I’d heard great things about this book—and judging from the four pages of acclaim in the front matter, it seemed like it would be a monumental, earth-shaking read. I am sorry to report that Isaac Asimov’s Foundation is an entertaining read, but in no way magical or life-changing. Foundation is mediocre.
I feel bad to harp on such a well-known text, but Foundation is only notable because it “laid the foundation” (no pun intended) for later works. Star Wars’ capital city planet of Coruscant is clearly lifted from Asimov’s Trantor, while the same concept of a galactic empire in its death throes (and resurgence) is revisited and improved upon in Frank Herbert’s Dune novels.
The novel functions as a series of short stories—all about the planet settlement of Foundation, which is set up to help accelerate the recovery from the galactic empire’s collapse. It jumps through time rapidly as different sets of characters work to solve the crises predicted by the Foundation’s precocious founder, Hari Seldon.
There is no suspense, as all of the crises have been predicted by Seldon, and it turns out that the novel’s various protagonists don’t need to do anything to solve the crises. Rather, the solutions present themselves, and (SPOILER ALERT) the Foundation survives, time and again.
Worse, the characters are one-dimensional. There is no character development whatsoever. And all of the characters are men (except for a whiny princess) who spew 1950s wooden TV dialogue while they sell good old-fashioned American products to the idiotic geopolitical enemies of the Foundation.
I’ll say it again—Foundation is overrated, but its influence is notable—I continued reading only to discover where later filmmakers and authors developed Asimov’s ideas.
Originally published 1951
Bantam 296 pages