Monday, October 13, 2008

Forward the Foundation

Prelude to Foundation
Isaac Asimov © 1993
Doubleday Publishing, New York
341 pages


For nearly fifty years, Isaac Asimov thrilled millions of readers with his internationally bestselling Foundation Series, a spell-binding tale of the future that spans hundreds of years and dozens of world. Here, now, is Forward the Foundation, the seventh and final volume in the series. Completed just before his death, it is the Grand Master's last gift to his legion of admirers.

Here, at last, is the story Asimov fans have been waiting for, an exciting tale of danger, intrigue, and suspense that chronicles the second half of hero Hari Seldon's life has he struggles to perfect h is revolutionary Theory of Psychohistory and establish the means by which the survival of humanity will be ensured: Foundation. For, as Seldon and his loyal band of followers know, the mighty Galactic Empire is crumbling, and its evitable destuction will wreak havoc Galaxy-wide...

A resounding tour de force, Forward the Foundation brings full circle Asimov's renowned Foundation epic. It is the crowning achievement of a great writer's life, and a stunning testament to the creative genius Isaac Asimov.


So begins the conclusion to the Foundation series proper. I'm not quite sure how to express my feelings at this moment. While there are still many more books in the extended series, I've finished the core series of books that Asimov is most famous for. The very first book I read by Isaac Asimov on this blog was Nightfall and Other Stories, on 12 July 2007. It was my Pick of the Week, hardly surprising as the only Asimov book note to dominate my week's reading was Foundation and Empire. It was a collection of science-fiction short stories, and I quite enjoyed it. I began to devour Asimov's short-story collections, including the Black Widower puzzlers. It was not until this summer, however, that I dared to read one of his actual novels. I read The Positronic Man years ago and enjoyed it, but that was in high school. While his short-story collections made me a fan, they also made me wary: what if I didn't enjoy Foundation?

Finally, at the beginning of August, I read Foundation and found that I absolutely loved it. And so, the Foundation books have been part of my weekly reading since. This week, however, I finished the series and I find myself at a loss for what to do next. There are other books in the metaseries -- The Empire series and the Robot series, specifically -- but I don't have access to to them. After a summer of Asimov, I don't want to stop. But what is this final Forward the Foundation?

The Foundation series began with an elderly scholar and mathematician named Hari Seldon approaching the Emperor and telling him that according to psychohistoric analysis, the Empire is in steep decay and approaching a Dark Age. According to him, the only way to mitigate the effects of the fall is to establish an Encyclopedia Foundation to record the sum of human knowledge so that we have something to rebuild the Empire from. This is a farce, of course, and we find out in what the true purpose of the Foundation -- and in Second Foundation, Foundations -- are for. The growth of the Foundations as they strive to realize their purposes dominates Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, Foundation's Edge, and Foundation and Earth. As time passes, the name Hari Seldon achieves near-religious reverence.

In Prelude to Foundation, Asimov introduced us to the young Hari Seldon, one who has just the fainest glimmer of what psychohistory can mean for what he sees as the decay of the Empire. He presents a paper on the subject at a convention and finds that he has caught the eye of many people who perhaps he might have been better off being anonymous to. Prelude follows Hari as he continues fleeing those who want to use him for their own advancement -- along the way forging relationships that will change the future.

In Forward the Foundation, we follow Hari from early middle age until his death, as Psychohistory develops slowly and painstakingly even as the Empire's fall speeds up. Asimov ties the entire series together in a magnificent job. He is a story-teller unparalleled. The book is also a look into Asimov's personal life: through Hari, he expresses his feelings about his own advancing age and the possibility of death -- as well as insights into the complications of human government. I want this book and the entire Foundation series to occupy a shelf in my personal library one day.

I could not have written this book forty -- or thirty, twenty, or even ten -- years ago. That is because, piece by piece, over the years, I have been working back to Foundation's source: Hari Seldon. Today I enjoy the gift given to me by time: Experience (some might call it wisdom, but I will refrain from such bald self-aggrandizement). For it is only now that I am able to give my readers Hari Seldon during the most crucial, creative years of his life...You see, over time, Hari Seldon has evolved into my alter ego...In my earlier books Hari Seldon was the stuff of legend -- with Forward the Foundation I have made him real.


Guess what book is going to be Pick of the Week this week. Any ideas?

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