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Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov is, chronologically, the first book in the Foundation series, although it was written 6th. Nearly thirty years after publication of the original Foundation trilogy, which I read when I was in high school back in the 70s, Asimov decided to write a sequel. And then he wrote another sequel. And then two prequels. When I decided to read the whole series I was very tempted to read them in publication order, and would have done so if it was only a few years since I read the original trilogy. Several people recommended that approach. But since I really remember very little of the trilogy, and despite the fact that some 'big reveals' will be spoiled, I decided to follow Asimovs recommendation and read them chronologically.
Prelude to Foundation introduces us to Hari Seldon, a relatively unknown but brilliant mathematician who is attempting to find a practical application for his theory of psychohistory, a theory which purports to be able to mathematically predict the probability of future events. Various Imperial officials and pretenders to the throne want Hari to either tell them what is their best course, or stump for them. So he goes into hiding to escape their clutches, while he attempts to figure out how to make his theory a reality.
This is not a great book,(as usual it's about 20% to long) but it is very good science fiction. The story is interesting and the ideas well thought out and intriguing. The only real problem with the book as a whole is that the characters aren't particularly well drawn. The strength and changeability of their emotions doesn't ring true. But it really didn't detract from the story. And didn't detract at all from the ideas, which are creative and thought provoking. Now I'm on to Forward the Foundation!

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I was somewhat disappointed by Forward the Foundation. It is a character driven book, with 2 dimensional characters. Actually it isn't so much a novel as a set of 5 novellas set 10 years apart, dealing with the political melodramas of Hari Seldon's life. It wasn't so much science fiction as it was political intrigue. Much of it was redundant. In fact that was by far my biggest problem with the book. I kept thinking "yes, I know that Issac" time and time again. This wasn't a focused work(which probably had a lot to do with his illness and impending death) and was at least 200 pages(of 480) too long. But I am undeterred and will start Foundation next.

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Ah yes, this is the Asimov who deserves his veneration! Foundation is superb science fiction! In these stories(this really isn't a novel so much as five linked stories) Asimov takes us through the first 150 years of the Foundation, showing us men who navigate the crises facing the Foundation with wit and psychological and economic acuity, rather than the force and violence that is called for on all sides. This is cleverly and tautly written, compulsively readable, and entertaining as all get out. Now I'm on to Foundation and Empire, with my faith in Issac Asimov restored.

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A couple things I didn't address in previous posts. The first thing is an overview of what the series is about. These books are set some 20,000 years in the future. There is a Galactic Empire which has brought relative peace and prosperity to the Galaxy. But stasis has set in and things are beginning to degenerate. Everyone is resting on their laurels. The way things have been done is the way they are going to keep being done. But the Empire is heading for a fall, which Hari Seldon first suspects, and then proves with his psychohistory. He realizes that they are headed for 30,000 years of barbarity after the Empire collapses, and before a new one reaches stability. But by tweaking his calculations he discovers that, with his Foundation(presumably of a new Empire) in place he can shorten that time to a 'mere' millennium. The first two books deal with his development and application of psychohistory. The original trilogy, which are now books 3,4,5, deals with the interregnum between Viable Empires.

The second comment is that the first two books, flawed and redundant and two-dimensional as they may be, do serve as a good introduction to the trilogy. And things I can remember being very puzzled by as I read that original trilogy, were very clear as I am reading it this time.

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In Foundation and Empire we find the Foundation battling the forces of the Mule, a mutant whose meteoric rise to power is giving the Foundation its first real military test. The Mule, as a singularly powerful man, and as a single man, is an anomaly, and therefore outside Hari Seldon's calculations of psychohistory. Is this the end of the Foundation? Can they overcome the natural complacency wrought by having your historic rise to power predicted and predicated on those predictions?

This is very much a novel, which follows characters and a situation all the way through. It is pacy and creative and actually contains some excellent and vivid description, especially as it concerns the compositions of a Visi-Sonor, a musical device which affects both aural and visual sensors.

And for me, this book contained the first real dramatic tension in the series, although someone reading them in chronological order with no knowledge of future books might feel differently.

In reading the last two books I've been struck by the absence of non-human intelligent life forms in the Galaxy. The spread of humanity is shown, but nowhere do they encounter any species that has evolved to any sort of civilization. Seems rather human chauvinist to me, not to mention highly unlikely. But, of course, predicting human sociological tendencies is hard enough, without throwing in those of alien ( to Asimov) life forms.

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I finally finished Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov, book 6 in the Foundation series. It was an interesting read, but not extremely compelling, although that is probably reflective of my own moderate burnout with the series. It was well plotted, and the characters not only more likable in general, but more believable than the ones Asimov created in the prequels he wrote after the two sequels. But it's certainly not as punchy as the original trilogy. In fact all 4 of the novel's he wrote when he revisited the series in the 80s are at least twice as long as the original books, and all of them would have been better if they were 20%-50% shorter.

One thing I did really like about this particular book was that it introduced the character/idea of Gaia, a planet and people that are intertwined in consciousness. And it also begins to show a valuing of ecology over technology. One thing that has bothered me is the cavalier attitude towards extinction of the life forms of a planet, and that the resource raping of world's seemed not only acceptable but condoned as an inevitable economic need.

And Asimov puts forth a very intriguing theory about why, in the galaxy he portrays, humans are the only intelligent life forms.

On balance, and despite my criticisms, I'm glad I read this and am moving on to book 7, the final book chronologically, with a renewed interest.

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I just realized that I never posted about Second Foundation, book 3 of the original trilogy. And that was mostly because it was so good that as soon as I finished it I immediately started reading Foundation's Edge! Second Foundation was pacy, well plotted, intriguing in its ideas, and just a great read. It was a fitting end to the trilogy, but, leaving 500 years to go in Hari Seldon's millennial Plan, and with many ideas somewhat unresolved, I am surprised it took Asimov 30 years to write a sequel.

This book covers the Mule's search for the Second Foundation in one novella length part, and the First Foundation's search for the Second in the second part. The Mule, of course, wants to destroy the Second Foundation, but in an interesting twist, the First Foundation also wants to destroy it because they fear its ability to control minds and influence outcomes. Even though that was precisely what Hari Seldon had established it to do.

There was good dramatic tension in both parts.

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Finally finished Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov, the last book in the Foundation series. It tells the story of the search for Earth which, although it is the ancestral home of humanity, has become shrouded in myth. And misdirection, since it seems obvious someone or something has gone to a lot of work to hide its location, and delete any hard evidence of its past. It follows on directly from Foundations Edge, and features the same two main characters; Golan Trevize, an exiled politician from the Foundation, and Janov Pelorat, a historian. And we see much more of Bliss, a a female Gaian, wise and wonderful companion to Pelorat.

I'm glad to wrap this up. But this book way too long. And I had already guessed most of the key plot points before I even finished Foundation's Edge. In the four books that he wrote 30 years after the original trilogy he has an annoying habit of having characters discuss things ad nauseum that were more properly internal dialogue by the author himself about directions the storyline could go. It made for boring reading when I just knew that 3/4 of the possibilities discussed were not really going anywhere.

Another thing that bothered me was that there were things that were much debated, such as why Earth was so much more biologically diverse than other planets, and how it may have become toxically radioactive, that Trevize, Bliss and Pellorat were in a position to find answers for, and no answers were given.

I am ultimately glad I read the whole series, but the next time I'm in a book culling frenzy I will probably get rid of the sequels and prequels and just hold on to the original trilogy, which are the only books I might be tempted to read again.

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I am ultimately glad I read the whole series, but the next time I'm in a book culling frenzy I will probably get rid of the sequels and prequels and just hold on to the original trilogy, which are the only books I might be tempted to read again.

I completely agree Dan. (Pause to take action) Having realised I'll never read the others for a second time, I've pulled them out of the bookcase. They'll be going back to the secondhand books shop next Saturday.

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