Erik Erickson's Reviews > Foundation

Foundation by Isaac Asimov
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's review
Aug 12, 12

bookshelves: fiction, prose, scifi
Read in August, 2012 — I own a copy

Galaxies! Check this out:

"Look, Manlio, we’re proceeding along a planned history. We know that Hari Seldon worked out the historical probabilities of the future. We know that some day we’re to rebuild the Galactic Empire. We know that it will take a thousand years or thereabouts. And we know that in the interval we will face certain definite crises. Now the first crisis came fifty years after the establishment of the Foundation...Almost seventy-five years have gone since. It’s time, Manlio, it’s time.”

That's got to sound really cheesy to if you haven't read it before. And it is amazing how goofy a lot of this stuff is, especially taken out of context, yet it ultimately comes out of something intelligent and compelling. I'm addicted to the feeling of discovering fictional universes with traits that sound corny and stupid on the surface, but are actually deep and fascinating once I take the time to get to know them. 

The most unique thing about this book is probably how protagonists and their rivals change regularly as the story spans multiple generations. The concept great - a plan to save the collected knowledge of sentient beings over a millenium as an empire collapses and regresses. It was challenging trying to keep track of all the characters, but not that bad. Chapters are usually 8 pages or less (much, much less in many cases) and the plot is engrossing. You have to keep reading to see how they're going to solve each new crisis. Each time the hologram of the plan's creator appears (and this is rare) to guide his descendants, I'm palpably excited, almost as much as the characters themselves. 

The central mechanism upon which this whole thing is built requires your acceptance that something called 'psycho-history' is developed in the future, and that it can reliably predict future actions of human groups - for at least a thousand years. This can be difficult to accept at first, and for some reason seems to make the writing feel a little dated. It's explained that the ability to understand and predict human behavior requires really large sample sizes, which is something I deal with in my statistics work as well. It's a sound, if very basic, truth about any data set, and you'll learn to live with a little disbelief since the rest is so exciting.
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David Fair enough.

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