I was initially confused by this book until I read that was originally published as four short stories between 1942 and 1944. The fifth “chapter” was added when the stories were published as a book in 1951.

That first of all explains a lot, because like Accelerando the stories themselves only loosely hang together. There is continuity, but it is slightly disjointed. Secondly, it is amazing, because Asimov talks about atomic power and power stations like they’re already a reality, not something decades away. Of course, the man is a science fiction writer, so you expect that kind of imaginative expansion, but still.

The basis of Foundation is a decadent Empire, one nearing total collapse, in which a mathematician and psychologist called Hari Seldon has predicted the end. Seldon has ten thousand families sent to the farthest corner of the galaxy, and there established a foundation to write an ‘Encyclopedia Galatica’. This book will hold human knowledge and accelerate the recovery the Empire 30 fold.

Foundation is an interesting read. It’s primarily dialog, which makes sense when you’re writing short stories and have limited space,  but is also restricted to a set of  characters overcoming limits crises to avert near-disaster. It was fascinating, but I kind of pined for something of substance to give me a story to read. As it was the reader kind of rolls from one short, highly imaginative description to another without any real satisfaction. I’m hoping that the next book in the series will be more gritty.

These limited criticisms aside, Asimov really is the genius people say he is. I remember reading him many, many years ago, but this is the first time I’ve closely considered one of his books. And he writes beautifully. I looked for traces that would date the style, but other than a near-complete absence of female characters (there is one foot-stamping princess. I can’t remember any others), and a fascination with ‘atomic power’ the stories could easily have been written by contemporary authors.

So, yet another recommended read. Sooner or later I’ll find something that I don’t like, and tell you about it.

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