Isaac Asimov was a writer of classic science fiction, and his work has greatly influenced science fiction as we know it today. The Foundation Series, of which this book is the first, is probably his best-known work. The original Foundation Trilogy was first published in the early 1940s as a series of stories in a science fiction magazine. These stories were eventually republished as the first three volumes in the Foundation series. Asimov later wrote two more sequels and two prequels to the original trilogy, but Foundation is generally recommended as the best starting point for the series.
The uniqueness of Foundation is in the ideas it conveys. This is the beginning of a story spanning a thousand years of human civilization. Asimov wrote about the implications of religion, technology, and trade – forces that have governed the rise of civilizations for thousands of years and will likely govern humanity for millennia to come. Having one man purposefully orchestrate a thousand years of future events and watching those events begin to play out is fascinating to read about. Combined with Asimov’s engaging, though dry, storytelling, these ideas have made Foundation the classic it is today.
As Foundation was first written in the 1940s, this story is more enjoyable if the reader starts it with the right expectations. Science fiction from the mid-twentieth century was often idea-driven, and Foundation is no exception. The characters in this book are, to be honest, quite boring. They have very little personality, and Asimov gives us no reason to care about them as people. This is a big turn-off for some readers who are used to more modern stories with high emphasis on character and prose. Foundation is a collection of five different stories, each set decades apart from the others, and usually with a different cast of characters. I believe Foundation is meant to be intellectually stimulating, not necessarily emotionally stimulating. Asimov didn’t write with beautiful prose or intense action sequences. Most of the book is dialogue, with characters explaining the political maneuverings going on and the motivations behind them. I much preferred this to basic expository info dumps, but again, it’s very different from conventional storytelling. I wouldn’t recommend this for readers who strongly prefer character-driven stories – although that describes me, and I loved this book – but if you’re willing to try something different Foundation is an excellent choice.
Profanity/Language: 10 mild obscenities.
Violence/Gore: Assassination is mentioned; a character recounts a story of hunting animals, not graphic; a character threatens another with a “hunting accident”; a few instances where characters threaten to kill others; a character commits suicide, no detail; a character is given a choice between death and exile; a character orders another to be shot and attempts to shoot him; a male character arguing with his wife threatens to cut her tongue and face, not seriously.
Sex/Nudity: Mention of a character sunbathing nude; reference to a mistress.
Mature Subject Matter:
War; politics; cults; a religion is started and maintained by people with the intent of deceiving others as a form of control; suicide; bribery; domestic violence.
Several characters smoke; a character takes snuff; characters occasionally drink alcohol.