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Foundation Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1991
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“A true polymath, a superb rationalist, an exciting and accessible writer in both fiction and nonfiction, Isaac Asimov was simply a master of all he surveyed.”—Greg Bear
“Asimov served wondrous meals-of-the-mind to a civilization that was starved for clear thinking about the future. To this day, his visions spice our ongoing dinner-table conversation about human destiny.”—David Brin
“Isaac was still in his teens when I met him, a fan of mine before I was a fan of his. Writing for John W. Campbell back in the famous ‘golden age of science fiction,’ he became one of the founders of our field. With the Robot stories and the Foundation stories, he helped to shape science fiction as we know it.”—Jack Williamson
“I grew up on the ABC’s of science fiction—Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke. There’s a reason Asimov’s name comes first, and not just because of the alphabet!”—Janis Ian
“With his fertile imagination, his wit, and his prolific output, Isaac Asimov truly laid the foundation for all future generations of science fiction writers.”—Kevin J. Anderson
“If anything can be said to have been the launch pad for space-age science fiction, it has to be the Foundation trilogy. It’s a classic. And it’s unforgettable.”—Jack McDevitt
“The Foundation series is one of the masterpieces of science fiction. If you’ve never read these novels, then you’re in for a treat, and even if you’ve already read them, then you owe it to yourself to reread them, because they’re still great.”—Allen Steele
“Quite simply, Asimov got me started.”—Liz Williams
“Asimov’s Foundation trilogy was the pivotal touchstone of my life in creative fiction. His vision and scope spanned the galaxy across eons, and at the same time he told deeply personal stories of living characters. The writer I am sprang from the boy that these books touched back then. They continue to move me still. Thank you, Isaac, for opening my mind and my life to the possible.”—Tracy Hickman
“I’m sure there will be more Foundation stories, and more robot stories, and more science-fictional mysteries, because those are Isaac’s legacies to us. But reading them won’t be quite the same. There was only one Isaac Asimov; there will never be another.”—Mike Resnick
- Lexile measure : 830L
- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Mass Market Paperback : 296 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0553293354
- Dimensions : 4.2 x 0.85 x 6.86 inches
- ISBN-13 : 978-0553293357
- Publisher : Bantam Spectra Books; Revised edition (October 1, 1991)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #10,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
I mean, I love sci-fi, I've read other works like the Urth series which is drastically more vague, complex and tells a winding story. This book I came into blind. The story is spread over several different perspectives which I didn't really have a problem with at first. At the end of the book, I did have problems with it. The first character we read about seems interesting and I was super interested in the whole plot with him, the next couple characters aren't as interesting. We go from someone in power, to someone really in power, to someone not really in power. The point is to give you different perspectives on the main point of the story: the setting. Yet these different perspectives were initially written separately and then later bound together by the author, and I think the disconnect is apparent.
But here's the deal. I just don't care about these characters enough to go beyond that and start caring about the world. In fact, the initial world of Trantor was vastly more interesting than anything else in the book.
Hey, maybe I just didn't get it.
1. It was originally short stories which were later collected into novel form. This means that the scenes feel like they jump around a bit. Sometimes necessarily so (the series spans over millennia, so Asimov can't dwell too long on any particular area).
2. Because of the points mentioned above, it's hard to identify with some of the characters. In general, characters aren't given long to be developed because Asimov needs to move on to the next time period in the history of the Foundation. Just as you're starting to understand a character, their motivations and quirks, they are seldom mentioned again.
Despite this, when stepping back and taking a 10,000 foot view of the series, it's still quite an accomplishment and undeniably transformative for the genre. I have heard that the kindle version is a bit watered down compared to the original, but without a frame of reference it's hard to tell. I'm not a fan on censorship in any form, so it makes me want to seek out the originals as I continue the series.
Asimov has interstellar space travel, along with nuclear power as commonplace. He also introduces engineering marvels such as force field and blasters, but the real draw is the focus on social and political changes occurring with the almost imperceptible decay of civilization. Technology continues to operate, but the knowledge of how and why is gradually lost. As each stage reaches crisis level, the successful resolution of that crisis requires a non-intuitive solution by a new generation with different ideas and different approaches that becomes the recurring theme for shortening the inevitable interregnum period.
Top reviews from other countries
Anyone who knows Science Fiction knows that Foundation is a seminal work, one of the great works, an era defining masterpiece of the genre. But what does that mean for the reader now? Does a book written in 1951 still stand up?
Foundation is the story of the collapse of an intergalactic empire and the efforts of a scientific community to preserve and rebuild. It is exactly that ambitious in scope and in never flinches from that. It is creative, engaging, visionary, leaps smoothly from generation to generation and adventure to adventure in a fashion that would make a Marvel movie feel comfortable and is, above all, a bloody good read. It is also jammed packed with some of Asimov’s most quotable lines (the above about violence being my favourite).
There are problems for a modern audience. The endless reference to “atomic” weapons feels quaint rather than threatening. The idea that you might mathematically model future social development based upon predicated behaviour of the masses provided there is no significant influence from individuals feels rather silly now, especially for those of us who have worked in the modelling of crowds: you kind of have to swallow the principles of “psychohistory” as psychobabble and roll with it. Finally, there aren’t any women to be seen. After all, why would women want to have anything to do with this nasty Science nonsense (cough, Bletchly park, cough.) Oh, wait, there’s a wife. She nags a lot.
Still, it was 1951, and if you can look past the stuff that doesn’t make any sense any more this is still a brilliant book and a brilliant read. Most of all, if you want to indulge yourself in the old days when we used to think the smartest and the bravest would win out against the stupidest and most loud, this is a warm balm against the nasty burns you get from watching the news.
I will add that I haven’t read any of the sequels, so there may be a feminist uprising in second foundation that includes a complete revision of psychohistory to embrace the modelling of chaos. But, to be honest, as long as it has more spaceships and smart people I’ll keep reading.
Anyone interested in these books would presumably already have some idea of the central idea of psychohistory being used to model future human events and society. It was a revolutionary concept back in the 1950's and even today outside of fiction and in the real world of mathematics and human studies is debated.
There are some who debunk the idea that humans and society can be modelled effectively to understand future events but there is a large body of research that does indicate it's at least partially the case that we can understand future patterns based upon historical evidence. And the truth of that is of course the Coronavirus which has various governments basing their strategy upon the predicted actions of society based upon mathematical models using past information. It's not quite the same but there are certainly parallels that make reading Foundation such an interesting thing.
Now, inevitably having been written in the 1950's the language and some of the social mores are a little quaint compared to modern society. Essentially Asimov reflected the times he lived in and no matter how far thinking - which sci-fi is by it's very nature - it can only be written on the basis of current understanding. I do note another reviewer who takes to task Asimov for not creating more female protagonists which, I find surprising given that in many of his books the stronger lead characters are often women.
Writing style is of course engaging and easy to enjoy which, is something one would expect from a writer of such renown and popularity.
Overall, a masterpiece and one that is still relevant today 60 years on.
Structurally, it's somewhat unusual - really, the book is a series of connected short stories, each involving a different set of characters and a different societal context, all linked into one overarching epic tale of imperial degradation and rebirth. On the one hand, it makes it difficult to really get into the heads of the characters, each of which is a scheming Machiavellian genius. On the other, it creates a sense of epic scope and scale that simpler narrative forms wouldn't have allowed. It feels in some respects like dipping into a vast, ongoing drama from which we cannot drink too deeply lest it overwhelm. As a series of science fiction epic vignettes, it's done remarkably well.
Seeing the book in its modern context too reveals just how influential it has been in classic and modern science fiction. Warhammer 40k seems to have been one of the primary beneficiaries in that respect, with both the Imperium of Man and the Adeptus Mechanicus drawing liberally from the canon of Foundation, but there are precursor or progenitor fragments of half a dozen science fiction universes to be found within.
It's not a perfect book - the vignette style is important to the telling, but has the unavoidable consequence of fragmenting the reading experience, and there is an awful lot of exposition threaded through its scant few pages. However, it is a very good book and I enjoyed reading it.
There are some interesting concepts held within it however and I'm intrigued to see how the following books continue what is undoubtedly a history of its own creating. Within the novel various concepts like psychohistory, the power of religion and the impact of economics are explored, meaning that I was always quite keen to see where it went next and yet the distinct lack of character development is probably what kept me from truly loving this. That said, I found the writing style actively engaging; if I hadn't have known in advance that this book is seventy odd years old, I would certainly never have guessed it.
It's not going to place high on my list of favoured books, but I enjoyed it for what it was and will certainly look at picking up the next in the series.