Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Posted August 11, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Foundation

Foundation

by Isaac Asimov

Series: Foundation #1
Publisher: Gnome Press on April 1, 1951
Genre: Classics, Science Fiction
Target Age Group: Adult
Rating: ★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, 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 future 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.

 

Interesting fact I learned while researching what a lech Asimov was – Foundation is a loose retelling of Edward Gibbons’s The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.  Which I have read in part and it’s very tedious.  Also, Foundation is pretty tedious.

This book started off promising.  We follow a young man on his journey to a new, exciting planet.  He’s being followed, and a figure shows up after at his hotel room. Immediately we’ve got tension and it’s piqued the reader’s curiosity.  Who is this Harry Seldon and why is his project so important?  So, take us in.  Show us more.

Right about there is where the book starts to get boring.  There are some interesting conversations about psychology and warfare and politics and economy, but all of these conversations are condescending and dull, especially once they’ve gone on for about two hours.  For myself, I found that the deeper I went into the novel, the less invested I was.

Much of this is because of the storytelling style Asimov has chosen in Foundation.  This isn’t so much a novel as a series of essays loosely tied together by dialogue tags and the theme of a burgeoning planet that knows the destiny of the galactic empire.  Almost the entire book is written in dialogue.  And not just dialogue – the speakers are non-discriminately condescending know-it-alls.  It makes the books frustrating to read, beyond the fact that this is very much a product of its time.

The characters are non-existent as individuals, with perhaps the exception of Harry Seldon. The entire focus is on the character’s reaction of the goals of the Foundation and the “next Seldon crisis”.  And the next, and the next.  There’s no effort taken for character development.  If you’re a character reader, you can completely skip this book.

Everything about Foundation speaks to how science fiction was written at the time, and honestly?  If this book did one thing really well, it made me grateful that the genre has evolved.  This book was self-important and boring.  I know Isaac Asimov is considered one of the fathers of science fiction, but I think perhaps his work is best in the past, where it belongs.  We’ve evolved past this kind of story, in matters of creativity, representation, and writing style.

Cultural knowledge of Asimov’s contributions to the genre is enough.  You can skip his books.  Also, he was a crappy person, so, why waste your time?

Ratings Breakdown

Setting:
Plot:
Characters:
Writing: ★★
Pacing:
Narrator: ★★
Personal Enjoyment:

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  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Harassment, Sexism.
    • Proof:  Asimov was never subtle about his sexual harassment – in fact, he’s advise others on how best to do it.  This Lit Hub article is a good (and unsettling) conversation about his lechery.  In fact, many articles mention it.  This one includes a discussion on why Asimov considered himself a feminist – because he didn’t want women to “drown the world in babies”.  And, of course, there was the 1962 lecture at the World Science Fiction Foundation called “The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching”.

In order to fight back a little against Isaac Asimov’s demeaning behavior, I have donated $25.00 to the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), a non-profit foundation that raises up women and supports the removal of gender bias in STEM careers.  This is the current cost (7/30/2020) of a hardcopy of The Foundation Trilogy at Barnes & Noble.

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Do you enjoy classic sci-fi?  I’ve found for the most part, it’s problematic and uninteresting.  Not all of it, but far too much.  Still, if you’ve found something good, I’d like to try it!  Let me know in the comments!

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