My first and only experience with science fiction was more than two years ago. Arthur C. Clarke’s four Odyssey novels were recommended to me by a friend – and while I truly enjoyed those – I didn’t think I would come back to the genre any time soon. It’s true Clarke possesses a great imagination and an admirable ability to predict the development of science (he actually sort of predicted the computer) and the story goes really smoothly. However, my inherent obsession with over-complicated, psychological and in general depressing novels about human relationships, feelings, the futility of life, and the constant search to the unanswerable questions, somewhat prevents me from truly enjoying something that doesn’t deal with that, but instead presents a complicated picture of what the Galaxy might look like say 20,000 years from now.
My birthday came and went and I was left with one of the worst hangovers of my life, the realization that I am not getting any younger or prettier and two novels as birthday presents. One of them was Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, which intimidated even me (and I am not easily frightened by thick books). The first volume is more than 1,000 pages but seeing it was a birthday present, I became determined to read it. And the second volume for that matter.
The Foundation Series, one of Isaac Asimov’s most famous works and certainly one of the best examples of science-fiction, spans more than 50 years of the author’s life and consists of seven books. The first one, Foundation was written in the 1950s but the first one in its in-universe chronological order is actually Prelude to Foundation and was written in 1988.
Prelude to Foundation takes place on the planet Trantor, the capital of the galaxy governing some 25 million worlds and billions of billions of people. Assumingly, this is c. 20,000 from now. Hari Seldon, a skilled mathematician from another world, is on the verge of discovering something that might change the forces in the galaxy. He believes in the possibility of a psychohistory – a branch of mathematics, which can predict the future on a larger scale, using the laws of mass action. In other words, if one studies very carefully the forces of the past, one might with some certainty predict the direction of the future. And in my words – if you tend to analyze your mistakes, you might not repeat them yet again.
The galactic empire is in decline and Hari Seldon is recruited by a mysterious journalist, Chetter Hummin, to develop his psychohistory and eventually save the Galaxy from its self-destruction. While looking for ways to accommodate the millions of years of history into a somewhat comprehensive theorem, Hari Seldon runs through the sectors of Trantor to escape from the emperor’s detection. Understandably, many want to get hold of the ability to predict the future. Together with the history professor Dors Venabili, Hari explores the world of Tranton, getting closer and closer to developing his theory.
The book was more interesting and enthralling than I expected and certainly captures the imagination. The twist at the end is unexpected (for a science-fiction virgin like me at least) and it very well sets the pace for the other books to follow. Isaac Asimov is even better than Arthur C. Clarke in shaping the future of the Universe. There are numerous references to the origin of all worlds – the Earth – which puts the story into perspective. Combined with other amusing whims (the entire Trantor is covered by a dome and the weather conditions are controlled, for example) Isaac Asimov creates a world of endless possibilities and lets the reader’s imagination flow without boundaries.
A series of novels I am sure to enjoy, the Prelude to Foundation is followed by Forward the Foundation, the Foundation Prequel 2.
Arthur C. Clarke’s science-fiction tetralogy: