Monday, January 9, 2012

Foundation Group Read Part 1 (of 2)

Welcome to part one of the Foundation group read being hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.  Click here to see what the others have to say about Foundation.  This is the cover of my first copy of Foundation.

For the purpose of satisfying curiosity, is this your first time reading Foundation or have you read it before?

I think this is my third time to read it.  The original Foundation Trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation) was one of my early science fiction reading experiences way back in the early to middle 1970s.  It helped cement Asimov as one of my favorite authors.  I don’t hide the fact that he is still one of my favorites.  One of my fondest memories is listening to a lecture the “Good Doctor” gave at Penn State.

For those who have read it before, how has it held up to your memory/feelings about previous reads?

I still enjoy this book.  Each time I read it I discover something different.

What are your thoughts about the structure of the novel thus far? (I am referring to the brief glimpses of different parts of the history of the Foundation with big time gaps between events in the novel)

The structure is somewhat unique in science fiction.  Asimov, as he has stated in many different articles, was inspired by reading Edward Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”.  Out of necessity, when you are writing the history of an empire, the author has to write about numerous periods over a long time span.  By copying this structure, Asimov gives the reader the impression that they are reading about the history of an empire.  If he followed one character per book, the first book would have been a five novel series.  It would make for a decompressed story that would not have the same impact.  Another writer commented, in a work on Asimov, that he was also influenced by reading the Old Testament books of the Bible.  Many parallels can be drawn between the Foundation story and the journey of the Israelites in the Old Testament.  The structure of the story also supports this idea.

What, if anything, is holding your interest thus far, what are you enjoying about Foundation?

I am fascinated by how the individuals of each era are going to handle each crisis.  Another part that holds my interest is what is revealed by Hari Seldon each time he appears.

What, if anything, are you not enjoying about Foundation?

Nothing.  This is one of my favorite books.

You may have covered this in answering the other questions, but if not, what are your thoughts/feelings about the Galactic Empire.  Is it a practical thing to have a galaxy spanning government? Can you imagine such a thing and do you think it would work?

I find it hard to believe that it could function.  It seems like something that would collapse under it’s own weight.  On the other hand, they are interesting to read about.  Some of the others I have enjoyed reading are the Terran Empire of the Dominic Flandry series, the Empire of the Dune books, E. E. “Doc” Smith’s empires, and a pulp like favorite of mine was the Arkonide Imperium of Perry Rhodan fame.

What are your thoughts on Hardin's creation of a religious system in which to house scientific ideas and technology while keeping the users of that science and technology in the dark?

This was a stroke of genius.  What a perfect way to build in a system to protect yourself.  A similar system was used during the Dark Ages in Europe.


Carl V. said...

How cool that you got to hear him lecture!!! Wow!

I have only had a few years of exposure to Asimov, but he is certainly one of my favorites as well, and each time I pick up another of his books, like my recent read of The Positronic Man, he becomes even more solidified as a favorite.

Love the comparison between the Israelites journey in the OT and Foundation. I'm going to be thinking a lot about that one.

"impact" is a good word, and I agree that the impact Asimov achieves here is largely because of the way in which he structures this story. And I like how the Encyclopedia also helps fill us in on some of the details, and its existence in a future when these stories are being related makes for some interesting speculation about how things will all work out.

Although I've read it once before it has been long enough that the details of the story feel new despite my knowing where the story is headed. I have just passed into the second half of our read and am enjoying how the religious aspects are playing out. Also really enjoyed Hari's second speech, but will talk about that more next week.

Love your perspective on this story, Jim. You have a much more extensive handle on sf history than the majority of us participating in the group read.

Lynn said...

I think this is one book that you could definitely read more than once in fact, as far as my reading goes it would probably be better the second time around as I tend to rush through the first time. There's such a lot of political maneouvering going on that a second read would probably clarify a few things (for me anyway!)

Shelley said...

I could see the similarities with the Roman Empire, but I hadn't picked up on the Old Testament influence. I'll have to keep my eyes open.

Redhead said...

I'm also very jealous that you got to hear him speak.

I think Asimov did a wonderful job of giving us just the important snippets of what is going on. We don't need to know the nitty gritty details of Seldon's or Hardin's or anyone's life. We only need to know how they relate to the Foundation, because The Foundation is the main character of this story.

I too find a galaxy spanning empire pretty crazy. It would just fall apart.

and science as religion? Agreed - it's a stroke of genius.