By: Isaac Asimov
My Rating: Four out of five stars
Best for: Ambitious 14-year-olds and up
One word? Ambitious.
You don’t really review the classics. You just share your experience.
I finished Foundation by Isaac Asimov a couple of days ago, and it’s been rolling around in my head ever since. The word my thoughts keep coalescing around?
My awareness of Isaac Asimov was mostly connected to robots, specifically the Three Laws of Robotics–which have been supremely influential in every robot story ever since. BTW: did you know Asimov coined the term “robotics?” It wasn’t a word until he made it up!
I’d heard a few folks mention Foundation, and as I’ve been interested in giving a greater focus to classics in 2022, I thought I’d check it out. I knew very little about it, so I felt pretty open minded and freed from the burden of anticipation. Here’s what I found.
The best science fiction writers can imagine a future that doesn’t exist and make us feel like it can. In the case of someone like Scalzi, I can read him and get lost in my imagination for what’s to come. In the case of Asimov and Foundation, which was written in 1951, I can read it and give him a score on how close he got. How close was he? Not really close to today, actually. BUT, Foundation was written to be many 1000’s of years into the future–so who’s to say how close he is? Nuclear-powered household tools, powered by walnut sized reactors? Sure! Why not? But in this case, the scyfy magic is different.
Foundation imagines an entirely new field of science called psychohistory. It’s the ability of science to use mathematics and sociology to predict the future behavior of large populations. Using this science, Asimov creates a future for the human race, predicts it’s collapse, and plots a series of events that will guide humanity back from the brink and save us from ourselves. It’s bold, it’s clever, it’s original, and it stands on it’s own even today, 70 years after it’s publication.
All that, in a book with zero character development. I usually find most of my book-nerd satisfaction watching characters grow. There’s none of that here, and it seems intentional. Maybe it’s a relic of the age it was written. Instead of engaging characters, this story is all about plot. Hundreds of years pass between these covers, and the big question that pulled me through? Did psychohistory correctly predict human behavior a 1000 years into the future!
I’ll let you read and find out.
No content concerns, but the book does show it’s age in it’s pacing. It was hard to read, and with no strong characters to drive things along, this one might not hold the attention of any but the most ambitious young readers. An ambitious book for an ambitious reader. Fitting.
Best for AMBITIOUS 14-year-olds and up.