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Friday, 19 August 2011

The Foundation Trilogy

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

        I just finished reading this classic trilogy in science fiction and I must say I quite enjoyed it. I mean, I've heard good things, and Asimov is certainly a name to be considered a cornerstone of science fiction, but I always try to put the hype aside and judge the work on it's own.
        The plot takes place in humanity's future where we have established a Galactic Empire. All is controlled on the central, bureaucratic planet and this is where we start our journey. Seen at the Empire's prime, we learn that one scientist not only predicts the downfall, but the inevitability of such a downfall for the Empire. This scientist also concocts a plan whereupon the intervening time between the fall of one and the rise of the next Empire, known as the Great Interregnum, is reduced from the uncontrolled 30 000 years to an approximate 1 000 years. The trilogy then goes on, describing important parts of the Great Interregnum, jumping forward hundreds of years each time.
        And that's the basic plot. I won't ruin anything for you, that is not why I'm here, writing about it. My thoughts? I think the work is incredibly well-written, but not in the way I originally expected. There is a genre of science fiction, and sometimes unfortunately, where the focus of the entire work is technology, how it fits in the world and its effect on the characters and world in which it is used. Thankfully, however, this is not the case with the Foundation trilogy. Rather, the work focuses more on politics, religion, economics, and sociology. Technology is an important part of this work, but mostly its effect on the trends just mentioned is explored. The premise is interesting as it claims that the behaviour of large groups of people is statistically predictable, and that individual action only adds to the adapting, predictable behaviour. The work pokes at the human condition as it brings up themes of religion, analyzes faith in an idea even when you have no idea how the idea is to implemented, and attempts to compare futuristic, galactic trade and activity to common, concurrent practices. What is really impressive is how Asimov balances a story that is very encyclopedic in format and essence with the emotional impact and character association of a fictional work.
        All in all, I suggest you read it if and only if you are a fan on this type of work. Science fiction, especially classic, politically-driven work that analyzes societal forces, can be a bit daunting and possibly uninteresting to those who want a fast-paced, in-depth character connection.

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