Staff Picks

                                 Classic Science Fiction - Foundation*

cover of book, "Foundation"cover of book, "Foundation and Empire"cover of book, "Second Foundation"

If you're into science fiction and you haven't read Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy yet, get ready for a great read!  Because of the thrills, aliens, time travel, zombie apocalypses, and all that jazz?  No, not exactly...Foundation isn't like that.

Asimov himself describes re-reading the books for the first time in thirty years this way: "I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.  All three volumes, all the nearly quarter of a million words, consisted of thoughts and of conversations.  No action.  No physical suspense.  What was all the fuss about, then?"  But he continues, "To be sure, I couldn't help but notice that I was turning the pages eagerly, and that I was upset when I finished the book, and that I wanted more, but I was the author, for goodness' sake.  You couldn't go by me."  And then, "(quite by accident, I swear) I came across some sentences by science-fiction writer and critic James Gunn, who, in connection with the Foundation series, said, 'Action and romance have little to do with the success of the Trilogy—virtually all the action takes place offstage, and the romance is almost invisible—but the stories provide a detective-story fascination with the permutations and reversals of ideas.'"  And that, in a nutshell, is what makes Foundation so much fun to read.  It might also be one of the reasons it won the 1966 Hugo Award for best all-time science fiction series.  (It beat out Lord of the Rings, just sayin'...)

If the above makes Foundation sound dull, trust me, it isn't!  The premise is that Hari Seldon, father of the science called Psychohistory, predicts a breakdown of civilization that will last 30,000 years. But he also sets in motion a plan to reduce the dark age to just 1,000 years. He manages to forsee, for centuries into the future, every possible turn in the road that humankind could possibly take...or does he?  The story is clever, engrossing, and - unlike Hari Seldon - you will never see what's coming next.

* A word of warning: the order of the books in the trilogy is Foundation, then Foundation and Empire, and then Second Foundation.  Yes, the third book is called Second Foundation.  It makes sense when you read it.  Also, there are a number of Foundation books that were written long after the original three came out between 1947 and 1950.  Asimov picked up the series again in the 1980s, writing both prequels and sequels.  In my opinion these don't quite measure up to the original three, but you can decide for yourself.  You can read more about the full series here, here, and elsewhere on the web.  Or better still, just pick up a copy of Foundation and start reading!