“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
— Isaac Asimov, Foundation
Mind games at their finest! In The Foundation Trilogy, comprised of Foundation (Book 1), Foundation and Empire (Book 2), and Second Foundation (Book 3), you’ll quickly find yourself in front of an author whose grasp on science-fiction is beyond belief. Far more idea-driven than character-driven, Isaac Asimov crafts the rise and fall of civilization in an intricate and astonishing prose. Tackling subjects ranging from religion to politics, this story will challenge your comprehension of individuals, but especially of collectives. Spanning over centuries, the Foundation series is nothing like you’ve ever seen before. Foundation propels us in a time period where the Galactic Empire has thrived for over 12000 years. Psychohistorian Hari Seldon however shocks the world by announcing an impending Dark Age where the Empire will fall and dwell in barbarism for almost thirty millennia unless the Empire’s Commission of Public Safety permits him to establish a back-up plan that will guarantee a much more shorter age of barbarism and the promise of rebirth. It is on this premise that resides the adventures to come and thus leaves us with the torturous question: Will Hari Seldon’s plan bear fruit?
In Foundation, Isaac Asimov introduces readers to psychohistory. The idea behind this field of study is that the behavior of masses, in billions, can be predicted thanks to complex mathematical algorithms, while an individual’s behavior remains almost impossible to anticipate. The originality behind this concept is beyond reproach and will drive this universe from the very beginning. It’s in Hari Seldon’s comprehension of masses that the faith of humanity resides on and it’s in Isaac Asimov’s creativity that this series wonders will shine in success. Of all three books, Foundation will undoubtedly go down as my favourite of the trilogy because of not only how magnificent and grandiose the ideas were, but because Isaac Asimov manages to fit what seemed like a gargatuan amount of content into just 250 pages. To put the cherry on top of the cake, the major plot twist in the first book—one that merits praise and definitely secured the first book’s spot as my favourite book of the trilogy—changes the game in unimaginable ways and remains one of the most important moment in the Foundation series.
What I also loved a lot about Foundation is its themes. Isaac Asimov serves us with countless questions to ponder on as events unfold on galactic scales. For instance, the idea of free will is greatly challenged as Hari Seldon’s plan basically strips individuals of their ability to control their destiny on a societal level. It just makes you wonder how people feel when there actions as individuals won’t matter in the bigger picture. I also love how violence is depicted and how the author represents true power. Throughout this series you’ll quickly come to realize that there’s often only one type of behavior that will win the war, while the other will only win battles. The writing style also helps in delivering the prose fluidly without ever feeling jaded or overwhelmed. In fact, I found that the structure, composed of short stories, packed a lot punch and kept the intrigue at a high level. In all honesty, this one series that felt extremely accessible and easy to follow. Everything was straight-forward, even the countless twists to come. While characters come and go, their dialogues remain pertinent and striking whenever they do appear.
Foundation and Empire takes place a couple years later and introduces us to new characters. The story presents us a much more powerful Foundation that easily takes care of the menace that represents the Empire until an unexpected force enters the stage. This individual who goes by the name of The Mule is known by countless to be a mutant with powers that no one has ever seen before. He is also the one factor that Hari Seldon’s plan had never accounted for. Its the inclusion of such a character that threatens to put an end to a future that seemed sealed that brings new life to a story that seemed to know only one end. This second book in the series also presents us with our first female character when you would’ve thought that this whole series would only have had men doing the impossible and changing the world individually. This was definitely interesting since the introduction of a woman also brought into play the one thing that never seem to be in the way of men in this story: emotions. Foundation and Empire also changes its structure by splitting the book into two parts rather than having multiple short stories. The change was sort of unfortunate as the short stories seemed much more poignant, but it definitely didn’t take away the astonishing historical scope of this story.
The third book in the series, Second Foundation focuses on a second Foundation that was hidden away in a secret remote location that no one knows about in order to remain unaffected by the actions and events that the Empire and the Foundation will come face to face with. Similar to the second book, this one is also split in two as the first part neatly ties things up regarding The Mule and the second part weaves us through the hunt for the second Foundation. One of the elements that was regrettable is the level of predictability. In these last two books, I found myself foreseeing the ruses and the twists that were integrated. Even if I saw a couple moves ahead, I still thought that the ideas conveyed were brilliant. In Second Foundation, I also loved the introduction of a second female character—a little girl this time—who glowed with a radiant Sherlock Holmes vibe in whatever she did. If Isaac Asimov ever wrote a book just for her, I’d read it now (please let me know). The finale in this book was also brilliant and kept you at the edge of your seat without you realizing. Just when you think things were done, expect the unexpected.
The Foundation trilogy isn’t an adventure where you’ll find yourself connecting with characters. It’s a universe where you’ll be mesmerized by the ideas and Isaac Asimov’s foray into the human psyche and the evolution of civilization. As you acquaint yourself to key players in a plan to save humanity from falling into barbarism, you’ll find yourself in awe at the countless twists and turns that are thrown into this giant game of chess. Science, religion, economy, history, philosophy and politics will all be explored in their rawest forms and everything will always feel complementary to one another. While the trilogy remains the three most important books of the series and must-reads for any science-fiction fan, Isaac Asimov expands the universe with sequels and prequels, as well as separate short stories for starving devotees. Published in 1951, this trilogy remains a colossal piece of art in this day and age. There is honestly no excuses out there that could justify putting this classic aside.
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/