The Galactic Empire rules the galaxy from the central planet of Trantor, but Hari Seldon has seen its downfall through the science of psychohistory. By using his skills he is able to see many thousands of years in the future and is able to work a solution to reduce the length of the dark ages from 30,000 years down to a mere 1,000 years. His solution is simple enough: establish two colonies – Foundations – at opposing ends of the galaxy as a place to foster and advance human knowledge.
Foundation is the story of one of these colonies on the planet of Terminus, the colony that starts its history by working towards the Encyclopedia Galactica. We follow the people of this Foundation over a long period while it learns some truths and has to deal with events, all of which foreseen by Hari Seldon but never disclosed to the people of Terminus.
Described as one of the classics of the genre this was one book that was always on my to-read list, I just never got around to it. This year I’m making a conscious effort to read some of the older stuff that I’ve never picked up before and this was where I started. Foundation is a collection of stories rather than a complete novel – but it is this format that effectively delivers one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read and I can fully appreciate why it is always high on a list of classic SF.
Because of the format we never spend more than fifty or so pages in the head of any particular character, but because of the bigger picture each section contributes very effectively to it. We know what to expect, but we don’t know the specifics and learning details as we progress keeps the ideas and stories fresh. Not only this, but the galaxy created by Asimov is vivid and realistic and enjoyable. The more I read, the more I wanted to know, it really gets the mind working when the problems and events are put into perspective – and a book that delivers all of this with no action as such is a great achievement. Foundation truly is a classic example of big ideas, a big time frame and excellent storytelling on a big canvas.
It is also clear to see how ideas in Foundation have inspired a generation of science fiction in media. I would recommend Foundation in the blink of an eye and feel that its place as a classic of the genre is more than deserved. With a few sequels to this great beginning I’m eagerly looking forward to pick them up!