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It is the year 12,020 G.E. and Emperor Cleon I sits uneasily on the Imperial throne of Trantor. Here in the great multidomed capital of the Galactic Empire, forty billion people have created a civilization of unimaginable technological and cultural complexity. Yet Cleon knows there are those who would see him fall—those whom he would destroy if only he could read the future.

Hari Seldon has come to Trantor to deliver his paper on psychohistory, his remarkable theory of prediction. Little does the young Outworld mathematician know that he has already sealed his fate and the fate of humanity. For Hari possesses the prophetic power that makes him the most wanted man in the Empire. . .the man who holds the key to the future—an apocalyptic power to be known forever after as the Foundation.

464 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 1988

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About the author

Isaac Asimov

3,979 books23.5k followers
Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He has works published in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (lacking only an entry in the 100s category of Philosophy).

Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series, both of which he later tied into the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series to create a unified "future history" for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He penned numerous short stories, among them "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time, a title many still honor. He also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as a great amount of nonfiction. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.

Most of Asimov's popularized science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include his Guide to Science, the three volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery.

Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly; he described some members of that organization as "brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs" He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, the magazine Asimov's Science Fiction, a Brooklyn, NY elementary school, and two different Isaac Asimov Awards are named in his honor.

Isaac Asimov. (2007, November 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:50, November 29, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_As...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,286 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
795 reviews3,612 followers
February 6, 2022
As great as the original Foundation series with an extra portion of wit and humor, thereby more focused on society, characters, and human behavior than on psychohistory and big meta worldbuilding as in the original trilogy.

Heroes journey throughout innuendos and satirical deconstruction
of universities, faith, governments, and poverty fueled by discrimination and racism. That´s so sharp, in society's face, and ingenious that it raises Lem far above Clarke and Heinlein (facepalming fueled by external shame), making him seem like a kind of easygoing Lem without the depressing and far over the top and hyper complicated mega philosophy.

Great, funny characters in ingenious constellations
Get ready to giggle, because it´s not just the slapstick situational comedy element that is big in here, but, as mentioned the amalgamation with satirizing every system humans created. The already hilarious main characters get in trouble with other characters that are made wacky by the inherent madness of the societies they´re living in.

Asimov just couldn´t withstand the temptation of adding some androids to the mix, probably with connections to some of his other works, prequels or sequels of the Foundation, and his robots series and short story collections. I am not sure about this, because it´s already complicated enough to keep track of the whole universe without trying to vivisect what extra easter eggs the author might have hidden.

A little suspense thriller plotline in the background
Asimov just needs that, but in contrast to other, far more difficult to follow works, it´s also much less complicated to follow and not the main plotline. Subjectively, I even had some problems with his suspense thriller novels, because they reduced the sci-fi level a bit too much to focus on the characterization of the hidden robot, murderer, or wacky AI (also not quite sure about the last one, I´m a notoriously unreliable narrator. Better try not to remember and absorb too much of the pointless, unserious drivel I´m secluding)

Why not the same quality all the time?
Asimovs´ later works are strongly fluctuating in reading pleasure and quality, even seem to somehow be written with focus on different elements, once mostly plot, then just characters, another time an average and lengthy balance of both. This may strongly be linked to the fact that evil fans and publishers kind of forced him to continue writing at a moment he didn´t really want anymore. Until they gave him 10 times as much money as usual, lol. His widow later said that he simply ran out of ideas.

Start reading it here!
Who still hasn´t begun the Foundation series, lucky enviable you, should initialize with this one, because it´s a much funnier and easier entrance to one of the best sci-fi worlds ever created than the hardcore original trilogy. Asimov doesn´t have to demonstrate anything anymore and can focus on fun, wit, characters, and a much more easygoing style than in the much more sophisticated, philosophical, complex, and thereby somewhat difficult to read original series. I still haven´t read the second prequel Forward to Foundation, but it seems to have good ratings and may the recommended reading in chronological order material too.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
March 24, 2012
In the realm of science fiction, Isaac Asimov’s stories have always been my woobie.
This rings especially true for his Robot and Foundation series. For me, they’re a literary panic room where I can escape the stress storms and never-ending deadlines of the day-to-day ruckus into a much simpler time where the ambient happy is always turned way up.
Yes…yes…before you say it, I'll acknowledge your gripes about Asimov and even concede to some of them.
Asimov wasn't as skilled a wordsmith as, say, Jack Vance, but, in fairness, how many people were. He wasn’t as brilliantly thought-provoking as Arthur C. Clarke, and rarely, if ever, used his writing to address important social issues as the likes of Heinlein, Silverberg and Ellison did.
Fine…granted…and SO what?
Asimov tales are just rousing good yarns told with an infectious; Star Trek optimism that fills you up with the belief that humanity is destined for bigger, brighter and better things. His stories are warm, cozy, familiar and fun. They’re comfort food; a shot of optimism for the soul, like mom’s chicken soup.
Therefore, as this is my own biased, subjective review, I shall give a hall pass to the grandmaster regarding his tendency towards clunky dialogue, his often unornamented, transparent characters and his occasional deus ex machina plot conveniences. They exist and this acknowledgement is as close to criticism of these stories as I intend to come.
Written in 1988, a quarter century after the original Foundation Trilogy, this long-awaited prelude to the classic series covers a critical period in the evolution of psychohistory. Beginning soon after Hari Seldon’s moment of eureka, when he first envisions the future-chaperoning science as nothing more than a curious philosophical impracticality, to the momentous events that lead to Hari’s realization that psychohistory has the potential to be developed as a practical, effective tool against the Galactic Empire’s pending collapse.
Taking place entirely on Empire’s capital, Trantor, the story covers what is known as “the Flight,” during which Seldon is forced into hiding from Eto Demerzel, the Emperor’s Chief of Staff, who wants Hari’s new science to be employed for the political benefit of Emperor Cleon I. While on the run, Hari travels across the massive  planet, with its population of more than 40Billion, and interacts with various cultures. These interactions slowly work to remove the “can’t do” fog from Hari’s perception of psychohistory.
Oh….and there’s also a chubby-raising tie-in to Asimov’s robot novels that does a great deal to smooth out some of the earlier inconsistencies between the two series and lays the foundation (no pun) for a merging of the two series that had begun in Robots and Empire.

Uh…It’s good

It’s fun…

It’s comforting…

Flaws aside, the Foundation Trilogy was the first science fiction story I ever read and it began my love affair with the genre that continues to this day. Thus, these stories will always hold a special place for me and I don't believe I'll ever discontinue to view them fondly.

And with good reason, I think.

Asimov was a master at the big idea. He was an artist who painted stories on a ginormous canvas, depicting mega events and larger than life characters. The mind-bogglingly large, galaxy spanning empire he created for the Foundation series was the prototype for all of the vast galactic civilizations that came after.

He thought big, he wrote big, he entertained big.  Yeah, I’ll take that.  

Now...I did have one fanboy gripe about this installment and it stems from my frustrated desire to learn, finally, from Asimov the nuts and bolts of psych-historical analysis. Logically, I grant that any such explanation had no chance of meeting my expectations and that Asimov, being as astute as he was, correctly decided not to provide revelations about the inner workings of the science. By maintaining the mystery, he avoided any taint upon the majesty of the idea. Still, I was a tad bummed by the lack in this area.

Oh well, I enjoyed myself and I loved that the story filled in gaps in both the Foundation series and the Robot novels. Worth a read, it will make you smile.

4.0 stars. Highly Recommended. 

Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews857 followers
February 21, 2022
Chronologically the first book in the Foundation (post Robot era Galactic Empire series), yet only published in 1988, four years prior to his death, yet the then 68 year old Isaac Asimov is still creating and expanding his Empire reality! In this book we get to meet Hari Seldon when he first proposed 'pyschohistory' to the Empire. A wonderfully weighted and typically gloriously innovated piece of world building as seen through the viewpoint of 'outworlders' Harry and his female (nice one Asimov) bodyguard. Loved every single page and cared what happened to every single character, even fleeting appearances. 8 out of 12.

Ultimately to truly appreciate one of the greatest pieces of world building spanning aeons, one should really read the robot books first, starting with I, Robot, before stepping off into this Foundation series.
2021 read
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,644 reviews5,097 followers
June 25, 2021
Asimov's later Foundation novels appear to be about double the size of any of the novels in the original series, but that's neither here nor there because apparently size matters these days. Or at least in the 80s? No, now too. Anyway, this isn't going to be much of a review because I don't have much to say about this perfectly agreeable, minor note book. It details the lengthy learning experience that a youngish and rather persnickety Hari Seldon goes through on his way to creating psychohistory - which of course is the foundation of Foundation. He's on a world that is a lot like our world - lots of countries, lots of cultures, lots of assholes, lots of opportunites for education (and for knife fights, martial arts, secret robots, revolution, all the good stuff). There is at times a Vancean flavor to the strange yet strangely familiar portraits of insular, tunnel-visioned societies, minus Vance's sardonic distance and plus Asimov's warm humanism. This is a mild but also surprisingly horny book, but since the feel of the dialogue is distinctly old-fashioned, even stilted, that made me smile rather than gag. And there is a very positive, romantic ending, which I enjoyed. My robot heart loves seeing cute lil' humans display their love so forthrightly because mainly I see quite the opposite displayed!

a charming & cheeky About Me on the last page:

Isaac Asimov was born in the Soviet Union to his great surprise. He moved quickly to correct the situation. When his parents emigrated to the United States, Isaac (three years old at the time) stowed away in their baggage. He has been an American citizen since the age of eight.

Brought up in Brooklyn, and educated in its public schools, he eventually found his way to Columbia University and, over the protests of the school administration, managed to annex a series of degrees in chemistry, up to and including a Ph.D. He then infiltrated Boston University and climbed the academic ladder, ignoring all cries of outrage, until he found himself Professor of Biochemistry.

Meanwhile, at the age of nine, he found the love of his life (in the inanimate sense) when he discovered his first science-fiction magazine. By the time he was eleven, he began to write stories, and at eighteen, he actually worked up the nerve to submit one. It was rejected. After four long months of tribulations and suffering, he sold his first story and, thereafter, he never looked back.

In 1941, when he was twenty-one years old, he wrote the classic short story "Nightfall" and his future was assured. Shortly before that he had begun writing his robot stories, and shortly after that he had begun his Foundation series.

What was left except quantity? At the present time, he has published over 440 books, distributed through every major division of the Dewey system of library classification, and shows no signs of slowing up. He remains as youthful, as lively, and as lovable as ever, and grows more handsome with each year. You can be sure that this is so since he has written this little essay himself and his devotion to absolute objectivity is notorious.
113 reviews10 followers
June 19, 2007
Unless you're just a die-hard Foundation fan and have to read them all, "Prelude to Foundation" can safely be skipped. In particular, I'm not sure that I would recommend reading it prior to the other Foundation novels despite the fact that it's a prequel.

It's not spoiling anything to briefly explain why this is. In "Foundation," which is really more a shorts collection than a novel despite the fact that the stories do flow very well together, Hari Seldon is already an old man. The whole premise is based upon his having mathematically predicted the future using a technique of his own devising called psychohistory. He is, from page one, a legend.

Prelude to Foundation attempts to chronicle Hari's invention of psychohistory as a young man. The story flows much like the plot of a B action movie, right down to Hari having some small martial arts skills. The young, hasty, Hari is a far less compelling hero than the iconic genius who has mathematically determined how to shorten ten thousand years of barbarism to just one thousand.

Of course, Asimov is a good enough storyteller that it all hangs together decently. But there's a lot of books out there to be had, and plenty of other choices even just in the Asimov shelf that are better.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews781 followers
July 8, 2017
“What I have done is to prove that it is possible to choose starting conditions from which historical forecasting does not descend into chaotic conditions, but can become predictable within limits. However, what those starting conditions might be I do not know, nor am I sure that those conditions can be found by any one person—or by any number of people—in a finite length of time..”

That is pretty much the gist of what Hari Seldon, Asimov’s most iconic character, tries to accomplish in Prelude to Foundation, the sixth Foundation book to be published but the very first in chronological order. If you are considering reading this classic sci-fi series I personally recommend reading them in publication order rather than chronological order. Originally Asimov had no plan to write more than three Foundation books so clearly, the original trilogy have to stand on its own and there is no reason to read the prequels to follow them. Come to think of it I always recommend reading all series books in publication order, if you need to read the prequels in order to understand the original books then those original books leave something to be desired. More on this topic in the “notes” section after the review.
begin line
Hari Seldon is the genius mathematicians who developed psychohistory which he uses to guide the destiny of the entire human race scattered across the galaxy. In the original trilogy Seldon is a very wise old man, here for the first time we meet the legendary man in his thirties. He has just conceived of psychohistory as a mathematical concept but has no idea how to make it practical. At the beginning of Prelude to Foundation he is presenting his paper on psychohistory at a convention of mathematicians held in Trantor, the capital of the Galactic Empire. The sensational idea of - theoretically - being able to predict history using mathematics brings him to the attention of Cleon I, the Galactic Emperor and his formidable henchman Eto Demerzel. After summoning Seldon to quiz him about the practicality of psychohistory the Emperor lets him go but keeps him under surveillance in case he manages to make something useful out of his theory. Soon after his interview with Cleon, he meets a reporter called Chetter Hummin who convinces him to go on the run as the Emperor are about to pursue him and use him for political gains once he has time to consider the potential of Seldon’s theory. Seldon goes to Streeling University for sanctuary where he meets Dors Venabili who understand the importance of Seldon’s work and decide to protect him from his pursuers. When they do come calling Seldon and Dors go on the run, with the advice of Hummin they seek sanctuary in various administrative sectors* of Trantor. Each sector they stay in has very distinctive, peculiar culture and social mores. The authorities eventually catches up with him with surprising result.
ends line

Trantor, one world, one city

Basically, the plot of Prelude to Foundation is Seldon and Dors on the run moving from one sector of the planet to another, experiencing each sector’s weird culture, discovering clues, and getting into trouble; picking up an Artful Dodger-like street urchin called Raych along the way. Eventually, they come face to face with Demerzel and the denouement is quite unpredictable and amusing.

For the first half of the book Prelude to Foundation moves at a leisurely pace and, like Asimov’s other 80s novels features lengthy stretches of dialogue. The substance of the conversations is generally interesting enough not to grind the narrative to a halt, but the original trilogy is much more tightly written. On the other hand, in the 80s Asimov was more interested in developing characters. These characters are not particularly deep or subtly nuanced but they are quite likable and accomplish more than just driving the plot forward. Asimov was not great prose stylist but there is plenty of charm in his narrative, he seems to be having fun writing the book, gleefully including terrible puns, mischievous bits of dialogue and pulling the rug from under the reader’s feet.

It seems that the main idea of Prelude to Foundation is to take a closer look at psychohistory. One criticism of the original trilogy that I have seen is the basic tenet of psychohistory, which has been criticized as not only impossible but unbelievable. I suspect Asimov was aware of this criticism and uses it as a major theme for this novel. If you are critical of the use of psychohistory in the original trilogy I don’t know if Prelude to Foundation will change your mind, personally, I never minded Asimov’s concept to begin with. Still, this book gives psychohistory more of a background and I dig it.

Prelude to Foundation is mostly an entertaining and pleasant read, it does become a little loquacious and dry from time to time; not intolerably so, but less of that stuff would have been nice. However, fans of the series should not miss it. Forward the Foundation next!
space line

* Trantor is both a planet and a city, it is an “ecumenopolis”, a single continuous worldwide city). It is, however, divided into hundreds of sectors with around 50 million people in each.

• Asimov did not invent Psychohistory but he did popularize it.

• As I mentioned earlier, if you have never read the Foundation series before, I recommend starting with the original trilogy from the 50s. Having said that, Asimov himself recommends the chronological order which would mean starting with this book, Prelude to Foundation. However, this website shows “Prelude” as a supplementary volume. Basically, it is entirely up to you. Not reading the series at all is not an option 😉

• Asimov has a funny conception of e-book readers, some kind of cumbersome book viewer with a projector, not even portable.

• There is a surprisingly violent scene with infliction of bodily harm and blood letting. I don't remember any Foundation or indeed any Asimov books with this kind of action. So much for “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” from the original Foundation book. It is quite fun, though.
space line

Psychohistory: “The possibility of organizing the natural laws of society in such a way as to make it possible to anticipate the future with a substantial degree of probability.”

“No sane man wants to uphold an Imperial system that maintains itself by fostering mutual hatred and suspicions. Even when it seems to work, it can only be described as metastable; that is, as too apt to fall into instability in one direction or another.”

“Why do we need millions of worlds, distant worlds that mean nothing to us, that weaken us, that draw our forces far away from us into meaningless cubic parsecs of space, that drown us in administrative chaos, that ruin us with their endless quarrels and problems when they are all distant nothings as far as we are concerned?”

Somebody wants to Trantorexit!
Profile Image for John.
282 reviews65 followers
December 4, 2013
My first Asimov book, it was both wonderful and disappointing. I loved the hugeness of the imagination at work here. The bizarre and diverse societies of Trantor with their rituals, structures, foods, ways of living, and just the physical structure of the world itself, with multiple layers and a surface covered with sand and the occasional forest, made for fun reading. As for the disappointments, although it is probably a cliché at this point, I could not stand the squareness of the dialogue, the clumsy yet regular attempts at sexual innuendo, and the thinness of some (all?) of the characters.

Also, and probably more frustrating for me, was how the protagonist, a supposedly brilliant mathematician (we are never privy as to why’s or how’s of his brilliance) develops psychohistory, the (in my opinion) unfortunately-named new science that is supposed to save the Galactic empire. If something so complicated and so important is to be developed by someone so brilliant, I wanted to see the work – the sweat, the long hours poured into research and calculations over burning candle at midnight in the Mycogen sector, and I wanted to see the pieces of this powerful science falling into place with some greater tightly-wrought logic.
Profile Image for Krell75.
285 reviews17 followers
January 25, 2023
Primo romanzo della duologia che compone il prequel alla trilogia originale della Fondazione, in cui viene narrata la vita del famoso matematico Hari Seldon e la genesi della sua psicostoria.

Si legge con piacere ma l'Asimov che ho già apprezzato in altre opere per la sua originalità narrativa appare solo nelle ultime 50 pagine.
Non consiglio di iniziare a leggere il ciclo della Fondazione da questo romanzo, perché sebbene di facile lettura, risulta molto distante dall'esperienza della prima trilogia, di ben altro spessore tematico.

Ho avuto anche la sensazione, poco gradita, che Asimov abbia cercato, forzando la mano, di voler collegare i vari cicli scritti precedentemente in un unico corpus.
La storia, i personaggi, le risoluzioni degli eventi, anche se concitati e ben sviluppati, trovano un loro perché solo nelle fasi finali, e sebbene questi fattori rendano il romanzo piacevole da leggere, non sono certo al livello dei sui migliori lavori.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,159 reviews103 followers
June 22, 2021
A word of warning: Those new to the Foundation series should *not* start their journey here. It would be infinitely preferable to read these in publication order!

For a huge fan of the original trilogy this was a bit of a disappointing snoozefest. The story is terribly bloated and suffers from glacial pacing as it relates the adventures of a younger Hari Seldon on his first visit to Trantor while in the early stages of developing his theory of psychohistory. There are some interesting and significant revelations in the denouement that tie into Asimov's Robots novels (for those that are familiar with them), however the anecdotes and incidents that play out at length throughout are largely irrelevant and meaningless to the greater story arc. Asimov does manage to paint an interesting picture of a fragmented Trantor, rife with all manner of inequality and strife, setting the stage for the long decay of the galactic empire.
Profile Image for C..
496 reviews182 followers
February 9, 2011
This really wasn't that bad - in fact I enjoyed it quite a lot - but it was very disappointing. It is an entirely different kind of book to Foundation, which was about concepts. Not amazingly written, certainly, but neither was this, and without the great concepts, there's not a huge amount left.

I think it would be a bit harsh to say that this book was written to cash in on the phenomenon that was Foundation, though I suspect that is part of it. What probably happened is that Asimov realised that he could link up all the books he'd previously written (for the Foundation series and for his robot stuff) into one big series, spanning thousands of years and the entire galaxy, but still essentially linked. Which means he had to write a few books to go in between the early robot stories and the later Foundation series. Prequals to the latter or sequels to the former? It doesn't really matter, because all this book is (and I expect the other prequal/sequel too) is a gap-filler.

So this book draws out connections and follows its plot in an entirely arbitrary yet painfully predictable way. Unlike Foundation - which was delightful because it hardly paused for a second on any particular group of characters, instead focusing on broad sweeping principles of politics and economics - Prelude to Foundation follws, tortuously, the path of Hari Seldon in his quest to develop the science of psychohistory. This involves close character study, something which Asimov is very bad at. Also, while he's pretty good at the political/economic stuff, he's appallingly bad at the anthropological side of things. The definite low point of the book was the sojourn in the Mycogen sector of Trantor, during which I spent most of the time feeling both appalled and insulted.

The real thing that made Foundation great was that it left so much unsaid - it treated the reader intelligently, allowing them to make their own connections, instead of explaining every minute detail of a plot development whose existence any observant person would have guessed fifty or so pages earlier.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,928 reviews3,402 followers
November 3, 2021
This is the first of two books chronicling the life of Hari Seldon, the mathematician who invented psychohistory and tried to save humanity from the Dark (Ages).

Hari is still young, here, and only just came up with the possibility of there being a way to kinda predict the future. Still, his presentation gets the emperor's interest so they meet. Afterwards, Hari meets a reporter who informs him that the powers that be plan his kidnapping and helps him escape to Streeling University (where Hari is introduced to Dors Venabili ).
Hari is looking for a suitable sample group with which to try his theory (kickstarting psychohistory for real) and thinks of humanity's beginnings (Earth). Thus, he and Dors travel to a sector that is known for its fascination with ancient history but it turns out that the place they end up in is actually Autora (from the Robots series, Earth's "enemy").
Back on Trantor, we also learn of a plot to overthrow Cleon I (spoiler alert: of course it isn't successful) . What is revealed in the course of those latter events, however, was soooo rewarding.

All in all, this is a very nice introduction to THE most important character at the beginning of the Foundation. There isn't a whole lot of action but we do get a nice feel for the characters and I loved how the author managed to still slip in a little "mystery".

By the way, for those watching the show or wanting to: so far, I don't mind the changes at all since they add and don't subtract. They are all made in the spirit of the books and you can feel it in my opinion. There have always been things that Asimov could or should have elaborated upon but never did and the show is now fleshing out those points (and, like I said, in a nice way).

I don't think I need to say a whole lot about the writing style. Those, who have been following my reviews, know that I'm a total Asimov fangirl. I started with the robots and they are still my #1 love but I'm getting more and more enamoured the more connections I see between them, the Empire and Foundation.

Since this stopped with a revelation and Hari's background story isn't fully told yet, I shall continue with the next (in chronological order) right away.
Profile Image for Mahdi Lotfi.
447 reviews96 followers
October 3, 2017
مجموعهٔ بنیاد نام مجموعه‌ای ۷ جلدی از آیزاک آسیموف است که مشهورترین مجموعهٔ علمی-تخیلی خوانده شده‌است. داستان این مجموعه به ترتیب زمان انتشار پیش نمی‌رود، بلکه آسیموف ابتدا جلدهای سوم (بنیاد)، چهارم(بنیاد و امپراطوری) و پنجم (بنیاد دوم) را نوشت و سپس با وقفه‌ای طولانی مدت و بر اثر اصرار خوانندگان جلدهای ششم (لبه بنیاد) و هفتم (بنیاد و زمین) را به آن افزود. پس از آن با وقفه‌ای نسبتا طولانی جلد اول مجموعه (سرآغاز بنیاد) و در نهایت نیز اندکی پیش از مرگش جلد دوم (پیشبرد بنیاد) را نوشته‌است. ترتیب نگارش این داستان‌ها متفاوت از خط داستانی آن‌هاست. حقیقت این است که آسیموف در سال ۱۹۵۱ نگارش سه‌گانهٔ بنیاد را آغاز کرد. او در سال ۱۹۵۱، بنیاد اول، در سال ۱۹۵۲ بنیاد و امپراطوری و در سال ۱۹۵۳، بنیاد دوم را نگاشت. او برای نوشتن این داستان از ظهور و سقوط امپراتوری روم الهام گرفت. کتابهای سه‌گانه به صورت مجموعه داستان‌هایی نوشته شدند که ربط مستقیمی به هم نداشتند اما در یک هستی (Universe) اتفاق می‌افتادند. دنیای سه‌گانه امپراتوری رو به زوال کهکشانی است. آسیموف در این مجموعه امپراتوری را به تصویر کشیده که دوازده هزار سال است پا بر جاست و از بیست و پنج میلیون سیاره مسکونی تشکیل شده‌است. ریاضی‌دانی به نام هری سلدون راهی می‌یابد تا با استفاده از ریاضیات سیر آیندهٔ تاریخ را پیشگویی کند. او این دانش جدید را «روان-تاریخ» می‌نامد و با استفاده از آن سقوط قریب الوقوع امپراتوری کهکشانی را پیش‌بینی می‌کند. سه‌گانه شامل کتابهای بنیاد، بنیاد و امپراتوری و بنیاد دوم است.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,938 reviews158 followers
December 1, 2020
The original Foundation series is one of my favorite sci-fi series. In fact, it could be argued that Seldon's "psychohistory" was the basis, in my youth, for what motivated me in my later years and eventually ended up being my Doctoral Dissertation on "A mathematical interpretation of conflict". But I shall not melt your brain with such dross, let's look at this prelude.

While most readers are used to an elderly Hari Seldon in a wheelchair spouting quixotical ideas about the future, this is the story of Seldon when he was young. It starts with a twenty something Seldon presenting his theory at a Mathematical conference on Trantor. It draws the attention of the Emperor, Cleon I, and Seldon is dragged before him. It turns out the Emperor wants Hari to use his new theory to help the EMpire, as a propaganda piece. Seldon firstly says the theory doesn't work (and it didn't..yet) and that he wouldn't do that sort of thing. While the Emperor releases him, the Emperor's Chief of Staff Eto Demerzel isn't done with Hari.

Hari then runs into a journalist named Chetter Hummin, who helps him to flee from the Imperial forces and then what follows is the grand adventure of Hari Seldon as he travels from place to place evading different forces that all want his theory for different reasons.

On top of this Hari must get his theory to work. In this, he is ably abetted by Dors Venabili, a historian and friend of Hummin. It is a far more action oriented adventure than the original series, but there is plenty of intelligent ideas as well. Hari visits various societies, all on Trantor, and learns life lessons that will help him to perfect the theory.

A fun, intelligent and rousing adventure tale. I really enjoyed learning about how Hari came to his final conclusions and also enjoyed him finding out the different mysteries that pop up. Was it as good as the original series? No. But it is still excellent.

Any Foundation fan should read this.
Profile Image for Craig.
4,989 reviews117 followers
April 18, 2023
Asimov's original iconic Foundation trilogy was written in the 1940s and came to be universally accepted as among the top three science fiction prose series for many, many years. Many years later, Asimov returned to the field (after a quarter-century hiatus) and attempted to incorporate almost all of his science fiction writing into the same universe, which caused a big furor, both pro and con, at the time. (Perhaps the Good Doctor invented the concept of retconning?) Prelude to Foundation stands pretty well on its own, though I didn't think it sat as comfortably because it was written in a wholly different world, never mind the science aspect. For one example, there is no hint of sex in the originals, and for another, if you read this one before the trilogy, you're sure to wonder why some things introduced here in the prelude aren't mentioned there. In any event, it's been another forty-years, so it's much easier to look at the series as a whole, rather than categorizing them as "the originals" and "the new stuff," and my conclusion is that he succeeded rather well. Here, Hari is introduced as a young man and seems much more likable and easier to identify with, and if you don't catch all of the references trying to tie-in other works you still get a good story.
Profile Image for Yukino.
999 reviews
November 22, 2021

Seconda rilettura con il gruppo E&L

Mi è piaciuto tantissimo, e ho odiato il fatto di aver avuto poco tempo per leggerlo. L'ho spezzetato un pò troppo per i miei gusti.
Da ragazzina gli avevo dato 5 stelle, anche se mi avevano un pò annoiato i discorsi sulla psicostoria, ma l'avevo trovato geniale. Adesso invece che sono più matura, almeno credo, li ho apprezzati di più e l'ho trovato sempre geniale.
Mi sono divertita a seguire le avventure di Hari e Dors, che ne combinano di ogni. La ricerca del metodo di applicazione della psicostoria, li porta a scoprire il passato e non solo.
Non dico altro leggetelo, anche perchè il finale secondo me è meraviglioso. Nonostante mi ricordassi tutto, è stato davvero emozionante, e mi ha fatto venire voglia di leggere immediatamente il successivo volume. Ma mi sono trattenuta.
Confermo le cinque stelle.

Prima lettura: LA PSICOSTORIA

Adoro Asimov (ormai è un dato di fatto)ma ammetto che nelle prime pagine mi ha un pò annoiato. La psicostoria e tutti i ragionamenti iniziali tra il filosofico e il matematico mi facevano un pò calare la palpebra, ma è stato un attimo, perchè quasi subito ho iniziato a splancare gli occhi e non mi sono staccata dal libro fino alla fine.

Questo libro precede il ciclo della fondazione, qui si gettano le basi per il dopo e

Il nostro portagonista Hari Seldon (l'ideatore della psicostoria) da semplice matematico senza nessun valore diventa ricercatissimo: lui potrebbe predire il futuro, per cui lo vogliono tutti dall'Imperatore al sindaco di Wye che vuole spodestare l'imperatore. Così, grazie all'aiuto di Hummin e di Dors, inizia a nascondersi, girando per il pianeta Trantor. Meraviglioso, e pieno di colpi di scena: tu ormai pensi che...e invece!

Insomma da leggere, per chi ama gli intrighi politici, l'avventura e immagina un futuro Galattico.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,966 followers
November 5, 2021
Being perfectly thrilled by the re-imagining of the Foundation series on TV, being one that flatters and holds the spirit of the original stories, I was utterly compelled to re-read the entire series, including the Second Foundation trilogy by other authors, in chronological order.

This was, fortunately, an easy decision. I loved the series when I first read them, years ago. Indeed, the original trilogy of Foundation was one of the cornerstones of my love of SF. So jumping in like this just required that one tiny push.

First of all, I should mention that Prelude to Foundation is an easygoing adventure-type novel that is utter candy. It gives us the earliest foundation of Hari Seldon's Psychohistory.

Is it truly important to read in order to enjoy the original trilogy? Nope. Does it help fill in tons of gaps and expand a grand story in a useful and entertaining prequel? Yes. And it also serves as a pretty awesome bridge to Asimov's other novels, from the Robot stories, including the Robot Novels, Empire novels, and various short stories. It is a lynchpin for anyone interested in enjoying the broad, broad future history.

But is it necessary? No. After all, it was the sixth book written in the Foundation universe. If you know the secrets of the Foundation, this will merely broaden your enjoyment. If you have never read the original classics, I don't know if this would be the truly proper place to begin them.

But what do I know? Chronological DOES have its place in the universe. Just check the math.
Profile Image for Adina ( On hiatus until next week) .
827 reviews3,230 followers
July 26, 2016

I enjoyed this book more than I probably should have.

As the name suggest it is the prequel to the Foundation series which is considered one of the best SF series ever.

What I liked about this book is the idea of the psycho-history and also how the author imagined some of the worlds from Trantor. Also the action was gripping, if reading until 2:00am is a sign of that.
I have to admit, however, that the book is not a work of art. The prose is quite simplistic and it is full of dialog. OMG,too much dialog. The last book I read with so much dialog was the Cosmetic of the Enemy by Amelie Nothomb 10 years ago but there the subject was an interview and the dialog was brilliant. In the Prelude to Foundation the dialog is quite mundane and not very intelligent which is should have been taking in consideration that the main characters are two university professors, one of who will develop one of the most important scientific concepts in the intergalactic world which will save the Empire from destruction (or so I heard)

Anyways, it did not matter that it wasn’t a literary masterpiece. I enjoyed it a lot and I can’t wait to read the Foundation which is actually the first book in the series by the publication date.
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
914 reviews405 followers
April 10, 2022
Tengo sentimientos encontrados respecto a esta novela.

El primer libro de CF que leí fue Fundación, y Hari Seldon y la capacidad de predecir el futuro mediante las matemáticas de la psicohistoria me convirtió en un fan del género desde que lo leí. Por lo que encontrarme ahora ante una historia que se centra en cómo Seldon llega a desarrollar la psicohistoria era un regalo para cualquier fan y a priori un 5 estrellas.

Pero lo que me he encontrado dista mucho de ser el mejor nivel de Asimov. La historia se centra en Trantor, planeta capital del Imperio Galáctico, y en los viajes de Seldon a distintas partes del planeta buscando inspiración para su psicohistoria. Pero la fórmula que vemos en el primer viaje: visito un nuevo lugar-conozco la cultura de la gente que vive allí-me advierten de que no puedo ir a un lugar-obviamente visito ese lugar y me meto en líos; la repite una y otra vez con cada escenario nuevo que nos presenta y eso termina cansando.

Además, el personaje de Hari Seldon me ha parecido insoportable. Ya no tenemos aquí al Seldon casi mítico que predice el futuro de Fundación; lo que tenemos aquí es un egocéntrico y pedante matemático que no hace caso de lo que le dice nadie.

Asimov salva la historia en el último tercio con ese giro final y cuando hace referencias a sucesos que ocurren en la saga de los Robots. Esa unión de todas sus sagas es lo más valioso que te puedes encontrar aquí y si estás leyendo los libros en orden como es mi caso lo vas a disfrutar mucho más.

Libro enfocado para fans muy fans, si te encuentras con esta historia sin saber nada de Fundación no creo que te guste.
Profile Image for Malice.
262 reviews30 followers
August 22, 2022
Me fascina cómo Isaac Asimov conectó todo el universo de la Fundación a través de estos libros y siento como si fuera un final, cuando en realidad es el principio de cómo se crean las Fundaciones. Tal vez se deba a que son los últimos de la serie que leo, y ahora todo tiene sentido.
Seguiré con Hacia la Fundación y luego terminaré con la relectura del resto de los libros, pero finalmente puedo ver en toda su magnitud esta obra y es impresionante.
Profile Image for Daniel Bastian.
86 reviews144 followers
November 29, 2021
"Why, he wondered, did so many people spend their lives not trying to find answers to questions—not even thinking of questions to begin with? Was there anything more exciting in life than seeking answers?"

(Note: As with other reviews in this series, spoilers to follow.)

After five novels spanning as many centuries, one might have supposed Asimov's stepwise tinkering with his Foundation universe had come to an end. The adventures of Golan Trevize, Janov Pelorat, and Bliss concluded in Foundation and Earth (1983), with a finale as intellectually rewarding as it was thematically resonant. Trevize gained the validation he desired for choosing Gaia (or proto-Galaxia) over the Seldon Plan. But just five short years later, again at the behest of avid fans and pushy publishers, Asimov picked up the series once more, this time in the form of a prequel. As its name suggests, Prelude to Foundation (1986) was the first of two prequels setting up the events of the original Foundation novel released in 1951.

For most of the series, psychohistory's founder, Hari Seldon, is this enigmatic figure spoken of only in cryptic, quasi-spiritual terms, rather like a demigod. Little is known about the man other than that he was a mathematical genius whose equations helped shepherd humanity through a series of increasingly existential crises. In Prelude Seldon's saintly aura is stripped away as we are introduced to the young, martial arts-trained professor laboring to turn his coveted psychohistory into a practical, applied science.

The first act opens on the planet Trantor, the Empire's capital, as Dr. Seldon presents his seminal paper at the Decennial Mathematics Convention. In a decision he soon comes to regret, he lays out a theoretical method by which the future can be determined probabilistically. The key word here is 'theoretical', a detail those with a hankering for control over the world order seem uniformly disposed to overlook. In Seldon's own words:

"And I went on to show that this would result in the ability to predict future events in a statistical fashion—that is, by stating the probability for alternate sets of events, rather than flatly predicting that one set will take place."

News of his work spreads like a thunderbolt. Emperor Cleon I himself arranges a meeting, in the hope that he can use Seldon's abilities as a means toward self-preservation. Haunted by the specter of assassination, Cleon is dismayed upon learning that psychohistory is not yet ready for primetime. He's not about to risk it falling into the hands of his enemies, however, and orders his right-hand man, First Minister Eto Demerzel, to keep close tabs on Seldon's progress. Demerzel is a shadowy character whose influence penetrates each of the disparate sectors on Trantor. Seldon now has a target on his back. Indeed, it seems he is now the most important person in all of the Galaxy, with the powers that be all wishing to profit from a mature psychohistory.

Before Seldon can return to his home world of Helicon, he runs into one Chetter Hummin, an intrepid journalist who warns Seldon of the Emperor's intentions. Like Cleon, Hummin also seeks a functional psychohistory. His aims prove more noble than the former's, as he anticipates it being used to divert the Empire from its path of rotting decay. Seldon, meanwhile, harbors strong doubts that his mathematics actually possess the potential his benefactors so eagerly seek, but Hummin is able to convince him that his research will be for the good of humanity. After dispatching a couple of the Emperor's goons, they flee to a nearby university in Streeling Sector, where Seldon can tend to his work in relative safety.

There he meets Dors Venabili, a historian and the second protagonist in this outing. She agrees to watch over Seldon and assist him with his studies. Dors' larger role in the narrative is shrouded in mystery and isn't fully explored until the second prequel. In this outing she serves as an eloquent sounding board for Seldon's frequent riffs and ruminations, while her strong-willed and circumspect presence nicely balance her counterpart's impetuosity and fitful naivete over the course of their journeys. Thankfully for Seldon, she is also quite capable of kicking ass when only violent options present themselves.

Seldon's stint at the university is short-lived, as he is unable to escape the feeling that his every move is being watched by the Emperor and his minions. Following a close encounter in which Seldon's reckless actions nearly get him killed, Hummin relocates Seldon and Dors to Mycogen Sector, an underground society on Trantor proper that is believed to possess some of the oldest records in the Galaxy. It is thought that by simulating an earlier period of history where the moving parts were decidedly smaller in both scale and in number, this will greatly simplify Seldon's intractable task of mathematizing human societies.

It wouldn't be an Asimov novel without heaping sexism, and Mycogen serves it in spades. As thoroughly patriarchal as it is puritanical, Mycogen is a world in which the subservience of women has been raised to an organizing principle. In public, men speak only to men; women are never to address men, much less outsiders like Hari and Dors, outside the privacy of their own home. Seldon exploits the situation, manipulating one of the women to obtain their sacred book, hoping it may hold the clues he needs to perfect his theory. The book appears to be a dead-end, but it does lead Seldon to believe that the Mycogenians are protecting one big secret: a 20,000 year-old robot holed up in their Sacratorium—a museum-cum-temple of sorts dedicated to remembering their past glory on the home world Aurora.

The site is off-limits to off-worlders, so Seldon and Dors don disguises and sneak inside. They do in fact find a robot, albeit defunct. In the process they are "caught" by one of the High Elders, an artificer whose machinations had lured the duo into a trap; rather than Seldon doing the manipulating, it was he who was beguiled into following a course of action pursuant to Mycogenian interests. The Elder had been in communication with the Emperor, and sought to strike a deal in turning Seldon over to Imperial authorities for his sacrilegious breach of custom. Seemingly always in the right place at the right time, Hummin intervenes by playing up psychohistory's potential for furthering Mycogen's interests. The Elder reluctantly agrees to forget the whole ordeal, reneges on his arrangement with the Emperor, and allows the trio to depart Mycogen for good. (Hmm...)

Hummin shuttles them off to another of Trantor's sectors known as Dahl. Not only is their purpose for going here unexplained, their stay in Dahl is one of the weaker sections of the book. Were it not for introducing important characters who play a larger role in the sequel, there would be little to recommend its place in the story. Seldon meets a precocious factory worker named Yugo Amaryl whom he promises a job after seeing some scribbled equations Amaryl had been working on in his spare time. Amaryl also mentions a wise woman known as Mother Rittah who holds ancient knowledge about Earth—the original home of humanity and, Seldon hopes, an ideal case study for psychohistory.

Seldon and Dors venture into the slummy Billibotton District in search of Rittah, where they are set upon by a swarm of knife-wielding miscreants. Dors makes quick work of them, an experienced knife-fighter herself. Shortly thereafter they befriend a homeless, alley-smart twelve year-old named Raych who leads them to the oracle. She reveals to them that the Mycogenians' lost world Aurora was actually the robot world that destroyed Earth (cue the Robot series!).

Dahl authorities catch wind of their antics and send a pair of constables to question them. Threatened with arrest, Seldon and Dors knock out the officers, putting our heroes permanently on the run. Fortunately, Raych leads them to safety, when a mysterious soldier shows up on orders to escort Seldon away from Dahl. Raych, Dors and Seldon all end up in Wye—a sector at Trantor's south pole—whose mayor (Rashelle) has been biding her time as she plots the usurpation of Emperor Cleon's throne. Rashelle's plan would allow her to gain full control of Trantor and its various sectors while relinquishing all Imperial command of the isolate planets. Seldon, she believes, is the ace in the hole required to carry out her grand act of sedition.

Seldon wants no part in this scheme, and for good reason: he now knows how to make psychohistory practical. Through his diverse cultural experiences in each of the sectors spread across Trantor, he realizes Trantor itself will serve as the perfect model for developing his inchoate science, which can then be generalized to the rest of the twenty-five million worlds populating the Galaxy. At least, that's the idea. But if Rashelle's coup comes to fruition, the Galaxy would be plunged into anarchy, menaced by a neverending series of territorial disputes and sanguinary transfers of power. If Seldon is to mature his science and stave off the destruction to come, the Empire must remain at peace.

As if on cue, Rashelle's plot is foiled as the soldiers under her command no longer assent to her orders. Hummin arrives on the scene and the remaining pieces fall into place. We learn that Hummin is none other than...Cleon's confidant and advisor Eto Demerzel. Moreover, he's not actually a human at all, but the legendary robot named R. Daneel Olivaw, whom Trevize and crew meet in the conclusion to Foundation and Earth. Further still, Hummin / Demerzel / Olivaw possesses mentalic powers (à la the Mule) enabling him to subtly manipulate the emotions of others. This explains Seldon's drive to perfect psychohistory despite his earlier skepticism, the High Elder's leniency on Mycogen, and Rashelle's failed scheme, among other improbable feats of chance.

Having lived the last 20,000 years, Demerzel sees the approaching collapse of the Empire as inevitable and psychohistory as the mechanism by which to minimize the fallout. Thus, in accordance with the Zeroth Law—"A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm"—he intervenes just enough to nudge events in Seldon's favor.

Prequel Fever

Critics have been somewhat harsh on this entry, and not without reason, the most fundamental perhaps being that Seldon's quest for a workable psychohistory just isn't all that compelling. What made the earlier novels so memorable was exploring the limits of psychohistory and seeing whether the next great challenge was acidic enough to dissolve the Seldon Plan. The cerebral acrobatics of navigating the contours of each successive crisis as the Galaxy tests its fate against the provisions of ancient prophecies forms the bread and butter of the Foundation series. Sure, Prelude contains all the twists and bombshell reveals characteristic of Asimovian fiction, but the humble beginnings of Seldon's Big Idea fail to reach the epic heights imparted by the settings that have so endeared generations of readers.

Delving too much into origins also comes at a cost. There's a certain mystique surrounding psychohistory—one of the most inventive and successful concepts in all of science fiction—that isn't helped by reductive exposition. By cutting the enormity of psychohistory down to size, some of the series' allure invariably wisps away. More problematic is the lackluster execution of the reveal. There is no single ground-shaking discovery or torrent of insight that sets Seldon on the right path, no "Eureka!" moments that lead him to his statistical laws. He just wakes up one morning and says he's worked it out. (No, literally that's what happens.) We're supposed to believe his traipsing around Trantor set him on the right course to a solution. That's at best unsatisfying, even if it's naive to expect juicy insights into what are ultimately fictional concepts with little chance of being mapped onto reality. But as plot devices go, it's pretty tame.

What's more, the places they visit fail to inspire and feel thrown in merely to bridge Asimov's various fictional projects. A lot of space in this book is tied up in external references to the Robot and Empire series—in asides that aren't particularly purposeful in and of themselves. The robot subplot on Mycogen and the preoccupation with the Aurora-Earth connection, for example, make for interesting sync points with the Asimov corpus, but don't do much heavy lifting in progressing the central plot of Prelude. Asimov notes in the introduction that unification was not what he had in mind when these stories were conceived, and devoted greater effort to the task later in his career. It certainly shows, but surely it's not worth the confusion readers unfamiliar with his other stories are sure to experience.

As for plot holes, there might be one relating to Olivaw. He has supposedly functioned as Demerzel, counselor to the Imperial throne, for decades, and is frequently referred to as the most influential person in the Galaxy, even more so than Cleon himself. He has connections with sectors all across Trantor. Yet no one knows what he looks like, or that Hummin and Demerzel are the same person? Or, rather, is it that Olivaw lulls them into forgetfulness? With the mind control mechanic, one can never be sure. (I had the same issue with Jessica Jones, alas.)

There is also the obligatory caveat about character development. As we've come to accept from this series (and from Asimov in general), the individuals on the page serve largely as mouthpieces for Asimov's ever active, idea-saturated mind. What 'development' we do get is intellectual in nature, as Seldon puzzles out solutions to psychohistory. Where such shortcomings might be given a pass in earlier novels, overshadowed as they were by the larger arc built into the narrative, they're more visible wrapped inside a more confined and chronologically compact story.

What is unique about Prelude, however slight a difference it makes in the end, is that Hari Seldon is widely thought to be modeled after Asimov himself. Ruthlessly logical, chronically inquisitive and never satisfied he has the final answer in hand, Seldon is the hardened intellectual Asimov embodied throughout his illustrious career. The recurring problem, however—and Prelude once again fails to break the mold—is the supporting cast, who is every bit as effortlessly logical and thorough as Seldon. Each of the characters he interacts with, even the oppressed women on Mycogen, go toe to toe with Seldon's brilliance. They speak the same way, they reason the same way. The criticisms of previous entries thus still stand: the dialogue reads largely as an exchange between scholars than as variegated, down-to-earth human beings with diverse flaws and personalities and cognitive talents to boot. It's all the more ironic given that social complexity is presented as the critical plot device underwriting psychohistory's evolution from concept to reality.

The Alignment Problem

What if robots get there first? One point raised by Dors is the implications of reducing human behavior to mathematical laws. “How horrible," said Dors. “You are picturing human beings as simple mechanical devices. Press this button and you will get that twitch.” Seldon's attempt to bring quadrillions of people under computational control puts Dors ill at ease despite the benevolent impulse behind it. But should this give us pause as well? After all, whether we will be able to model our actions to this extent is irrelevant, because our future AI companions most certainly will.

And this dovetails directly with the alignment problem in AI—the notion that the goals of superintelligent AI may ultimately prove inconsistent with human well-being or the preservation of our species. Any dynamic, self-modifying superintelligence will eventually understand human behavior at the level of the brain. At that point, their intelligence and capabilities will have far surpassed our own and we may come to be viewed as lesser beings, of trivial consequence to the universe. The fundamental worry is that sufficiently advanced AI will graduate from mechanical servants to omniscient overlords and treat us the way we treat cattle or insects. Perhaps then we would need something like an AI Mule on our side to out-manipulate rogue AI. The future of AI systems will be nothing if not interesting.

Closing Thoughts

Prelude to Foundation is the story of how psychohistory was born. We learn more about the Delphic Hari Seldon (who knew he could hold it down in a fight?) and how he managed to see the future in terms of probabilities. Through expository jaunts on Trantor, he meets a range of characters who cause him to see his project in a different light and who will play pivotal roles in the events to come. Many interactions seem to exist for the sole purpose of tying in his Robot and Empire series. While some may find these tangents distracting, they do add more texture to Asimov's voluminous universe and neither substantially improve nor detract from Seldon's odyssey. I enjoyed the intellectual jawing that permeates all of the Foundation novels, even if Prelude's lesser scope made me nostalgic for the high-stakes, space-traversing amplitude of the earlier works. Whether we ultimately needed an origin story is left for the reader to decide. As for myself, it's the stories that emerge once Seldon's science is already off the ground that keep me coming back for more.

Note: This review is republished from my official website. Click through for additional footnotes and imagery.
Profile Image for Tomislav.
976 reviews68 followers
May 1, 2015
Some day I'm going to read the novels of Asimov's future history in story order...

1 The End of Eternity (stand-alone) 1955
2 I, Robot (short stories) 1950
3 The Caves of Steel (Robot) 1954
4 The Naked Sun (Robot) 1957
5 The Robots of Dawn (Robot) 1983
6 Robots and Empire (Robot) 1985
7 The Stars, Like Dust (Empire) 1951
8 The Currents of Space (Empire) 1952
9 Pebble In The Sky (Empire) 1950
10 Prelude to Foundation (Foundation Prequel) 1988
11 Forward the Foundation (Foundation Prequel) 1991
12 Foundation (Foundation) 1951
13 Foundation and Empire (Foundation) 1952
14 Second Foundation (Foundation) 1953
15 Foundation's Edge (Foundation Sequel) 1982
16 Foundation and Earth )Foundation Sequel) 1986

Meanwhile though, I've already read the robot, empire, and foundation books, so am aware enough to understand the place of this novel as a bridge between the three originally unrelated sub-series. I'm not sure what it would be like to read this as a stand-alone, although I suspect interest would be limited. As it is, I felt the story was overly drawn out, as Hari and Dors move from district to district on Trantor. By the end, I had long figured out who Hummin really was and other things that I will not mention here to avoid spoilers for others. But it is always fun to watch Asimov unravel the clues he has built up through the duration of the novel and the series.
Profile Image for Ana.
805 reviews595 followers
February 22, 2016
Finally! After all these years! I have finished the first book of Foundation. What exactly took me so long, I will never know... I really enjoyed this work, it's high-quality SF, with all the societal elements inserted in it, all the questions about humanity posed and all of the wonders of the possible future bestowed on the reader. Brilliant for someone who loves the genre - and I most certainly am in love with science fiction, it sparks the imagination in a completely different way than any other literary endeavour. I can't wait to read the next books.

P. S. : Hari Seldon still pisses me off. Great book character, annoying little shit.
Profile Image for Adrian.
562 reviews197 followers
June 5, 2017
Re-reading this great book, was like sitting in a favourite comfortable armchair, it was just so wonderful to be be back in the Seldon universe.
I first read the Foundation trilogy many moons ago, and have enjoyed every read since, especially as books were added, and the Robot novels gradually merged through the Empire novels to the Foundation.
I have seen some thoughts that you should NOT read the books in chronological order but in published order, personally I think that once you know the novels so well then it's best to read chronologically as it makes more sense and nothing is spoiled as you know the stories anyway. And what great stories, far ranging and so imaginative, the very best of soap opera and science fiction.
The best series of books in my view, or maybe on a tie with Tolkein's Hobbit and LOTR., depending on my mood.
Profile Image for Donna Craig.
910 reviews39 followers
October 26, 2021
Hmmm. I was excited for this book, but I just didn’t end up excited about it. It was an ok, occasionally good story.
Asimov did seem to want to show himself a bit more inclusive and modern. However, many of his attempts at writing females as modern, strong, and capable people felt awkward. Kudos for trying, though.

This story tells how Hari Seldon, founder of the Foundation, came to be in his position. It also pulls robots in and introduces the Earth as a possible ancient human homeworld. That’s cool. Asimov is known for his Foundation series and his Robot stories. This book pulls them together into one cohesive universe. An introduction by the author explains that and puts his books into chronological order.
That introduction was actually my favorite part of the book.
Profile Image for Nikola Pavlovic.
276 reviews40 followers
February 10, 2019
Asimov je na zaista impresivan nacin ovim delom povezao Robote i Carstvo i poveo nas "U Susret Zaduzbini"...
Profile Image for Maanasa.
122 reviews79 followers
September 3, 2013
I did the unthinkable when it comes to reading the Foundation series and started with Prelude (I recently also finished Forward the Foundation and have started reading Foundation). I read the book slowly during my commute, and I found myself getting progressively more annoyed with how quickly I got to and from work. I felt like the book went 0-60 in no time as it immediately set a brisk pace that it would follow for the rest of the book. I found that the flight of Hari Seldon was both exciting and full of intrigue. I enjoyed reading about the dystopian societies of Mycogen and Dahl through Hari Seldon's fairly unbiased and observant PoV. The twists towards the end were exciting and while I partly expected one of them, it still didn't take away from the "oh my goodness" nature of the moment.

A small drawback: I felt like the Seldon character (the protagonist) lacked personality. Given that he was the narrator, I appreciated the mostly objective recounting of events through the clear lens of Seldon's mind, but somehow he seemed a little too bland and it was difficult for me to "root for" or develop affection for the character. That's just a personal quibble though, and I would still wholeheartedly recommend this book.

As far as starting the series with Prelude is concerned, only time will tell if I end up feeling robbed by the time I finish the original series. I will be sure to come back and update my review with respect to this issue once I am done with the series.
Profile Image for Sesana.
5,185 reviews345 followers
May 15, 2014
I'm working on reading the Foundation-related books in internal chronological order. I've worked through the Robots and Empire books, and now I'm moving on to the Foundation books. Is this a good idea? It's probably still too soon for me to say. I imagine that somebody who's read Foundation would have a totally different reaction. For me, it was my first exposure to psychohistory, so it worked to see what I guess you could call the birth of the idea. I didn't need to see details into what exactly it is and how it works, because I've had no previous build up.

That aside, this is not one of my favorite Asimov books. Much of it feels like aimless wandering, an excuse to show us different culture on Trantor. Ok, sure, they're interesting, but not enough to keep the book moving. But I never quite got to the level of boredom. I did, however, guess the twist well in advance. It didn't bother me, because it wasn't stunningly obvious, but there it is.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting as much out of this book as I had gotten out of some of the other connected books. But I am glad I read it, and it does have really enjoyable moments.
Profile Image for Ajeje Brazov.
702 reviews
October 15, 2017
Finito il sesto dei 7 tasselli del ciclo della Fondazione e sempre più mi convinco che Asimov sia la fantascienza. Insieme ad un altro maestro del genere, Philip K. Dick, unico che secondo me può competere con la maestosità letteraria di Asimov (ovviamente è una mia opinione ristretta a ciò che ho letto finora).
"Trantor... Capitale del Primo Impero Galattico... Sotto Cleon I, conobbe il suo . Stando alle apparenze, era allora all'apice... La popolazione ammontava a 40 miliardi di abitanti... chi viveva su Trantor indubbiamente era ancora convinto che quello fosse il leggendario Mondo Eterno e non si aspettava che un giorno...
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,922 reviews1,258 followers
December 3, 2020
There must be some law about how, the longer an author is allowed to play in their sandbox, the worse their stories get. At some point, every author who has a long-spanning saga feels encouraged to go back and fill in gaps in the chronology, creating that wonderful dichotomy of possible reading experiences: publication order and chronological order. L.E. Modesitt’s Recluce saga is one of the most notable modern examples. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is a classic. Prelude to Foundation is one of the last Foundation stories Asimov wrote, yet it is chronologically the earliest. It is in many ways a great folly yet it also shows Asimov’s abiding love for a genre that he nurtured and helped kickstart into a thriving industry. I am starting to think Asimov himself is very much like this book: he should not be overlooked, but when you do look at him, he isn’t all that great.

Hari Seldon arrives on Trantor to give a talk at a conference. He speaks of a glimmer of an idea—psychohistory—and this is enough to get the attention of Galactic Emperor Cleon I. After a disappointing audience with the emperor, Hari thinks he is on his way home to Helicon. Instead, he is swept up by a journalist who is obviously so much more into a whirlwind adventure, touring various sectors of Trantor while under the protection of a love/lust interest, Dors. As Hari and Dors flee from sector to sector, experiencing each one’s diverse culture and customs, Hari considers whether predicting the future of humanity is indeed mathematically practical. The answer seems to lie in a common theme that arises throughout these novels: the forgotten origin of humanity, and the truth behind Earth and robots.

Frankly, as a novel, this book makes sense in many respects. Yet in some ways I miss the early Foundation novels that were compilations of shorter novellas. Working at that length, Asimov had reason to keep his plots crisp. Prelude to Foundation feels too long for all it accomplishes, too prone to filler. It is the indulgence of an author so established in his career that he gets a pass when it comes to editing.

In previous reviews of this series, I have tackled Asimov’s writing style as well as his relentless and gross male gaze. The latter is still present here, although I am pleased to report someone told him to tone it down. Sexism lurks beneath subtly undermined attempts to portray societies here as equal. Hari and Dors’ story is obviously one of those romances where the characters start at odds yet, as they overcome bigger struggles, they grow to love one another. Hari is just as much of a dog as the other Asimov protagonists; he just doesn’t have as much opportunity to put this into practice given the predicaments of plot.

In terms of big concepts, Prelude to Foundation is probably, at this point in the publication order of the series, Asimov’s most honest attempt to explain the nature of psychohistory. Up until now, he has handwaved it as incredibly complex mathematical formulas that only really really really smart people can know how to do. This book humanizes Hari in a way that the previous books couldn’t, and we come to see how fraught the early days of psychohistory were. And thus comes Asimov’s big idea, exemplified by the role of Chetter Hummin, this idea that it could be possible to guide humanity to a better future. Writing this in the late 1980s, having lived so long a life already and experienced so much of the tumultuous twentieth century, with its technological upheavals, I can bet that Asimov more than ever wished psychohistory could be science fact rather than science fiction. And the power hungry nature of those who would abduct Hari to use him for their own ends underscores this belief. For Asimov, psychohistory is the ultimate triumph of human ingenuity over human atavism: if we can predict and guide humanity in a way that overrides the follies of flawed individuals, we will be better. We will evolve.

I am close to the end of my re-read of the series. I intend to stop with Forward the Foundation; I don’t plan at this time to read any of the estate-authorized works, nor do I feel compelled to dive into the rest of Asimov’s oeuvre. I’m glad I embarked on this project, but my opinion of Asimov remains decidedly mixed. On one hand, he is so overrated. On the other, as noted above, his works contain a true genius of hopefulness about humanity, a commitment to writing science-fiction stories that show us ways forward beyond our own single world.

In my last review of this series, I will discuss how I feel about Asimov’s place overall in the canon of science fiction. For now, know this: Prelude to Foundation is a valuable insight into the final era of one of the most prolific science-fiction writers of the twentieth century. Given that, it would be, if it came from any other writer, a profound disappointment of a novel.

Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

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