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brianmartin

Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

Foundation / Foundation and Empire / Second Foundation (The Foundation Trilogy) - Isaac Asimov

Asimov’s epic of the fall of a splendid galactic empire and the efforts of a relatively small group of people to usher in a new one is rightfully considered a classic of science fiction. Oh, there’s much to quibble about. None of the three books (which span 400 years or so and were originally written as a series of linked stories) contains much direct action; the Milky Way, though densely populated, contains not a single alien; women are second-class citizens; and more besides. Asimov cheerfully sweeps all this aside, thereby allowing himself to follow that age-old maxim of writing: write what you know. The result is an entertaining mix of ideas, logic, science, and, above all, history—all neatly encapsulated in Asimov’s concept of psychohistory (the combination of social psychology and historical probability in a single mathematically precise scientific discipline), which supplies the background -- and the backbone -- for the entire series. Foundation, the first book, is the most unified of the three, and the one that most closely resembles Asimov’s admitted inspiration, Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; although, in this case, it cleverly details the rise of the Foundation, charged with shortening the period of barbarism that is the inevitable result of the Empire’s decay. The second book, Foundation and Empire, is divided into two parts, the first of which deals with a threat from the dying Empire. The second part, perhaps the most intriguing (as well as the most enjoyable) section of the trilogy, is about an unexpected threat from a mutant known only as the Mule, who can control the emotions of others with his mind alone. This part also features the trilogy’s only truly significant adult female character. The trilogy winds up with Second Foundation, a reference to, well, a second foundation, established at the same time as the first, but at the “opposite end of the galaxy” that may itself be a threat to the aims of the first Foundation. In all, a shining example of Golden Age science fiction.