Foundation Series Review – Part One

The Foundation series comprises of seven books by Isaac Asimov – Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, Foundation’s Edge, and Foundation and Earth. In this review, I will concentrate only on the original trilogy – Foundation (1942-1951), Foundation And Earth (1952), and Second Foundation (1953). To get the full story, one must read all three of them.

FOUNDATION (1942-1951)
This is the best book in the series, in my opinion.

In a nutshell, the plot revolves around the idea that Psychohistory (a fictional science) can mathematically predict the future of large groups of humans (large being in the billions). The futuristic Nostradamus is Hari Seldon, the man who calculates and predicts that the current Empire will fall and the chaos that follows will last for 30,000 years, unless something is done to stop it. Seldon realizes he is too late to prevent the fall of the Empire, and proceeds to attempt to reduce the ‘dark ages’ to about a thousand years or so. This he must do by courting death or exile. His plan is to set up a Foundation, a group of scientists whose existence will guarantee his results. The Empire banishes Seldon and his group to a distant planet Terminus, at the corner of the galaxy. This is how the story starts. Quite heady stuff, this, and no wonder it is considered the greatest achievement in science fiction – if one considers its importance in the context of the period it was written in.

Without giving too much away, the first book deals with two generations of Foundationers at Terminus, and how they are helped by the Seldon plan to survive and thrive. Two new heroes are born, and their praises will be sung in books two and three.

The central idea is novel, frightening and promising. The only downside is that the book is now too old. Far better (and more complex) stories have been told (and shown through films and TV) and someone who hasn’t been living in a cave the last twenty years might not appreciate the importance of this work. It’s kind of like trying to appreciate the Mona Lisa. Without the context, it’s tough. In my reading, the one thing I found critically lacking is the depth in characterization. Characters appear and disappear too quickly – but in the context of the story it is a supreme achievement. It is Art. The question is – will you like it or not? What I caught myself actually feeling is that I couldn’t get enough of it! Since it was written before the Space Age, it misses out on so many possibilities – but to be honest to Asimov, I can’t even consider blaming him for it. It’s just that time hasn’t been too kind to the Foundation series, and the cause of this is its lack of a central character who can survive the weight of time. Cool ideas are important, but great fiction needs characters equal to these ideas.

All in all, if you are a die hard sci-fi fan, you can do far worse than the Foundation series. The least you can do is read the first book and see if it is your cup of tea. You owe yourself this much. It is not for nothing that Isaac Asimov is considered the father of sci-fi.

I will cover the other two parts in the series in subsequent posts. To buy this book, click here. Please use the links provided to purchase your copy and support this blog.