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Random House LLC
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Foundation Kindle Edition
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|Length: 296 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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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.
The best aspect of this story is, of course, the awsome interplay between technology, politics, religion, economy, and culture within the galactic periphery in the immediate vicinity of planet Terminus, the location of the so called First Foundation. This interplay is cleverly woven into a series of plots propelled by a handful of characters. That focus upon a few key characters in a sense brought the whole story down to earth (and for the better).
The founder himself, Hari Seldon, is already long dead by the 2nd chapter but the plan he and his co-conspirators set in motion lingers on.
Couple of problems are evident with the story and some suspension of disbelief is required to overcome them.
First is the time scale in which the changes are set in. To put it simply, descend of parts of the galaxy encompassing hundreds of planetary systems into that sort of technological and scientific barbarism" within mere 50 years is not belivable. Establishing a religion based on technology within 30 years after that is still kind of on the less belivable side but it depends strongly on the magnitude of the technological difference between barbarians" and the foundationeers, so there is room for interpretation.
Second is the technology itself. Nuclear fission has been known and used for 60 years and lost most of its appeal as the ultimate energy source of the future.
In the meantime there has been countless ideas about alternative sources of energy much greater than fission and entirely possible (notably: nuclear fusion and matter/antimatter annihilation). To put it simply, the idea that nuclear fission will be powering everything at the point in time 12 millenia from now is archaic.
Besides nuclear power, there are number of minor ideas introduced in the book that also did not hold well or at all since its writing (prevalent smoking, for instance). Together, the whole technological and cultural setting of the book has sort of a retro feel now... kind of like the Fallout games.
All that, however, can be forgiven for the most part since it is often impossible to write about technology of the future merely decades from now let alone whole millenia from now. Asimov was a writer and a scientist, not a psychic.
Striking is also the absence of biochemistry or genetics, since one would assume that those would be Asimov's strong points for the fact that he majored and worked in biochemistry.
Third, while the passage of time had appropriate atmosphere of scale (more or less), the galaxy felt kind of small. The distances weren't shown or explained very well so a trip from the Periferies to Trantor or Kolgan(sp?) seems like a trip to an amusement park only some 100 miles away.
Nevertheless, the best what Foundation has to offer more than makes up for its shortfalls.
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.
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