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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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The book jacket summarizes this 66-year-old book well. It stands up well to the passage of time. The twists and surprises take the story in unexpected and interesting directions. Asimov does not waste much space developing characters. In fact, it seems to me the characters in 'Foundation' take a distinct back seat to the story direction and underlying themes. If you like action-packed Sci-Fi, this book may not be your cup of tea. But if you like big human ideas,themes, or morals; you might want to read this one.
Foundation and Earth offers a nice closure tying events well with the Robot series however, he only goes 500 years into the Sheldon Plan leaving the reader to wonder how the Plan worked in the end.
Although Asimov left an opening for the next book which never happened, I was not so much bothered by the cliffhanger as much by the 500 remaining years of the Sheldon Plan. One can argue those are one and the same but I did not experience it that way.
Overall Foundation and Earth was a crescendo after the other five foundation books and the one I liked the most.
The whole series: I thoroughly enjoyed the Robot series, but I had to push through some of the Empire books (Pebble in the Sky). Most Foundation books were entertaining and I wanted to go back to reading any chance i got.
I am being careful not to give anything away, or at least nothing that you could not find in common places.
I gave it fours stars instead of five because on at least one occasion I predicted what will happen. I don't always appreciate such predictability and Asimov had such an amazing imagination that he could have avoid it.
This is the recommended reading order:
1. I Robot (or The Complete Robot) [ROBOTS]
2. The Caves of Steel [ROBOTS]
3. The Naked Sun [ROBOTS]
4. Mirror Image (short story) [ROBOTS]
5. The Robots of Dawn [ROBOTS]
6. Robots and Empire [ROBOTS]
7. The Stars, Like Dust [EMPIRE]
8. The Currents of Space [EMPIRE]
9. Pebble in the Sky [EMPIRE]
10. Prelude to Foundation [FOUNDATION]
11. Forward the Foundation [FOUNDATION]
12. Foundation [FOUNDATION]
13. Foundation and Empire [FOUNDATION]
14. Second Foundation [FOUNDATION]
15. Foundation's Edge [FOUNDATION]
16. Foundation and Earth [FOUNDATION]
"Foundation" is from the 1940's, when some of the ubiquitous ideas of modern science fiction were born. In the 1940's, it was already clear that the universe was a very large and complex place (though it is even larger and more complex now than was known then!). So, writers, including Asimov, invented the devices of transport and communication faster than the speed of light. This brought the stars within "reach" and opened wide horizons for imagining how the future might develop if such technologies existed. "Foundation" and its original trilogy brought forth one of Asimov's unique contributions to the imagined future of science: "psychohistory." The concept of psychohistory is that large-scale social and political events can be mathematically forecast in the form of event probabilities. Asimov's various writings use these assumptions to write stories dealing with social, political, and individual challenges of an imagined future. Asimov adroitly mixes the large- and small-scale human events into richly entertaining stories. "Foundation" and other novels of the trilogy are composed of related vignettes, reflecting their original publication in serialized form. I find this style works well for these and other Asimov books, with small-scale stories adding together to convey a sweep of events. The whole adds up to more than the sum of the parts.
For readers who have little experience with SciFi novels, I think "Foundation" would be an excellent place to start. The writing is direct, crisp, and clear, and is fine for YA or adult readers. The original Foundation trilogy is almost completely free of profanity and sexual themes. Violence is limited to the occasional murder and wars at a distance.
If you are already a SciFi fan, and have not read some of Isaac Asimov's work, this is an excellent place to start, although it is not the "beginning". A semi-rational path for readers new to Asimov would be "Foundation", followed, if you like it by the two other members of the original trilogy, "Foundation and Empire," and "Second Foundation". From here, if you want a little more, try either the Robot series or the expanded 7-book Foundation series. If you are game for a lot more, and want to see Asimov's "future history" in a roughly (future) chronological order, I'd suggest looking at Asimov's main set of future history works that comprise the Empire series, the Robot series, and the expanded Foundation series.
I'd rate "Foundation" as Must Read for all except those who are severely SciFi-phobic!!