Isaac Asimov:Forward The Foundation

[Possible spoilers about Asimov's Robot and Foundation books herein--read with caution.]

It's hard to figure out what to say about Isaac Asimov's writing.

On the one hand, he was a Grand Master for a long time--for many people, as long as they can remember. So it's hard, in a way, to say anything bad about him. On the other hand, opinion has been that, like the other two Grand Masters, his later work hasn't been up to the standard of his earlier work. On the third hand(well, this is SF), after his death one feels bad about criticizing his work.

So I'm(hopefully)just going to be honest here.

Forward The Foundation is an outstanding book.

Granted that the latter-day Foundation books didn't quite come up to their predecessors(perhaps as a result of their being novel-length). Granted that trying to link them up with the Robot series, through the means of a long-lived, telepathic Daneel, seemed horribly contrived. Granted all that.

But in Hari Seldon, Isaac Asimov seems to have found a character whose voice he could write better than, perhaps, any other. He himself notes on the back of the book that he couldn't have written the book even ten years ago. There is certainly much of Asimov in Seldon as depicted, especially as he ages throughout the book. Nonetheless, Seldon lives and breathes as few Asimov characters have.

The plot of the book leaves little to be desired, either. Despite the fact that the action is confined to Trantor, the capital planet of the Empire is certainly as tumultuous as the rest of the Empire combined. And despite the fact that we know, in general, what is going to happen, there are still elements of surprise in the exact process. (The death of the Emperor Cleon is a perfect example.)

There seems to be a bit of needless mystery at the end of the book concerning the founding of the Second Foundation. Perhaps Asimov wished not to spoil the surprise for those few who read this book before Second Foundation, but it seemed a needless caution to me. Ah, well, as the late Good Doctor wished...

I recommend this book heartily. It makes much more sense if you've read Prelude To Foundation(which IMHO doesn't quite measure up to this one), and sheds new light on the original trilogy too. A perfect close to a magnificent career. (And now watch the Asimov estate come out with ten new books...:-)

%A Asimov, Isaac
%T Forward The Foundation
%I Doubleday Foundation
%C New York
%D April 1993
%G ISBN 0-385-24793-1
%P 417 pp.
%S Foundation
%V Book 7
%O Hardcover

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