Review: Foundation, by Isaac Asimov

Great premise, but barren plot and characters (3 stars)

A sci fi classic, the Foundation series is set over thousands of years. In a distant future, humanity is spread all over the galaxy in an enormous empire that doesn’t even know it’s original planet anymore. Enter mathematician Hari Seldon, who develops a science called psychohistory. This science postulates that the actions of a single individual are unpredictable, but the ones from large populations can be predicted almost as an exact science. Hari Seldon, thus, manages to predict that the empire will fall and that a period of 30 thousand years of barbarism and destruction will follow.

He concludes that nothing can stop this, but Hari Seldon develops a plan to shorten the dark period from 30 to one thousand years. He intends to build in two extreme corners of the galaxy scientific foundations with all of humanity’s knowledge, so that it survives this space Middle Ages.

With the fall of the empire, the fragile foundation sees itself cornered by several kingdoms that wish to conquer it, in particular because it still possesses nuclear technology. Incapable of defending itself militarily, the Foundation sells technology to neighboring kingdoms trying to maintain a balance of power between them. If one became strong enough to conquer the others, the Foundation would be finished. Asimov based this balance of powers in the fall of the Roman Empire.

The book has an excellent premise and a central part in the history of science fiction literature, but Foundation didn’t really grab me. Asimov uses too many Deus ex Machina gimmicks. Two or three times the Foundation completely subverts a lost political situation by a miraculous twist in the plot. The characters are also very barren, they seem more like mouths to push the narrative along then actual people.

Guilherme Solari is a Brazilian writer and journalist from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He has written about movies, literature and videogames for some of Brazil’s biggest news sites. He is the author of THE CASCAVEL CHRONICLES, a love letter to 80's action movies, as well as the cyberpunk CYBERSAMPA series.