decline in morals, the deteriorating infrastructure, the increased corruption in government, the prejudices and the racism, all struck a cord, which was probably what Asimov intended anyway. I see in this book that Asimov has lost the optimism of the original Foundation series, has lost his infinite belief in the rigorousness of the human spirit. Maybe it was a result of old age, maybe it is a result of the disappointment caused by a humanity that has negated all the promises of peace and prosperity given with the revolutionary breakthroughs in science and technology. And his descriptions of a civilisation in decay rings a bell deeply in my soul : I recognised signs of our civilisation, and it scared me.
Also, I loved the description of Seldon's progress in old age. Touching, deeply humane, and definitely a result of Asimov's himself ageing process. Not the stuff you expect when reading a science fiction novel, but realistic and emotional. Asimov became famous writing about robots, yet in this book he reminded us what it really means to be human, the joys and the losses, the disappointments and the hopes, life and death.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2002
Forward the Foundation is the last book that Asimov wrote. Out of the seven books in the Foundation series it is chronologically the second, following Prelude to Foundation. I recommend reading both the Robot and Empire series prior to starting the Foundation series. Both "Prelude ..." and "Forward ..." contain a major character from the Robot series.
Forward consists of four novelettes separated by ten years each. Hari Seldon is the main character throughout the work and the description of his aging from 40 to 70 seems to reflect on Asimov's own disillusionment with the aging process. The first three parts each eliminate a major character from Prelude in order to provide a seamless transition into the original Foundation trilogy written in the 1950's. The last part gives details on Seldon's development of the Second Foundation.
Forward isn't stellar but is quite engaging and a good read overall. I felt that the individual stories served as more than adequately convincing links betweeen Prelude and Foundation. Part 4 and the Epilogue overlap slightly with the first story in Foundation. I did find the ending to Part 2 to be particularly weak. I've read the entire Foundation series now and didn't notice any "spoilers" in Forward that ruined anything for me. The location of the Second Foundation is fortunately *not* revealed in Forward. It's worth the read and is a great linking book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2004
This 3.5 star book picks up eight years after Prelude to Foundation, and explains the origins of the two Foundations against the backdrop of the collapsing Empire.

Hari Seldon, his family, friends and colleagues labor to operationalize psychohistory into a useful form, while garnering enough resources to launch the Foundation at Terminus and identifying the key skills necessary for the Second Foundation at Star's End.

Even though this explains how Seldon comes up with the Plan and sets up the Foundations, there are (deliberately) no spoilers to ruin the story of how the Plan unfolds in the central Foundation trilogy. As such, it is the natural complement to that series.

The plot is relatively static -- at least compared to the first prequel, Prelude to Foundation -- focusing on the development of the science of psychohistory. As such, it plays to Asimov's strengths which lie in the science not the fiction.

So while not essential, it is an enjoyable introduction to the trilogy, and a better place to start than Prelude. If necessary, read this and then the last 30 pages of Prelude to fill in a few minor puzzles.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 20, 2004
Book Review by C. Douglas Baker

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is an excellent work and very entertaining. It is well written in the vein of the Foundation Series. But ultimately, FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is profoundly disappointing.

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is a biography of Hari Seldon, filling in the areas of his life not previously covered in PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION. FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is written as a series of novellas covering major portions and events in Seldon's life as he continues his solidification of psychohistory and prepares for the establishment of the Foundation and the Second Galactic Empire. Hari Seldon is a fascinating character and many of his life experiences chronicled in FORWARD THE FOUNDATION were unexpected. FORWARD THE FOUNDATION probably could be enjoyed as a stand alone novel but it is not recommended. Without the background of the previous Foundation novels many of the events and explications of psychohistory would be much less significant to the reader.

Two key questions remained after the last novel, FOUNDATION AND EARTH. First, how and why was the Second Foundation originally established? Second, was the Seldon Plan truly a failure and would Galaxia really be the future of humankind?

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION clearly answers the first question. The First and Second Foundations were established to be complimentary to each other. The First Foundation is to be the backbone of the technological and political regeneration of humanity in the form of the Second Galactic Empire while the Second Foundation plays the role of advancing psychohistory and ensuring the survival of the First Foundation. While this is relatively clear in the previous Foundation novels, the Second Foundation seems vulnerable and venal in FOUNDATION'S EDGE and FOUNDATION AND EARTH. Both Foundations are more concerned with their own self-interest as opposed to the interest of the Second Galactic Empire or the Seldon Plan. In FORWARD THE FOUNDATION we clearly see that they are meant to work together to complete the Seldon Plan.

Ultimately FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is extremely disappointing as a denouement to the Foundation Series. The major question left from FOUNDATION AND EARTH, the latest chronologically of the Foundation Series, is the fate of humanity. It seems pretty clear at the end of FOUNDATION AND EARTH that Gaia or Galaxia, the all encompassing organic planet where every element is interconnected physically, will be the eventual fate of all humankind after Trevize discovers what he considers to be the fatal flaw of psychohistory and decides in its favor (for more detail see FOUNDATION'S EDGE and FOUNDATION AND EARTH). Trevize claims that psychohistory does not take into account the possibility of intelligent life in other galaxies. If such life exists then psychohistory is irreparably flawed (I think this is a terribly poor argument and lament that FOUNDATION AND EARTH was ever written). Therefore Trevize feels he must side with Gaia so that humankind can be united if it ever faces a threat from intelligent life outside the galaxy. Gaia is a very unpleasant and damning ending for humanity. Humankind as one large interconnected organism is defeatist.

Unfortunately, FORWARD THE FOUNDATION does not explicitly state that the Foundation ultimately establishes a Second Galactic Empire and that Galaxia is aborted. FORWARD THE FOUNDATION, however, does strongly imply that Galaxia is not the ultimate fate of humanity and that the Seldon Plan works out. First, if the Foundation does not succeed why should readers, who have already seen the future, care about the life a Hari Seldon? If Galaxia is the fate of humankind then Seldon would have played no role in the shape of humankind's future and would be unimportant in the long run. Surely Asimov would not have spent such effort writing about Seldon's life if Galaxia were to make Seldon's life ultimately purposeless. Additionally there is the continuing entries of the Encyclopedia Galactica which states at the end of FORWARD THE FOUNDATION: "It has been said that Hari Seldon left this life as he lived it, for he died with the future he created unfolding all around him..."

This passage could be interpreted that the Seldon Plan eventually molds the future of humankind.

Whether my assumption that the Foundation ultimately establishes a Second Galactic Empire is correct or not, FORWARD THE FOUNDATION does not bring closure to the Foundation Series. If the Seldon Plan is successful, then we must wonder how the Foundations are able to thwart the establishment of Galaxia after the seemingly firm impetus it had at the end of FOUNDATION AND EARTH. If Galaxia is indeed eventually established, certainly the two Foundations did not acquiesce without a fight. And both Foundations had the resources and ability to fight for their own survival and the Seldon Plan. This conflict would have been interesting and would have made a great premise for a final Foundation novel.

In sum I must say I am disappointed in the ending of the Foundation Series. For the most part FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is well worth reading in the context of the preceding novels. Unfortunately, we are left to speculate about the impending conflict between Galaxia and the two Foundations. I would have rather speculated about the interlude in Seldon's life filled by FORWARD THE FOUNDATION.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 1999
Prelude to Foundation, this book and Foundation and Earth are connecting the robot series (The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn, Robots and Empire) with the Foundation Trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation). Still I would recommend first to read the robot novells and the Foundation Trilogy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 1999
I would like to start by saying that I am a big Asimov fan, and that this is the only novel I have ever read of his which would earn anything under four stars. "Forward the Foundation" takes place about 10 years after "Prelude to Foundation" (which was one of my favorites by the way,) and continues to feature Hari Seldon as he develops his psychohistory. While all the other Robot and Foundation novels offered some unforseen twist or new emphasis, this book did nothing of the kind. The first two stories were fun and interesting and promised to make this at least a four star book, but it was all downhill from there. I grew so board with the reiterated speculations about "lemonade death," that it took me a week to read that one section. Although the epilouge provided a somewhat satisfying (if somewhat predictable) ending, for the most part the entire second half of this book is extremely boring. Another unsatisfying aspect of this book, is that Asimov never even answers all the questions raised at the beginning when the emperor is killed. He asks how could psychohistory ever acount for such random events as that? and then never answers at the end. although you should definitly read this book if you've read the others in the series, you may be disappointed, as I was.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2003
Isaac Asimov is, in my opinion, the greatest modern science fiction writer. His crowning achievement, the Foundation series, is widely aknowledged to be one of the greatest Sci-Fi series of all time. The series, Prelude to F-, Foundation, F- and Empire, Second F-, F-'s Edge, and finally Forward the Foundation, is the consummate of some 40 years of intermittent "dabbling" in the series. For this reason, there are, as can be expected, some continuity problems with the plot line. However, Asimov's skill as a storyteller through the characters is unparalleled in the genre. He is able to weave from words great characters such as Salvor Hardin, Hober Mallow, Lethan Devers, Bayta and Arkady Darrell, Stor Gendibal, Sura Novi...chracters as human as they are fictional. His greatest character, however, is Hari Seldon. Forward the Foundation represents Hari Seldon. It continuies the job of tying together all of Asimov's major novels begun in Foundation's Edge, and gives a sense of resolution, while only describing events that occur 500 years prior to those in Foundation's Edge. This book is not without flaws...though for it's insight into one of the greatest fictional characters of all time, I highly recommend it.
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