Top critical review
24 of 26 people found this helpful
Asimov pulls it all together
on January 2, 2000
If you've already formed an opinion about Isaac Asimov's writing, FOUNDATION'S EDGE isn't likely to change your mind. The book has all of Asimov's earmarks, both good and bad: wooden characters who almost always know exactly how they feel and say exactly what they mean; dialogue-heavy scenes in which the exchanges are drenched with ideas and cerebral analysis but almost devoid of emotion or neurosis; an inventive setting replete with plausible details; and a propulsive, energetic plot that delivers lots of suspense and surprises. I already liked Asimov before I picked up the book, and it certainly didn't disappoint me, but it's not going to convert anybody who only wants to read about nuanced characters making subtle self-discoveries.
Because the plot is one of the book's best features, to say too much about it would spoil the fun for too many readers, so I'll limit myself to one of its most interesting aspects, which is that it attempts to tie together a number of Asimov's works. Without giving too much away, it's fair to say that part of the book's project is to meld the fictional "universes" of the Robot stories, the Empire novels, and THE END OF ETERNITY with that of the FOUNDATION trilogy. Many Asimov fans have derided this decision, claiming that it marks the beginning of his decline as a science fiction writer. For myself, while I can't say that I find the attempt at retrofitting fictional consistency onto highly disparate works to be particularly compelling or convincing, I do find it interesting. Consider that Asimov was an atheist, who argued that in the absence of any persuasive evidence of a Supreme Being (of which he could find none), it was more rational to believe in God's nonexistence than in His existence. Yet for us to credit Asimov's notion of psychohistory, we must posit that certain characteristics are common to all humans. I would contend that the religious or spiritual impulse is such a characteristic, and that as people get older and their desire for comfort, security, and meaning increases, that impulse only gets stronger. I wonder: as Asimov aged, did he channel his own growing spiritual impulse into the project of forcing his fictional creations into an overall rubric, of imposing meaning where none previously existed?
If you're an Asimov fan, FOUNDATION'S EDGE should be required reading. It did, after all, win the Good Doctor the 1983 Hugo award for best novel. On the other hand, if you're new to Asimov, this isn't the place to start. Instead, check out the FOUNDATION trilogy, or the Robot novels (THE CAVES OF STEEL and THE NAKED SUN -- the later ROBOTS OF DAWN and ROBOTS AND EMPIRE were part of Asimov's retrofitting project.) Better yet, read his short stories, collected in two excellent volumes titled THE COMPLETE STORIES I and II. It is those stories which cemented his reputation as a world class sf author, and I would argue that it is that reputation, rather than any particular virtue of this novel, that FOUNDATION'S EDGE's Hugo acknowledges.