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Foundation (Foundation, #1)
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BotM Discussion - SCI-FI > Foundation / Overall Discussion / **SPOILERS**

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Ryan So I'm about halfway through and I'm certain I'm seeing part of the inspiration for Warhammer 40k. The first Foundation stories were published over 70 years ago and at that time space opera hadn't been around very long. This is the earliest I've read of this genre, and I'm a bit surprised how old some of these ideas are.


Dawn | 1139 comments Well, I finished Foundation and was surprised how much I enjoyed it considering there was no character development. The book was literally psychology applied to Sci-fi scenarios and examine the consequences. The characters were there only to provide a discourse on how the civilization solved it's problems. However, theses problems were interesting enough to keep me reading. I liked how the reader was lead through a series of events like clues to the final solution.


Whitney (whitneychakara) | 150 comments Yes i really enjoyed this book when I read it last year. Then I went over to the Irobot stories and had to put them down so I didn't get to continue as my plan was to read the firsts of both stories and then continue on with the Foundation Trilogy. I loved seeing the old ideas. But, I found the lack of female characters a bit strange. the excuse I've heard any documentaries was he just didn't know how to write females because he didn't have the experience. Not sure if this is just an excuse or maybe because it was kind of like a political struggle going on he didn't include any females.


Andreea Pausan | 26 comments One of my favorite books of all times - the writing is deceptively simple, but the ideas make sense even today


Ryan He was certainly an ideas man. This would have blown my mind if I hadn't grown up on all the imitators. Talk about 'shoulders of giants'. Very impressive.


Sandra (theweekendwarrior) | 26 comments Chakara wrote: "But, I found the lack of female characters a bit strange."


I imagine that is because it was published before the 60s. If Asimov were to include a female, he likely would have taken her from some cookie cutter mold that only served to promote the protagonist.

I've only perused through a few pulps and older SF, but that seems commonplace. That, or the protagonist has landed on an exotic planet populated only by females who wish to seduce him. It need to read up on the gender shifting that took place as a result of SF. I've been meaning to since I wanted a Star Trek documentary a few years back.


Alexander Keane | 19 comments I'm finally reading Foundation this month despite it being on my list for some time.

I'm remembering a lot of why I liked Asimov and science fiction in general as a teenager. Asimov is great at pulling you into his ideas and showing the good and bad that can come of progress. I love Hardin's "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" and how Asimov weaves a thread to demonstrate it so well with Anacreon.


Whitney (whitneychakara) | 150 comments Sandra wrote: "Chakara wrote: "But, I found the lack of female characters a bit strange."


I imagine that is because it was published before the 60s. If Asimov were to include a female, he likely would have take..."


Yes, I know this. I also know this is what says away a lot of females from reading scifi. It's not that different now-a-days either in the genre.


message 9: by Kirsty, Jedi Master (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirsty Cabot (kirstycabot) | 1886 comments Mod
I think this is the first Asimov I've read - I loved it!! It's a really interesting concept, and I really enjoyed the progression. It's really difficult for me to imagine how it would have been received back in the day it was written. I gobbled it up, and found it really gripping to read, but I have obviously got a very different outlook on these kind of stories.

Is there anyone in the group here who was around when it was released?

I was a little disappointed when the story progressed from Seldon to Hardin, as I was enjoying finding out what was happening, but then as I began to realise that that was how the book was going, with jumps into the future, I really looked forward to the next jump.

I'll definitely be reading the next one, but maybe not immediately!


message 10: by Paul, A wanderer in unknown realms (new)

Paul | 3543 comments Mod
Chakara wrote: "Sandra wrote: "Chakara wrote: "But, I found the lack of female characters a bit strange."


I imagine that is because it was published before the 60s. If Asimov were to include a female, he likely ..."


I Robot was 1950 and its lead was a well written and developed female. Contrasts a bit to the norm but Asimov could be forward thinking


message 11: by Lel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1891 comments Considering i'm more of an action fan than political I loved this book. I actually found it hard to put down.
I find the idea that people as a mass are so predictable hard. I mean Seldon has this amazing mathematically proven theory that he could save some of the population by making a second empire and controlling how it evolves over hundreds and hundreds of years. He so far correctly has predicted crisis points and managed to steer people down the path that would make his prediction reality.

Is humanity really that predictable? Can someone really steer a whole civilisation using psychology? Surely you could only predict to a certain point then new technology may become available, that they were not able to fathom while making their predictions, which could change the whole evolution process of that species.

So many interesting ideas and questions that I feel we need a few drinks in a pub to debate properly. :)


message 12: by Ryan (last edited Dec 13, 2015 05:14AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan I think this book takes the idea to its absurd conclusion, Lel, but the idea itself is a fundamental principle of such areas as marketing and politics. It's best illustrated by the phrase 'It is easier to predict the actions of a million than it is to predict the actions of one person.' The idea is that as more people come into the equation, the most 'typical' responses start to gather mass relative to the outliers. This forms a bell curve with the most predictable outcomes in the middle. The actions of individuals (or even groups) that lie outside the middle don't really matter in the grand scheme of things. At least this is how it works in theory. There is also the related idea that if you can predict the reactions of a group then you can control the group's behaviour so long as you're able to provide the appropriate stimuli.

As for Hari Seldon's psychohistory, I agree his predictions couldn't stay true over such an amount of time. As the timeline advanced, more and more variables would be introduced, and I don't see how the old equations would be able to account for them.


message 13: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 1281 comments Yeah. Of course, Asimov was writing this before chaos theory.


message 14: by Lel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1891 comments Ryan wrote: "The actions of individuals (or even groups) that lie outside the middle don't really matter in the grand scheme of things."

But what if one persons actions cause a tidal wave of response that couldn't have been predicted? How would this factor in? Can you factor that in? Or coming at it from another way, Do you think one persons actions can change the course of history and therefore the futures predictability?

It still makes me feel a little like a sheep or lemming. :)


message 15: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan The modern discipline of geopolitics is concerned with the effects of geography on politics, and uses some ideas similar to the psychohistory of the Foundation series. Naturally there are plenty of critics of geopolitics as being overly deterministic. They point to the impact of outstanding individuals throughout history in providing leadership and shaping politics that way. The counterargument there is that the rise of such leaders is itself inevitable.

I think ultimately it doesn't matter what the majority do or how predictable we are as a group. It only needs to concern the individual as much as you allow it to, since the actions of any given person are far less predictable than those of the group as a whole.


message 16: by Lel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1891 comments I think i'm just a massive sceptic on this subject. I don't think I have the type of brain to be so sure of my predictions. I would be that person constantly saying 'but what if?'


message 17: by Wayland, Ernest Scribbler (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wayland Smith | 2943 comments Mod
Re-read this for the challenge. I loved it the first time, and enjoyed even more the second. Asimov came up with some amazing ideas in this series. It has it's flaws, and is a product of the time it was written in, but I think it's one of the books that truly earns the title "classic."


message 18: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark It's amazing how different the ideas of '50s organizational psychology are from today's psychology. I don't want to wax too high-theoretical here, but this book is a high-water of the rationalist view of society that sees the power of rational intellect as capable of solving problems if just applied with enough power and the right tools. This was the apex of Enlightenment thinking, and for those of born in my generation (I'm 1980) this kind of thinking is a historical curiosity. The project of ultimate scientific comprehension and guidance is completely dismissed now. And we dismiss it because we have good reasons, based in our theory of the sciences themselves, to doubt that they can accomplish anything like the Foundation project. (I say this having a masters in philosophy and having studied philosophy of social science .)


message 19: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark Ryan wrote: "The modern discipline of geopolitics is concerned with the effects of geography on politics, and uses some ideas similar to the psychohistory of the Foundation series. Naturally there are plenty of..."

Are you talking about game theoretical approaches? If so, the criticism of determinism is misplaced. Let's say all I have to eat in my house is an apple. I'm starving. It's rational for me to eat the apple. Predicting that I'm going to eat the apple has nothing to do with do determinism.
The problem for game theory is dealing with the massive amounts of irrationality and stupidity people actually exhibit.


message 20: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Mark wrote: "Let's say all I have to eat in my house is an apple. I'm starving. It's rational for me to eat the apple. Predicting that I'm going to eat the apple has nothing to do with do determinism. "

I'm more thinking about the example of X national/tribal group living in a region with few natural borders; therefore they will always tend to feel threatened and thus behave aggressively as a state.

As I said, it is groups that are predictable, at least far more than individuals.


message 21: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark That's a case in the rational choice literature. If you lack natural defenses, it's more likely you'll be attacked, so it might be rational to strike first.


message 22: by Rick (last edited Dec 18, 2015 12:39PM) (new)

Rick Lel,

I think you have to accept the idea that Seldon could do this in order for the book to make sense regardless of whether it's possible in the real world. If you can't then I'd think the book would be very hard to get into.

To me, it's like an SF book requiring you to accept the idea of FTL travel or something equally improbable/impossible. It's a barrier to entry and if you want to read the story it's one you have to hop over or you're not going to find the rest probable.

Me, I can do that as long as the author asks me to do it early on and once I'm in, I'm in. Don't ask me to suspend disbelief once, then later again and again. That's like getting by the bouncer to a club once and being stopped over and over in order to move around the club.


Susie  (susiend104) | 265 comments I meant to join in this discussion earlier in the month, I must've gotten lost in reading the fantasy BOTM! (And in holidays, and in life in general... =] ) I read the first Foundation earlier this year, the only Asimov I've read thus far, but I enjoyed it quite a lot. I've been on the lookout for deals on Part 2, but I'm tempted to just break open my wallet and go for it. Has anyone read the whole trilogy? I can't imagine it would disappoint!

It's certainly an adjustment to get used to a novel that doesn't focus on characters, but I think it was very well done. I enjoyed watching the universe grow, and it makes me wonder about humanity's potential, like any good sci-fi will do.

The debate about how feasible Seldon's predictions are is quite intriguing to me. I personally think it's possible, though likely not with quite so much accuracy. People as a group have indeed proven predictable, in society and a variety of psychological experiments. We tend to believe what we're told and follow the masses, with exceptions of individuals of course. However, what we're told to think/believe depends on the people in power, whose positions can change, and over time can change drastically. Those predictions would be harder, I think. Very interesting.


message 24: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 5 stars

Roger | 2015 comments Mod
Susie wrote: "I meant to join in this discussion earlier in the month, I must've gotten lost in reading the fantasy BOTM! (And in holidays, and in life in general... =] ) I read the first Foundation earlier this..."

It's been years but I finished the entire trilogy and quite enjoyed it, I am very hazy on the details but I know that I was pleased with the ending.

Rick wrote: "Lel,

I think you have to accept the idea that Seldon could do this in order for the book to make sense regardless of whether it's possible in the real world. If you can't then I'd think the book ..."


I couldn't have put it better, I can suspend disbelief as long as it makes sense and there is some supporting information behind it.

A good example of a book that does this very poorly, imo, is Divergent, the premise that people are mostly one trait or another and the people that are not that way are dangerous was just ridiculous. I've heard there was some handwaving of an explanation about this in the third book but I will never know as I cannot fathom picking up any of those books again.


message 25: by Rick (new)

Rick Susie - the trilogy follows the classic form... the first book sets up a world, the second creates tension with a threat to the world, the third resolves that tension. I liked them all.


message 26: by Wayland, Ernest Scribbler (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wayland Smith | 2943 comments Mod
I agree on Divergent. I read the first of those, really didn't care for it, the world made no sense to me, and the concepts were really bizarre.


message 27: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate (kgskocelas) | 272 comments For Seldon's sake, I freakin' love this book, but this month is killing me with lack of reading time! Count on me to be in here raving about it while you've all moved on to January's BotM. In the meantime, forgive me for not reading any of this thread (which I'm sure is amazing) until I've finished. The Internet is dark and full of spoilers...


message 28: by Felix (new) - added it

Felix Simcock (fesimco) | 11 comments My God! Can't believe I missed out on this read session! I love this book. It was one of the first book I read, apart from Prelude to Foundation it's the best in the series. I'd actually like to know how other people feel Prelude stacks up compared to this one. By far my favorite book series!


Susie  (susiend104) | 265 comments Here I am in the 2016 Bookish Resolutions thread talking about how I shouldn't buy any more books... but I think I'm just going to have to finish the trilogy this year. There may be no help for it. :)


message 30: by Lel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1891 comments Susie wrote: "Here I am in the 2016 Bookish Resolutions thread talking about how I shouldn't buy any more books... but I think I'm just going to have to finish the trilogy this year. There may be no help for it. :)"

There are much worse resolutions to break Susie! Go for it! :)


message 31: by Lel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1891 comments Rick wrote: "Lel,

I think you have to accept the idea that Seldon could do this in order for the book to make sense regardless of whether it's possible in the real world. If you can't then I'd think the book ..."


It didnt take any enjoyment away from the book for me I just thought it was a fascinating idea. It made me really think about whether humanity as a species is that predictable, and if the actions of one random person can make such a difference to stop such predictions.

I think I have loved the debate going on here as much as the book, even if it has been hard to follow. Thanks guys! x


message 32: by Ethan (new)

Ethan Fox (by_ethan_fox) | 4 comments I really should read some Asimov. I spent much of my childhood reading Clarke, but never moved onto Asimov. This thread has made me consider rectifying that.


message 33: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 5 stars

Roger | 2015 comments Mod
Ethan wrote: "I really should read some Asimov. I spent much of my childhood reading Clarke, but never moved onto Asimov. This thread has made me consider rectifying that."

I second this, I've only read a little bit of Asimov but I've enjoyed everything that I've read from him so it seems I should read more...


message 34: by Felix (new) - added it

Felix Simcock (fesimco) | 11 comments "The last Question" is a fantastic short story by Asimov, massively recommend it. I'm sure someone here can back me up?


message 35: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 1281 comments Oh, The Last Question. I remember that one.

Indeed, Asimov observed that whenever someone came up to him at a con to ask, because while they remembered the tale but not the title -- and often weren't even sure it was by Asimov -- it was always "The Last Question."


message 36: by Felix (new) - added it

Felix Simcock (fesimco) | 11 comments Mary wrote: "Oh, The Last Question. I remember that one.

Indeed, Asimov observed --..."


Nice annecdote :D


Ana A (anabana_a) I reached the ending and I didn't even notice it.

I really liked the ideas that this book had, like psychohistory, the rise and fall of humanity, using knowledge to quicken the building up of civilization, etc. But how it was written wasn't really my cup of tea. I appreciate the things that I've learned from reading this, but I can't say I really "enjoyed" it. Character development is more important to me than I thought.


message 38: by Nic, Wormhole Technician (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nic Margett (enn_eye_cee) | 353 comments Mod
A little late...

I really didn't enjoy this like everyone else did, it seems! It took me forever to read, just didn't hold my interest, and I feel like I might have missed something.

Usually I love politics in the books I read, and I like books that don't focus on characters, too, but this book just did not do it for me. I own both trilogies too, so I might read the others just to see if it gets a bit better for me, but for now I think I'll move in a different direction. I've been looking forward to reading this but I'm really disappointed :(


message 39: by Cupcakes & Machetes, Hybrid Creature (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cupcakes & Machetes (hybridcreature) | 878 comments Mod
I'm glad that I read this but it just reminded me that I'm very into characterization. It was worth the read though.


message 40: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 1135 comments I'm re-reading this in preparation for a late read of this month's sci-fi pick.

About 1/4 done so far, and I like it so far.

The politics of the empire and Foundation would be soooo exasperating to me in real life, but it's fascinating looking at this whole world and the way it operates from the outside at a far remove from the parties and forces at play . . . and at a far far remove from the consequences!

Not much characterization yet as others said, but I like it regardless. An odd and different experience than much of what I read, but interesting . . . a very sociological bent, somewhat clinical.

Some of the language is beautiful too . . . such as when he describes the stars as a "giant conglomeration of fireflies caught and mid-motion and stilled."

I like also how it has a proper feel of foreignness mixed with the basics of human nature. It does feel like a human society filtered through a foreign and very different perspective, though with a common base. I liked the detail of how being outside terrifies the Trantorians for example.

I tend toward stories that are a bit more intimate with deeper characterizations, but I am enjoying this as a change from my usual fare.


message 41: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 1135 comments About half done now.

Oh my, I just loved, loved, loved the section centering on Salvor Hardin! So satisfying the way he outwits Prince Regent Wienis!!

I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying this! It's a pleasure just to see how the various crises are averted. I'm curious to see what the next one will be.


message 42: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 1135 comments Whitney wrote: " I loved seeing the old ideas. But, I found the lack of female characters a bit strange. the excuse I've heard any documentaries was he just didn't know how to write females because he didn't have the experience. Not sure if this is just an excuse or maybe because it was kind of like a political struggle going on he didn't include any females"

This is true Whitney. It does have an old school feel with the back-rooms of powerful men sharing cigars.

It's ordinarily not something I would go for, but somehow I'm finding it freakishly engaging/entertaining regardless.


Fannie D'Ascola | 448 comments Greg, I like reading your comments.

I always have a soft spot for Asimov. He made me discover SF when I was a teenager.

I always thought Foundation to be entertaining.

I wonder hot it translated to the tv serie.


message 44: by Greg (last edited Feb 27, 2022 02:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 1135 comments Fannie wrote: "Greg, I like reading your comments.

I always have a soft spot for Asimov. He made me discover SF when I was a teenager.

I always thought Foundation to be entertaining.

I wonder hot it translate..."


Thanks Fannie! :)

I liked it when I read it many years ago, but I wasn't sure how it would hold up - now, as I re-read it, I'm very pleasantly surprised! I'm loving it!

I haven't seen the series yet either.

I hear it's a loose adaption, though good in its own way. One day, I will watch it. But I think I'll continue by re-reading Foundation and Empire first! :)


message 45: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 1135 comments Just finished - really enjoyed it! Fun to see the ways these clever characters avert the various disasters!

I'll be too late for the energy cell, but I'll certainly continue on with Foundation and Empire.


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