Saturday, March 23, 2013

Issac Asimov: Foundation


I am not writing reviews on Goodreads, but just making some notes on the books I am reading from time to time…

These are my notes my recent re-read of the first Foundation book…

FoundationFoundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading an omnibus with the original Foundation trilogy, but I wanted to make notes on each book individually and I love these covers from the 1980s, they illustrate the progression through time really well, showing Trantor in its various stages of decay...

Forgot how good these stories were. Much more solid than Asimov's robot stories. These were written a little later, so that makes sense. You can really see how he is developing as a writer.

Of course, these books are more about the ideas than the writing. The empire on the brink of collapse, while at its strongest, seems a bit more relevant today that it did when I first read these in the 1980s. The use of religion in the early days of the Foundation is brilliant, especially the untangling of power between the priesthood and secular leadership that must occur later on.

One thing that strikes me about the writing is the fact that very little "action" actually takes place "on screen," so to speak... These stories are a series of quiet (mostly) conversations about the great events taking place in the universe around them. But it is done so well that it is almost easy to overlook that.

One critique, though... One of the brilliant things about these stories is showing how history progresses, in most cases, slowly. Kingdoms do not rise and fall in flashes of brilliance and fury, they evolve slowly and die slowly. There is a real sense of this. The short story structure really helps this, too.

However, the dates feel a little accelerated to me. Especially with the development of the priesthood. That, to me, would seem like it would take, at a minimum, at least one more generation to really gain the grip it needs for the climatic events with the Four Kingdoms to occur.

I almost suspect that, if Asimov wrote these as an older man, he would have spaced those events out a bit more. However, to a younger man, 20 or 30 years feels like an eternity...

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