C.'s Reviews > Prelude to Foundation

Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
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's review
Feb 03, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: science-speculative-fiction, 2011, schlock
Read from February 03 to 08, 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.
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12/27/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh no, srly? Have you read Foundation first, or are you just starting in the prequels?

message 2: by C. (last edited Feb 03, 2011 05:17PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

C. I have read Foundation. At the start of this one, anyway, there's a thingy by Asimov explaining in what order to read EVERYTHING HE EVER WROTE, approximately, starting with I, Robot or whatever. It was then that I decided to give up on attempting to read them in any semblance of the correct order.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I can't remember if this is the one that made me despair for Asimov, but at some point, late in his career, he thought it would be a good idea to make all the different series he wrote make sense together in some big overarching plot. It was a bad idea. Anyway, R. Daneel Oligraw from the Robot series shows up, and then someone from the Empire series, and then...well, it starts not to make sense on a galactic scale. I'm thinking it was maybe Foundation's Edge that was the offender, but I can't remember anymore.

message 4: by C. (new) - rated it 2 stars

C. Yeah, I get that impression. This one seems fine so far but I'm a hopeless judge of science fiction. I figure I will keep reading until I give up in disgust.

message 5: by William (new)

William Ceridwen- I think you're right. Foundation's Edge (the fourth entry) is the one where the plotting takes a serious dive. The first three books can and should be read as a trilogy. Never read the Prelude...need to go back and do a re-read of the trilogy with Prelude added on.

message 6: by William (new)

William Went to verify my recollections. Yup...original trilogy was written in the '50's. Further sequels were written 30-40 years later. Also, there are TWO prequels to Foundation? Crap, I thought I was a fan...

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

William wrote: "Went to verify my recollections. Yup...original trilogy was written in the '50's. Further sequels were written 30-40 years later. Also, there are TWO prequels to Foundation? Crap, I thought I w..."

Heh. Would it surprise you to learn I was an awkward, bookish adolescent?

message 8: by C. (new) - rated it 2 stars

C. Ok, Prelude to Foundation is officially crap. Just thought I'd let you know.

Small Creek ^Good going, Weiss. I told you the series was not worth it. -_-X

message 10: by C. (new) - rated it 2 stars

C. I'll probably still read the two following Foundation, though. I liked it enough for that.

Small Creek *I* reckon you should read the individual novels. :P Especially the robot dreaming short stories--I remember really, really liking those.

message 12: by C. (new) - rated it 2 stars

C. Whatevs, dude. So is that connected to I, Robot? But I'll look them up some day.

message 13: by Small Creek (last edited Feb 07, 2011 05:31PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Small Creek Robot Dreams, Robot Visions, I, Robot...The Rest of the Robots, The Complete Robot. I think the last one overlaps some stories from I, Robot.

message 14: by William (new)

William I've have to agree (begrudgingly) that Asimov is probably at his best in his short story collections (particularly robot-related ones). I also liked his short story mystery series revolving around the Black Widowers.

message 15: by Suna (new)

Suna Ohhh damn! I adore the original three installments of the Foundation series - although admittedly it's been some years and it was one of my first ever forays into 'serious Sci-Fi - and was always looking forward to get to these books someday. But now I'm not so certain I'll go there, based on your review...
Never read the Robot series either but will probably just give them a go someday and try to keep an open mind...:)

message 16: by Manny (last edited Feb 09, 2011 02:45AM) (new)

Manny Thank you! I was already 95% sure it was crap, but after reading your informative review I'm upgrading that to a full 100. Nice to be able to get rid of that nagging doubt :)

message 17: by C. (new) - rated it 2 stars

C. I do what I can :)

message 18: by Brad (new)

Brad I always felt uneasy about the prequels and I've managed to avoid them. Glad I made the right choice.

message 19: by Terence (new)

Terence I make it a point never to pass up the opportunity to recommend what is quite likely the best post-Foundation Trilogy book: Psychohistorical Crisis.

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Terence wrote: "I make it a point never to pass up the opportunity to recommend what is quite likely the best post-Foundation Trilogy book: Psychohistorical Crisis."

Wow, that looks really cool.

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