Not a review of…
Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
Half as clever as it should be.
Foundation and Empire tells the story of what happens when a God complex clashes with severe headaches. A person who amounts in the books a folk hero in the form of Hari Seldon has decided that he knows exactly how to direct the next thousand years in order to shorten an interregnum of what he claims will be utter chaos! All the stories take place during this interregnum, however, and…well, things seem pretty dang calm.
It doesn’t so much have characters as person-shaped cogs in the machinery of the forces of Plans coming into conflict with the self-driven grousing of people who think they have a better plan. It’s all disorganized, because one organized group cancels all the proposed organization of the others. It’s an endless cycle of tedium. Nobody really knows how anything will turn out.
That’s the main idea that Asimov proposes to explore in his series of Foundation stories.
Which sounds WAY more exciting than the execution. I tried to enjoy this book. I worked hard at it. I like some of Mr. Asimov’s other work. His Robot novels are interesting as eff. Good stuff. And so far as I can tell, his Foundation stories have the similar cool thing about them that his Robot novels do: he sets up the rules, and then he figures out how far he can bend them. As a story telling device, that’s cool. I’m into that.
The trouble is that as clever and witty as Asimov is, I found these Foundation stories…lacked sharpness.
The idea was constantly repeated, and the concepts constantly, in theory, tested.
At the same time, I would not accuse these books, at any stage, of committing the error of drama. Which made them fairly good things to lull one to sleep.
I really wanted to enjoy these books. I read three of them — Foundation, Second Foundation, and Foundation and Empire. They all had the same strengths and weaknesses.
Should you read it? If you like science fiction, then you should. It’s short. It’s a significant moment in the history of the genre.
If you like exciting stories about the drama of laying plans and watching them come into conflict with the personalities of people who don’t understand them…read some Ben Macintyre.