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Foundation Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1991
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Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
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Foundation marks the first of a series of tales set so far in the future that Earth is all but forgotten by humans who live throughout the galaxy. Yet all is not well with the Galactic Empire. Its vast size is crippling to it. In particular, the administrative planet, honeycombed and tunneled with offices and staff, is vulnerable to attack or breakdown. The only person willing to confront this imminent catastrophe is Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian and mathematician. Seldon can scientifically predict the future, and it doesn't look pretty: a new Dark Age is scheduled to send humanity into barbarism in 500 years. He concocts a scheme to save the knowledge of the race in an Encyclopedia Galactica. But this project will take generations to complete, and who will take up the torch after him? The first Foundation trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation) won a Hugo Award in 1965 for "Best All-Time Series." It's science fiction on the grand scale; one of the classics of the field. --Brooks Peck
From the Inside Flap
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Sheldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future--to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire--both scientists and scholars--and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a fututre generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.
But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun--or fight them and be destroyed.
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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.
Anyway, Asimov at his best was a creator; he had amazing ideas of the universe, how it worked, and how to structure stories that manipulated the readers expectations.
The Foundation series is like a spider web that continues to become more intricate and complex with each chapter. The intricacy of the plotting is amazing, although honestly it's not self-evident in the first few stories of the first novel, given that they were published independantly, as serialized short stories told one at a time.
Only with the second book did this change.
The basic premise: The rise and fall of the roman empire, told on a galactic scale from a historian living in the 2nd empire a thousand years later.
The setup: One man creates a science, called Psychohistory, a fictional precursor to Chaos Math (a real statistical science today). This psychohistorian, Hari Seldon, predicted that the vast Galactic Empire is about to crumble, dropping humanity back into the dark ages. This dark ages was due to last 30,000 years (I believe), and while it is too late to prevent this horrible breakdown of society, Seldon believes he can use this new math to shorten the time period between empires.
To do so, he establishes two "Foundations" made up of scientists, one at the outer edge of the galaxy, and the other at "Star's End". In advance, Seldon plots out the future (using the math of psychohistory), and sets in motion a series of "domino" events. The Foundation faces crises and problems, forcing change in both strategy and focus for the next several hundred years. But Asmimov continues to modulate the story throughout each of the books, and building upon the previously-understood structure.
In fact, once you think you've read enough permutations on the same idea, Asimov starts tearing the structure down, introducing variables into the story that further complicate matters.
A caveat about the most often-touted complaint about Asimov: His writing style (or lack thereof):
In 1951, when these stories were first published, Asimov was not a great writer - as in, a writer of literature. His descriptions, characterizations and storytelling technique all left a lot to be desired. His technique got better with the passing years, such that any of his fiction written after 1970 or so reads easily.
But that is not the point, here. Asimov didn't create great characters (save for his robot stories) - he came up with mind-bending ideas and subsequent permutations.
The litmus test of whether or not Asimov is for you: Read 'The Last Question'. It's a 12-page short story. Not brilliantly written, but a fantastic story with amazing ideas contained inside. When you get to the last sentence of it, you will probably be blown away. If you are, Foundation is for you.
Read them - and commit to all of them, because they get better as they go, generally speaking. The first three were written in 1950 - 53. But the fans demanded that he someday continue the story, so he continued with a fourth book in 1983, and the last in 1986. Some complain that the last book is overlong - and I agree - but the last sentence of the last book is...amazing.
Foundation and Empire
Second Foundation (contains the best story - Search By The Mule)
Foundation's Edge (best overall book)
Foundation and Earth
Afterward, Asimov went back and wrote prequel novels (Prelude to Foundation, Foundation's End) taking place prior to and concurrently with events from the first book. He later admitted that he wrote prequels because the main story had gotten so complicated, he felt he'd taken the story as far as it could go.
The prequels aren't too bad, but they are completely non-essential.
Nobody, except one man, a psychologist named Hari Seldon. He invented the concept of psychohistory, predicting the behavior of human masses. The behavior of one human being is unpredictable, but the behavior of masses of people can be predicted in their reactions to any event. The greater the mass, the easier it is to predict their reactions.
In predicting the fall of an empire, Dr. Seldon foresees 30,000 years of barbarism, a dark age, ahead for humanity. The fall of this empire could not be averted, but the period of barbarism could be reduced from 30,000 years down to 1,000 years, so Dr. Seldon sets up two foundations, “at opposite ends of the galaxy” in order to observe and intervene when necessary when a major crisis arises, and for the Foundation, the First Foundation in this case, can deal with it and move on with its work.
Dr. Asimov himself has stated that this trilogy is based on the book, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” You can see the resemblances here. Rome itself was also known as Terminus back in the days of the empire. When Rome fell, it did split apart into feudal kingdoms before the Renaissance, and then the nation-state came into being. Don’t forget the Barbarians, the Germanic tribes to the North of Europe.
With this, you have an interesting book. Little kingdoms are formed as the empire falls apart, all trying to be the top power, with several battles taking place here and there. There are different planets with different physical features; one planet always faces its sun, with the inhabitants living on the border day/night (twilight) zone. Another planet being cold nine months of the year, and, of course, Trantor, the capital with one gigantic city covering the whole planet, until it gets sacked.
What is different is that the two foundations, in the book, try to minimize the barbarous, or chaotic, era to 1,000 years, controlled by the First Foundation, which is openly displayed for all to see. The Second Foundation was a lot more mysterious, with no one knowing where it is.
Terminus is a planet with no natural resources, so the people, especially the scientists, placed there have to use their ingenuity to come up with ways to control the masses in the galaxy by way of a religion, the Galactic Spirit (similar to Christianity) and also come up with miniature technology, i.e. atomic weapons and power plants the size of a golf ball (my example). Whenever Terminus, of the Foundation is threatened, the image of Hari Seldon appears in a room, where the top echelon of the Foundationers gather, and Seldon tells of the crisis he predicted and tells the Foundationers what they should do about it. Terminus rises from a threatened entity to an indispensable society, with the other kingdoms highly dependent on it.
All goes well, and the First Foundation starts to rise as a new force in the galaxy, until the coming of an unforeseen conqueror, the Mule. The Mule has a way of controlling minds from afar and uses it to establish his own empire. He could turn his most bitter foes into his closest allies through mind control. (One person pointed out to me that this is similar to the coming of Islam, but this is very different).
This is where the mysterious Second Foundation comes in, and both the Mule and others start to search for it, to destroy it, but the Second Foundation uses deception to lead these searcher off the track. They also have a “counter mind control” that threatens the Mule himself.
This book will take you to planets and lead you into battles, battles that were started by those you would not suspect for reasons that you would never guess. In a way, this book could be a psychology book, teaching you the reactions of the masses whenever a crisis occurs. Psychohistory is becoming a new and important discipline in our society today.
The original trilogy was written in the early 1950s, but it is not dated by any means. All of these situations could be applied today. For example, look at the condition of the United States and see what could be ahead for them. Look at the masses of people and how they react to the present crisis we are in, and will find a lot of similarities.
Asimov has written two sequels to this trilogy, and two prequels after that, leading you to other series of books, including the robot novels, but this trilogy is the core of his writings, and it is a good stand along book, or books, since there are three of them.
If you decide to get into his “Foundation series,” read this trilogy first, then delve into the robot novels and others, then reread this trilogy.