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Foundation and Empire Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1991
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From the Publisher
Led by its founding father, the great psycho-historian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire--still the mightiest force in the Galaxy, even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire's glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon. But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called the Mule-a mutant intelligence with a power greater than a dozen battle fleets. . .a power that could turn the strongest-willed human into an obedient slave.
From the Inside Flap
The Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov are one of the great masterworks of science fiction. Unsurpassed for their unique blend of nonstop action, daring ideas, and extensive world-building, they chronicle the struggle of a courageous group of men and women to preserve humanity's light against an inexorable tide of darkness and violence.
Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation has survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire--still the mightiest force in the Galaxy even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire's glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon.
But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called The Mule--a mutant intelligence with a power greater than a dozen battle fleets...a power that can turn the strongest-willed human into an obedient slave.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Foundation Trilogy is a wonderful piece of work, but the Kindle edition butchers it! Someone has decided to water down Asimov's prose, eliminating some of the more enjoyable passages of the book. Here are some examples, found by comparison with an old Bantam Doubleday hardcover edition.
Several pages into chapter 3, Salvor Hardin is arguing with the Encyclopedists about the decline of the Empire.
Original: "If you ask me,", he cried, "THE GALAXY IS GOING TO POT!"
Kindle: "If you ask me,", he cried, "THE GALACTIC EMPIRE IS DYING!"
In chapter 5, Hardin is again meeting with the Encyclopedists and discussing the threat received from Anacreon.
Original: The message from Anacreon ... boils down easily and straightforwardly to the unqualified statement ... "You give us what we want in a week, or we beat the hell out of you and take it anyway."
Kindle: The message from Anacreon ... boils down easily and straightforwardly to the unqualified statement ... "You give us what we want in a week, or we take it by force."
I'm going to be asking for a refund.
In short, I was left disappointed... but only on that front. Let me explain.
The science and futurism in this book are so thin it may as well not exist. Truly the setting is in a gigantic galaxy wide empire with nuclear gadgets and funky glowing things galore. However these are merely interestingly named trinkets without much importance to the major story regarding their function.
This does not mean, however, that this is a bad book. Far from it in fact. Foundation is a great book when you consider it fiction based upon history, psychology, sociology, and politics. Now this may sound gag inducing to my fellow science nerds out there, but it is so much better than I make it sound. Each "part" of the book follows at least one resident strategic genius who works to manipulate very powerful people or groups of people to align with the grand narrative plan laid out in the very beginning of the story. The result is a massively satisfying payoff as chaos flakes away to resounding success.
That should be a recipe for an easy 5 star review. After all, I consider most books worth reading to be 5 stars. As you've probably guessed by now though, I hesitate to put the "worth reading overall" tag to this book.
As great as the general premise is, there are two major flaws that I found when reading it.
The First is the ambiguity of the "grand narrative plan" that I explained earlier in this review. Avoiding spoilers, this plan is set out fairly early on in the book. Middle to end of Part 1 I'd say. However, the idea is that the meat of the plan is hidden from the reader, and revealed slowly in important bits of the story as it progresses. This works initially, very well in fact, to create suspense in the story. After a couple parts though, it starts to become stale and formulaic. The golden rule for recurring suspense inducing plot elements is that they must be used with enough variety to remain entertaining. I cannot say that this held near the end of the book.
My Second problem links in with the first part, and is the general formulaic nature of some of the parts, and the treatment of some characters due to it. The challenge with the format of this book is to constantly introduce a large number of characters that are important, interesting, and unique. This is rather easy for the first few parts, but you can see that Asimov struggled to not repeat earlier story patterns in later parts. Some characters start to seem like poorly constructed clones of previous characters. As a side note, you will be introduced to a certified badass by the name of Gaal Dornick in Page 1 of the book. He gets a lot of really nice character building and becomes a great foundation (lol) for a main character. You won't see him past page 46.
Neither of these have to be deal breaking flaws. After all, it doesn't take long to read anyway, so you won't "waste" much time if you end up disliking it.
Why review a classic book with over 1000 reviews? Because many of them are not objective and some reader might want a perspective of what they are getting into.
This seems to be an early book with an immature writing style. It is a series of novelettes with only a general framework connection, separated by 100s of years, and not much depth to any of them. Most of the characters of male and all smoke, typical of the time of its writing. In each story, one character is a super genius, and everyone else either follows him (never a her), or opposes for silly reasons. None of this matters except to fill in a bit of history to set up the sequel.
Moreover, the extremely ambitious series, eventually combining with the robot series, is missing a big gap which Asimov came back and started to fill in later in his life. His estate has contracted other authors to complete it, but I have not read the ones by other authors. All of the early Asimov writing is a bit immature, but the idea of plotting over centuries and taking responsibility for shaping the future is very interesting. Much later in the series we will learn that humans didn't directly do this, but still Asimov's sweeping view of inevitable developments in history over time has proved a compelling legacy of his life, and it inspired me personally to work on crash rate theory. If the real world version of psychohistory interests you, at least the beginning of it, search for Economic Optimization of Innovation and Risk.
FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE
We have significant female characters in this one, who aren't just decoration. The heroine's action changes the sweeping course of history just as much at the Mule's. I don't think anyone pointed this out before.
This is a logical but fun exploration of whether one can constructively influence the course of historical events, if the influence is known. Asimov concludes it can't be done. In resolving this he gets into the "mental powers" line of development that in my opinion took the later Foundation books off of the track of social relevance that he was on and ventured into sillyness. If you read my other reviews, you'll find that I nearly always criticize mind control. It is a device used when authors cannot really themselves figure out what motivates people, and it denys the reader an honest experience of other people's lives, feelings and decisions ... sort of like watching an expert play chess with himself.