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Foundation (Foundation, #1)
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New School Classics- 1900-1999 > Foundation - Spoilers

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message 1: by Bob, Short Story Classics (last edited Apr 16, 2019 06:33AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob | 4641 comments Mod
Foundation by Isaac Asimov is our New School read for April 2019.

This is the spoiler thread, post all plot and character thoughts and comments about the book here.

Foundation Series


Janet (goodreadscomjanetj) | 850 comments When reading the first section of this book I noticed some similarities with current events. The Commission of Public Safety was turning a blind eye on Hari Seldon's prediction of a bleak future because he said it would happen 300 years in the future and they said that it would not affect them in that case - " Dr. Seldon, you disturb the peace of the Emperor's realm. None of the quadrillions living now among all the stars of the Galaxy will be living a century from now. Why, then, should we concern ourselves with events of three centuries distance?" This seems very similar to what the climate change deniers are doing in the face of scientific evidence now. It always amazes me when things written so far in the past become so prophetic.


Michele | 996 comments Humans have never been very good at long-range planning. For billions of years it was completely irrelevant, so we never evolved the ability ;)


message 4: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob | 4641 comments Mod
I was impressed with the story, but I was more impressed with the smoothness of Asimov writing. I was especially pleased with his transitioning from one time period to another. The story didn’t lose focus when changing characters and moving forward in time. This made for an enjoyable read.


message 5: by Jerome (new)

Jerome (tnjed01) | 55 comments Ch. 2 ticket that glows reminds me of Google map directions and other direction apps


Janice (JG) | 104 comments Michele wrote: "Humans have never been very good at long-range planning. For billions of years it was completely irrelevant, so we never evolved the ability ;)"

Almost all laws in the last hundred or so years in the U.S. have been enacted as afterthoughts, based on problems that occurred that had not been foreseen. Technology is driving lawmakers crazy because there are so many holes in the dike, they don't know where to stick their fingers first.


message 7: by Jerome (new)

Jerome (tnjed01) | 55 comments Janet wrote: "When reading the first section of this book I noticed some similarities with current events. The Commission of Public Safety was turning a blind eye on Hari Seldon's prediction of a bleak future be..."

"Scientific truth is beyond loyalty and disloyalty"


Michele | 996 comments Nice pick, Jerome :)


Michele | 996 comments Anyone else get to the description of the Encyclopedia project and immediately think of Wikipedia? Ha :)


message 10: by Jerome (new)

Jerome (tnjed01) | 55 comments Michele wrote: "Anyone else get to the description of the Encyclopedia project and immediately think of Wikipedia? Ha :)"

I can imagine most people under 30 would think so! I'm old enough to get that he was enlarging from Encyclopedia Britannica to his Galactica. But your question made me realize I didn't know the origin of Wikipedia from the Hawaiian wiki for quick.


Aubrey (korrick) | 2178 comments Finished. Not my favorite piece of sci-fi, but I'm glad I finally got it off my shelf.


Michele | 996 comments Aubrey wrote: "Finished. Not my favorite piece of sci-fi, but I'm glad I finally got it off my shelf."

Aubrey, what did you like/not like about it?


Aubrey (korrick) | 2178 comments Michele wrote: "Aubrey wrote: "Finished. Not my favorite piece of sci-fi, but I'm glad I finally got it off my shelf."

Aubrey, what did you like/not like about it?"


I liked the psychohistory and initial set up, but after that the book was increasingly copy paste Sherlock/Watson and/or Sherlock/Moriarty character dynamic with the odd Orientalism and/or female hysteric thrown in for novelty. It made for a surprisingly stale narrative by the end of the a mere 200 pages.


ShazM | 14 comments I'm not a big sci-fi reader generally, although I'd heard of this one because some in my family have read it, so I was quite keen to read it. I didn't expect to enjoy it very much but actually I liked the rhythm of it. I liked the way each section built to the crisis and each individual managed to outsmart his opponents.

What I struggled with was the idea that centuries could be mapped out in advance but then I've never been a very good chess player! I suppose if you're a good enough student of human nature you could predict events to some degree. On the other hand, I suppose "returning" every few decades might keep things on track. Still, that's why it's fiction!

I don't think this is enough to encourage me to read the next two, not when there's so much else I want to read.


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

Lena | 298 comments I’m about halfway. The joining of religion and science is proving genius.


Terris | 2228 comments I just finished. I don't usually read sci-fi but I am glad that I read this one. I have seen it around so much, and I know that a lot of people read Isaac Asimov, so I was glad to be informed and know what it is all about. Thanks to this group, I have stepped out of my "comfort genres" and enjoyed the ride!


Michele | 996 comments Lena wrote: "Just finished: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show..."

Gawd, what a cover lol!! He looks a bit like Ming the Merciless.


Philina | 1545 comments Just finished.

I think this book contains much food for thought and I loved it for this reason. Many ideas and concepts to reflect.

However, the story itself and its characters felt immensely rushed and very superficial. I felt no connection or any interest at all in any of the characters.


Janice (JG) | 104 comments Philina wrote: "However, the story itself and its characters felt immensely rushed and very superficial. I felt no connection or any interest at all in any of the characters. ..."

I also rated it three stars, for about the same reasons. I think the problem is it just really struggles as a stand-alone novel. Probably the best plan is to read the whole trilogy as one novel.


Janet (goodreadscomjanetj) | 850 comments I agree that character development was really lacking.


message 22: by Pamela (last edited Apr 15, 2019 07:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) | 228 comments I do agree with others who have highlighted the lack of character development, but for me that was a strength of this specific book. I really enjoyed the plotting and political manoeuvring without being distracted by additional information about characters, bringing out an intellectual rather than emotional response.

I also liked the idea of the strategy unfolding through time and the way the key figures managed to look ahead to achieve their goals.

I would never have chosen this without this group, very pleased I did pick it up.


Terry | 1028 comments I am still in process with one. I agreed with Jane’s comment about the parallel with climate change at the start of the book. Other presages are a bit interesting. I am pretty deep into this and although I will finish it, it probably won’t get a very high rating from me. This seemingly all male world/galaxy doesn’t hold much interest for me. Ho hum.


Michele | 996 comments Janice (JG) wrote: "I think the problem is it just really struggles as a stand-alone novel. Probably the best plan is to read the whole trilogy as one novel."

Foundation was originally published as a series of short stories in Astounding Science Fiction between 1942 and 1944. I think it could have used a bit more integration when published as a novel, although it's hard to see how he could have done it given the time span that's covered.

Another novel that spans several thousand years in a similar manner but feels more unified (possibly because it didn't start life as a bunch of short stories) is Clifford Simak's City.


message 25: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Michele wrote: "...Foundation was originally published as a series of short stories in Astounding Science Fiction between 1942 and 1944...."

THAT makes a ton of sense, now!

I'm close to done, I'm in the fourth 'story' or 'crisis'. It really does read like a set of connected short stories. Just as I start to care about a set of characters, poof! they're gone and new ones arrive.

Although the first two were only 30 years apart, so there was some satisfying linkage :D.

I'm enjoying the read. It's a pretty fast read.
Building on Terry's comment above, it's hard not to notice that all of the charactors that matter are male - and even most of the 'extras' who don't matter. Such a problem with classic sci fi ...

For sure I'll be reading the rest of the trilogy. Not sure about all 15 linked books .... but, you know, probably, eventually :).


Rosemarie | 1541 comments I recommend reading the trilogy. I have reread the first two books and plan on rereading Second Foundation, book #3, this year. I remember this book has having more character development and more female characters, so I will soon find out if I was right.


message 27: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments I will take your advice :)


message 28: by Leni (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 1172 comments I enjoyed the writing style, but I don't think the book has aged well. It is so obviously a product of the 1950s. Only men work, women are just wives and mothers and barely rate a mention as dependents. When a female character does show up she's an awful cliché. And the men all smoke cigars and have an endearing belief in "atomics" and the possibility of psychology being an exact science.

I have book two and three and I did enjoy the storytelling, even with the drawbacks, so I will definitely read them. They'll make for some nice summer reading. But I think I'll have to mix it up with some female authored sci-fi from the 1970s, to balance things out a bit.


Terry | 1028 comments I don’t get it. What is there to like in this book? To me, it is a bunch of arrogant men who are greedy, power hungry and gambling with the ordinary lives of humanity. Space help us if we are headed in this direction. Or, are we already there? I will not subject myself to the rest of the trilogy.


Michele | 996 comments Terry wrote: "I don’t get it. What is there to like in this book? To me, it is a bunch of arrogant men who are greedy, power hungry and gambling with the ordinary lives of humanity. Space help us if we are heade..."

In what way do you see them as greedy? Their goal is to reduce the length of the Dark Ages, not personal benefit. Isn't that beneficial?


Terry | 1028 comments In the beginning, it seems there are some noble ideals at the start of the Encyclopedists. But the characters in the rest of the book have driven me crazy. The principle characters cannot resist being snarky know-it-alls. I think a lot of characters act out of greed and there are a couple of instances of bribery. The Traders admit their mission is to make money (meet their quota). More are greedy for power, though. Few are likable in any sense that I can fathom. Even the otherwise somewhat sympathetic old man on Smyrna (not sure if I spelled this right) is cynical and revengeful.

I would turn the question around and ask, what do you like about these men? Would you want any one of them as a friend? As a political leader?

I am not quite finished with it. Almost through it, but a few chapters left.


Michele | 996 comments Well, they are traders. So of course their goal is to be successful traders and make a profit. To me that doesn't make them greedy, it just makes them businessmen :)

Some of them are power hungry, true, but in every case their rise has been foreseen by the Encyclopedists, and their personal goals end up getting used as tools to forward the Encyclopedists' goal. If you consider that the Encyclopedists' goal is the betterment of humanity as a whole, not individual human beings, maybe it's easier to accept?


message 33: by MK (last edited Apr 19, 2019 02:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I recommend reading the trilogy. I have reread the first two books and plan on rereading Second Foundation, book #3, this year. I remember this book has having more character development and more f..."

I just finished the second book, and I don't have at all the same impression of lack of character development, or female characters.

The second book contains only two crises, or stories, unlike the first that has four, so I wasn't left with the feeling of having to be reintroduced to a new set of characters each time. And one of the main characters is a woman, who is definitely as fully developed and an equal of the male characters, which inside the book, is handled interestingly. That she is an equal and is accepted as an equal by her male companions surprises some of the male characters on the devolved barbarian worlds. One of those men suppresses faint distaste when she is given a seat, and accepts a cigar, along with her male companions ;-). It seems like Asimov is making fun of the fifties treatment of women, perhaps.

The other books are written later, I'm definitely going to be continuing with the third book in the trilogy, and probably the rest of the linked worlds.

Asimov is a fabulous writer. His widespread and diverse interests, and keen intellect, make him a great author. I'm a now a fan :D.
I had never read any Asimov before this.


message 34: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Terry wrote: "In the beginning, it seems there are some noble ideals at the start of the Encyclopedists. But the characters in the rest of the book have driven me crazy. The principle characters cannot resist be..."

I think the noble ideals of the Encyclopedists, and the contrasting opposite characteristics of those in opposition, are reflective of the different paths of the trends of the civilizations in the world Asimov created. On the one hand, the Empire is descending into barbarism and anarchy, and on the other hand, Seldon and his seed communities are set in motion to rebuild a second Empire, and shorten the barbaric period from thirty thousand years to one thousand years.


message 35: by Pamela (last edited Apr 19, 2019 02:38AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) | 228 comments MK wrote: "I think the noble ideals of the Encyclopedists, and the contrasting opposite characteristics of those in opposition, are reflective of the different paths of the trends of the civilisations in the world Asimov created."

Thats a great point. I think it's intriguing that the Encyclopedia itself turned out to be a sham, a device to get people working for a common goal rather than looking outward. Once they do look further, then we see characters identifying war as a means to individual power- Seldon sticks by his strategy of avoiding war for the greater good and avoids a crisis.

I was fascinated by this, and have also become an Asimov fan.


message 36: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Pamela wrote: "Thats a great point. I think it's intriguing that the Encyclopedia itself turned out to be a sham, a device to get people working for a common goal rather than looking outward. Once they do look further, then we see characters identifying war as a means to individual power- Seldon sticks by his strategy of avoiding war for the greater good and avoids a crisis.

I was fascinated by this, and have also become an Asimov fan. "


Thx! And, yea, I hadn't thought of that, with regard to war, but, yes, absolutely. Great point!

Also, yes, agree as well that it's an intriguing device, the use of the Encyclopedia, and it turning out to be a sham.

BTW, I also liked the use of the Enclyclopedia entries as a way of tying the book together. Actually, I like it all :D


Pamela (bibliohound) | 228 comments MK wrote: "Actually, I like it all "

I do too. I'm looking forward to reading the next book.


message 38: by MK (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Pamela wrote: I do too. I'm looking forward to reading the next book."

I just put book 3 (Second Foundation) on hold at the library. It was a real fight to tamp down the urge to just go ahead and buy it on Kindle at full price so I could start reading it right now ... but I do have other books, so I gave a big sigh and closed down the kindle store without clicking 'buy' ;-). If it had been on sale, forget it, I'd have snapped it up and dove in :D.


Terry | 1028 comments Well, I finished it. I found very little to like in this book, so I guess I will just agree to disagree with the crowd. This book just isn’t for me, and I am moving on.


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

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Fair enough, Terry! :)


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

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments MK wrote: "I just put book 3 (Second Foundation) on hold at the library. It was a real fight to tamp down the urge to just go ahead and buy it on Kindle at full price so I could start reading it right now ... but I do have other books, so I gave a big sigh and closed down the kindle store without clicking 'buy' ;-). If it had been on sale, forget it, I'd have snapped it up and dove in :D. "

It's ready for pickup already! wooooop!
I even sent it to a different branch whose hours I'd be more likely to be able to get to on Saturday. A risk, b/c that branch is closed Sunday AND Monday, so I'd have had to wait :-p.
Going to pick it up this afternoon *grin*


message 42: by George P. (last edited Apr 27, 2019 04:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

George P. | 498 comments I finished the book in late March. Then I forgot to look at the discussion thread once April started ! Ha! I've had several other books going, in my defense. Today I was just looking for what next month's read was today when I noticed the Foundation discussion, so I had about 40 posts to read.
I rated Foundation 3.5 stars in my notes and 3 in my posted rating, so I liked it but wasn't crazy about it. It definitely had the longest time span of any novel I've read. I also noticed when reading it that it was very male-centric, I only recall one female character who was somewhat minor.
I did think of Wikipedia as being the incarnation of his prophesied Encylopedia Galactica.
I thought the large jumps forward in time and all new characters that went with it were a drawback that made it more like linked short stories than a true novel, as others have said. However I think Asimov managed the challenge of that well. I don't think Asimov had much skill in creating realistic interesting characters (I also read his I, Robot stories a few years ago, rated that four stars). His forte was the concepts and plotting, definitely.
I think I'll probably not read the next Foundation book, but I probably will sometime read his short story collection Robot Visions. Of the 18 stories in that collection, (it also includes some essays), seven are also in “I, Robot”. I've also read his 50 page story "Bicentennial Man" that is in that collection so that leaves ten I haven't read. I liked Bicentennial Man the best of his stories I've read. In 1993 he expanded it to the novel The Positronic Man, cowritten with Robert Silverberg; "positronic brain" was the name he gave computers and artificial intelligence when computers were in their infancy. Another reader also named George, from Serbia, commented on The Positronic Man that Silverberg "gave all the characters more depth in a way that Asimov never could. Now we must all begrudgingly agree that Asimov isn't a particularly good writer. I remember when I first started reading the Foundation series I was surprised by the simplicity of his characters especially when it came to presenting their inner thoughts".


message 43: by MK (last edited Apr 28, 2019 02:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments I just finished the third book in the original trilogy, I am SO totally hooked.

The first book isn't like the next two books. The first book is more like four short stories (linked). The next book is sort of two novellas (linked), and the third is just a straight up novel. All together, they're incredible. I'm itching to just continue reading the sequels, then the prequels, then the Robot books, then the Empire books, but someone has the next book checked out of the library. I have some other books I need to read first. BUT, all I was to read is more in the Foundation Universe.

I didn't love it after the first book, but I liked it alot. Now, I love it. Wow, so good!

His Robot and Empire series link up with the Foundation series, creating a whole Foundation Universe, spanning something like 20,000 years, I think.

Then some OTHER scifi superstars teamed up for a later trilogy. A different author wrote each of the three books in that trilogy. Greg Bear was one, David Brin another, and I can't remember the third ...


Christine | 1211 comments I finally finished this week! I struggled through the beginning of this one. Part of my problem was that I was having trouble keeping some names straight (Hari Seldon and Salvor Hardin in particular), so I would get a bit confused about who was who. But once I got that sorted out I began to like this a lot more. I agree with everyone who has said that the characters were definitely not the highlight but the concepts were very interesting. I can see why this book is considered a sci-fi classic.

Overall I gave it 3 stars. I would be interested in reading the other books in the trilogy, especially after seeing MK's comments. Not sure when I'll get around to it though, because there are other sci-fi books on my TBR that I'm more excited about.


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