Writing a monthly classic science fiction book review for the Blue Report has been motivating me to re-read some of the novels I had read quite a while back. One of these is FOUNDATION, the 1951 classic by Isaac Asimov, and the first volume of the "Foundation Trilogy" (the other two volumes are FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE (1952) and SECOND FOUNDATION (1953)). Later on, Isaac Asimov also added four more volumes to his Foundation series. However, the trilogy is the cornerstone of the series----and considered one of the most important sagas in the entire science fiction genre. Its influence has been considerable and is still being felt today with modern authors. This review will focus only on the first novel.
The Great Galactic Empire, which has existed for thousands of years, is slowly dying. Few people are aware of it, as the decay which has started on the peripheral worlds millions of light years away is not yet being felt at the center of the galaxy, where the capital of the empire, the planet Trantor, is still enjoying great prosperity. One man is aware that the downfall of the Empire has started, however: Hari Seldon. This brilliant mathematician has been using a new science called psychohistory to calculate that the empire's collapse cannot be prevented and the resulting barbaric Dark Age will last thirty thousand years. However, by using psychohistory, Seldon and his team of mathematicians and scientists have discovered a way to shorten the Dark Age from thirty thousand years to a mere thousand. The key is to establish a group of people in two separate "foundations" located on remote planets at opposite ends of the galaxy. These two groups of colonists will work to compile all known knowledge into a great "Encyclopedia Galactica".
Fifty years later, on the Foundation planet Terminus, the mayor Salvor Hardin becomes confronted with other worlds of the Periphery, who are eyeing planet Terminus because it is the only world in the vicinity that possesses nuclear energy. As the empire slowly dies, the worlds far away from the centre of the galaxy have been losing their knowledge of nuclear power and reverting to coal and gas technologies. Terminus retains its knowledge of nuclear energy, so the other worlds are planning to invade the defenseless planet. As Mayor Hardin deals with the situation, a time vault scheduled to be opened after fifty years reveals a holographic video of Hari Seldon, the original psychohistorian who created the Foundation. The now long-deceased Hari Seldon has a message for Mayor Hardin and the group of leaders assembled. His message reveals that the calculations he has made go far beyond what anyone had imagined.
FOUNDATION is a magnificent novel and series. Anyone who loves science fiction owes it to themselves to become acquainted with it. The concepts explored are thought-provoking and unsurpassed to this day. It is simply one of the most important works in all of science fiction literature.