My Review of Foundation

Foundation (Foundation, #1)

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Foundation was the beginning of what became the best series of all time, according to the Hugo awards, voted on by SF fans. Asimov was a young writer selling stories to John W. Campbell, and one day he needed to come up with a story idea for his next conference. Fortunately, he had been reading Edward Gibbons’ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and that gave him the idea for some stories about the fall of the Galactic Empire. When you consider that Campbell was editor of Astounding Magazine you can see why this book is less a novel than a collected series of short stories (with the introductory scenes on Trantor added when they were collected into book form). Asimov had the idea that there might someday be a science of “psychohistory”, which he described as the statistical treatment of large numbers of people. Individual actions could never be predicted, he postulated, but with enough people (e.g. the trillions of the Empire) he thought it might work. He used the analogy of the “kinetic theory of gasses” to explain this, since no individual molecule could be predicted, but in the aggregate the gasses would follow the laws of physics.

Along the way he comes up with a lot of interesting ideas. One thing I found fascinating is that he places the Foundation on Terminus, a planet chosen because it lacked virtually any natural resources, thus forcing it to master miniaturization and engage in trade with other systems around it. This is not a bad description of Japan when you think about it. Japan has to import virtually everything of resources, and was notable for miniaturizing in the 1960s and 1970s, such as transistor radios. But interesting ideas pop up all over with Asimov.

I now have this as part of a 7-book set of all of Asimov’s Foundation novels in e-book form.

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