by Isaac Asimov
I recently watched the Foundation series on AppleTv+. Although it’s not a fast-paced, action-packed, sci-fi thriller, I did think it was a great show. I feel like the show’s creators did an excellent job of helping us visualize the galaxy as Asimov describes it in his books. Now, I admit, I am new to the Foundation series, though it has existed for many years. The show was interesting enough that I wanted to start working my way through the books to get more of the story.
What better place to start, when beginning a new series that’s been around for decades, than the prequels. Prelude to Foundation is prequel number one, followed by a second prequel, Forward the Foundation.
Prelude to Foundation introduces us to a few of the characters we know from the TV show. Still, aside from Hari Seldon, I’m not going to ruin the surprise.
Hari Seldon, our protagonist, has just written a paper on an idea he calls psychohistory. It is the idea that the future of large populations could be predicted using a mathematical algorithm. Unfortunately, Hari can find no way to put his theory into practice due to the overwhelming number of variables involved in calculating the probability of future events. The mathematical community is immediately fascinated with Hari’s work. He is invited to participate in a conference where He can explain his theory in detail to like-minded colleagues.
Unfortunately for Hari, the Emporer learns of Hari’s theory. Hari explicitly states that it could take several lifetimes to turn his theory into practical application. Still, the Emporer insists that Hari become a spokesman for the empire. Not wanting to be forced to play political games, Hari goes into hiding deep within Trantor, the planet the Emporer calls home.
As you can imagine, Hari is being sought by more than just the Emporer. Others believe they could use him and his psychohistory for their own gain. When Hari meets an influential benefactor, who seems to be unusually persuasive, he begins to wonder if he might actually be able to solve the problem of psychohistory. Prelude to Foundation takes the reader on a journey through the heart of Trantor, introducing strange characters and stranger customs.
Sorry! I put myself to sleep with that riveting review. I really did enjoy the story! But maybe it’s because I’m a huge nerd and l like hardcore sci-fi like this. People who aren’t familiar with science-fiction often believe that it’s all about spaceships and aliens. That could not be further from the truth. Good sci-fi might have spaceships. It might have aliens. But it will have a great story that makes the reader really think about a tough “what-if?” question. It will be thought-provoking. It will connect with the reader, probably in ways they didn’t expect. And in my experience, good sci-fi has themes that address interpersonal dynamics and even romance because you can’t answer a good “what-if?” question without considering its impact on humanity. Many great sci-fi stories focus on humanity’s possible reaction to some cataclysmic event, or at the very least a life-altering and society-shaping event. That’s what the Foundation series attempts to do. It casts the reader 12,000 years into the future, where humanity has stretched far and wide across the stars (25,000,000 worlds). And then, the reader is asked, “what will happen to the human race if this empire of 12,000 years collapses?” I guess we’ll just have to read the books to find out (or in my case, listen to the audiobook). But read quickly, because you know TV shows rarely stay true to the books.
The Foundation series is hardcore science-fiction and, as such, is intended for an adult audience. I found Prelude to Foundation to be a relatively “safe” read, meaning I don’t remember many curse words. There were a few “scenes” that were somewhat sexual in nature, but it’s mostly left to your imagination. Most readers probably won’t take offense to it. I’m thinking it will cause more of an “eye-roll” or “oh brother…” reaction than anything else.
In any case, I look forward to exploring more of Asimov’s Foundation series, and I’ll let you know what I think about them here.