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Foundation by Isaac Asimov

book review

Isaac Asimov, the grandmaster of science fiction, takes us on a multi-generational journey with his classic ‘Foundation.’ With his unique blend of ‘hard’ science fiction and masterful storytelling, Asimov throws us into a universe teetering on the brink of disaster, where only psychohistory (yes, you heard me right) can save us. Oh, the audacity of it all!

Plot Summary

‘Foundation’ is the story of the fall of a vast interstellar empire and the cunning plan to mitigate this imminent disaster. Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian (which is far more exciting than it sounds, I promise), foresees the collapse of the Galactic Empire, leading to a dark age of 30,000 years. Not one to twiddle his thumbs, he concocts a plan to establish two “Foundations” that would help cut this darkness down to a thousand years. Quite the ambitious lad, isn’t he?

The narrative follows a series of crisis points, or “Seldon Crises,” where Seldon’s plan is put to the test. With each crisis, we meet a new cast of characters and face a different aspect of society—politics, religion, trade, and war. These are not so much individual stories as threads in an intricately woven tapestry, giving us a broad picture of a universe in flux.

Book Review

Asimov is not your average sci-fi author, and ‘Foundation’ is not your average sci-fi book. It might not have the rip-roaring action sequences that you’d expect from a space opera, but it makes up for it with the depth of its concepts and its far-reaching exploration of societal structures. Psychohistory, a hypothetical mathematical sociology, is Asimov’s way of poking at destiny, free will, and the notion of predictability in human behavior.

While you might not get attached to any specific character—they come and go with each crisis—the real protagonist of the story is the Foundation itself. And Asimov paints such a vivid picture of this sprawling universe that you can’t help but get invested in its survival.

Rating

5 out of 5. Asimov is a master of his craft, and ‘Foundation’ is a testament to his skill and imagination. This isn’t light reading, but for those willing to sink their teeth into a complex, thought-provoking narrative, it’s an absolute treat.

Author Bio

Isaac Asimov was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. His most famous works include the ‘Foundation’ series, the ‘Robot’ series, and the ‘Galactic Empire’ series. Asimov is considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke.

Book Club Questions

  1. How does Asimov use the concept of psychohistory to explore themes of destiny and free will?
  2. Do you think the episodic nature of the book helped or hindered your engagement with the story?
  3. Which ‘Seldon Crisis’ resonated with you the most and why?
  4. Despite the frequent change of characters, did any character leave a lasting impression on you?
  5. Asimov’s future society is deeply patriarchal, with women playing minor roles. How did this aspect of the book affect your reading experience?

Buy ‘Foundation’ on Amazon

TV Adaptation

Now, if your journey through Asimov’s mind-boggling universe has left you craving for more, Apple TV+ offers you a visual tour with its adaptation of ‘Foundation.’ Helmed by showrunner David S. Goyer (known for his work on the ‘Dark Knight’ Trilogy), the series takes on the unenviable task of translating Asimov’s sprawling vision onto the small screen.

At first glance, one might worry that Goyer has taken too many liberties, especially with the addition of new characters and a timeline that’s not quite faithful to the original text. But don’t you go rolling your eyes just yet! A faithful adaptation of Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ would be an incomprehensible hodgepodge of ideas, characters, and time-jumps.

For all its departures from the source material, the show manages to capture the spirit of Asimov’s narrative, particularly its examination of societal dynamics and the impact of a single idea on the course of history. The performances, particularly from Jared Harris as Hari Seldon and Lou Llobell as Gaal Dornick, bring a depth and emotional resonance that Asimov’s characteristically sparse characterization sometimes lacked.

The production design is gorgeous, offering us a visually stunning interpretation of Asimov’s universe, from the grandeur of Trantor to the stark simplicity of Terminus. And the grand score underscores the epic scale of the narrative, underlining the fact that the stakes are nothing less than the future of galactic civilization.

While the show might not be a perfect adaptation (what show ever is?), it’s a bold and ambitious attempt to grapple with the profound themes of Asimov’s masterpiece. It’s not Asimov’s ‘Foundation,’ but it’s a foundation we can build on, and I am more than willing to see where this journey takes us.

Book Club Questions (Revised)

  1. How does Asimov use the concept of psychohistory to explore themes of destiny and free will?
  2. Do you think the episodic nature of the book helped or hindered your engagement with the story?
  3. Which ‘Seldon Crisis’ resonated with you the most and why?
  4. Despite the frequent change of characters, did any character leave a lasting impression on you?
  5. Asimov’s future society is deeply patriarchal, with women playing minor roles. How did this aspect of the book affect your reading experience?
  6. If you’ve watched the Apple TV+ series, how do you think it compares to the book? What did you think of the changes made for the adaptation?

Buy ‘Foundation’ on Amazon

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